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The Planets by Gustav Holst


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Gustav Holst is an interesting figure. The Planets is perhaps the greatest orchestral work by an English composer. You can walk into any cd store

and see 5-8 recordings of this work. Probably more than Beethoven 5! Holst also wrote what is perhaps the most famous band

piece of all time his suite for band. Other than that he is known for almost nothing else! I find that amazing.

I have played the entire planets only once in the orchestra. It is a massive work that requires a very large orchestra and a choir

in the last movment. It is interesting to note that planets are not in order from the sun, but the most distant ones are saved for

last. I think it is interesting how Holst treats the planets. Mars is the most violent planet with our "hero" getting it in the end while

Venus is the peaceful planet. We now know that the opposite of those two planets is true. You can't deny the greatness of Jupiter. There

are some great tunes in there. Many think of this as the centerpiece of the work and climax, but I think that happens at the end

of Saturn. A massive build of dissonance resolving in a beautiful way, like Saturn emerging from behind some distant heavenly

body anchoring the solar system with its great rings.

Holst's writing is very unique and I think that the modern day composers owe a lot to this work. You can hear how it was used by JW in his

many outer space works. Holst does an amazing job of depicting the icy worlds of beyond. I suggest everyone take a listen!

Enjoy!

DHP

\@()

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  • 1 month later...

I'm a HUGE fan of The Planets, I have tons of stuff - approx. 10 different recordings (the collection is growing all the time), the version for 2 pianos, Holst's own recording, the Tomita version, the full score, the study score, the 2 pianos score, a great musicological study etc. :lol:

My list:

1. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age

2. Neptune, the Mystic

3. Venus, the Bringer of Peace

4. Mars, the Bringer of War

5. Uranus, the Magician

6. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity

7. Mercury, the Winged Messenger

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  • 3 months later...

The twelfth concert in this year's BBC Proms series included a performance of Holst's The Planets with the BBC Philharmonic under Sir Charles Mackerras. The concert can be seen in full on BBC iPlayer or, if the link does not work (not sure if you can see it outside the UK), you can also listen to the audio stream only. The Planets starts at about one hour into the concert, although the first half is worth seeing too.

EDIT: It looks like some kind soul has already loaded it onto YouTube. Click

to view Mars then follow the links thereafter for the remaining movements.
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I'm glad it was worth sharing! Did you notice the rarely seen bass oboe? I had never seen one before, indeed I had to do a bit of internet searching before I found out what the instrument was. It's being played by the girl sitting between the cor anglais and the 'regular' oboes; she has a very nice solo near the beginning of the Saturn movement.

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Did you notice the rarely seen bass oboe? I had never seen one before, indeed I had to do a bit of internet searching before I found out what the instrument was. It's being played by the girl sitting between the cor anglais and the 'regular' oboes; she has a very nice solo near the beginning of the Saturn movement.

Of course, I've seen and heard it on every performance of The Planets I attended. ;) I guess the instrument's name more popular than bass oboe is a heckelphone, if you've heard it already. A fascinating instrument indeed, of course I always keep my ears sharp for its solo after Saturn's beginning. ;)

hecklephone.jpg

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How about we put a spin to this discussion? If you wanted to make an ultimate compilation with the best performances of each individual piece, what would they be?

I'm sure most agree Levine's Mars outshines most others, but what about the rest?

I particularly like Gerhardt's Venus, but unfortunately I only have it on the "Nature's Music" disc, which stupidly mixes all tracks with some annoying ethereal effects. It's apity, because the recording is quite good. Anyone know if his Planets recordings are available elsewhere?

I also like Williams's take on Jupiter, perhaps even more than Levine's, and I have a soft spot for Simon Rattle's (with the Philharmonia), but that's just because that was my very first recording of it.

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I guess the instrument's name more popular than bass oboe is a heckelphone, if you've heard it already. A fascinating instrument indeed, of course I always keep my ears sharp for its solo after Saturn's beginning. :D

hecklephone.jpg

I don't mean to piss on your cornflakes mate, but the bass oboe and heckelphone are actually slightly different instruments, although confusingly the heckelphone is often referred to as a bass oboe (Yeah, I know, five minutes of internet research and all of a sudden Damien's a world expert on the oboe family! :thumbup: ). The gentleman in your picture appears to be playing a heckelphone, but the bass oboe is a little smaller with a differently shaped bocal / mouthpiece. I found this useful picture and have been having fun trying to work out what the different instruments are.

musetteToHeckel.jpg

Top to bottom, I think they are:

HECKELPHONE

BASS OBOE

COR ANGLAIS

OBOE D'AMORE

OBOE

PICCOLO OBOE / MUSETTE

The last one is the instrument that Datameister mentioned earlier as having been used in Jurassic Park. There is also a rather charming YouTube clip

in which two young ladies discuss the bass oboe and its use in The Planets. Nice pussy just after the one minute mark!
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Sorry if I am venturing off-topic, but I was watching that video you linked to, Damien, and I saw

in the Related Videos. Sweet Golly Moses, look at that thing! I never even knew one existed....

Now there's a back problem waiting to happen! That's the sort of thing you can imagine Bernard Herrmann writing for given half the chance.

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Omen II, thanks for the elaborate research on your behalf, however, my "intel" comes from a professional oboist with whom I spoke specifically about The Planets (though I am myself an orchestral musician with an avid interest in all instrument families, prior to the conversation with that oboist, I didn't know that the bass oboe and the heckelphone were actually two slightly different instruments). I was told that often, heckelphone and bass oboe are thought as the same instrument and that many times, it's actually easier to come across the heckelphone than across the bass oboe, at least "in these lands" :thumbup:, so the guy told me that most often, The Planets' bass oboe part is played on the heckelphone. He also told me that the sonic difference between the two instruments is close to no difference at all, so basically, it doesn't really matter whether the bass oboe or the heckelphone is used in The Planets and so Holst could've just as easily written the part for the heckelphone as he did for the bass oboe. ;)

As for the existence of the contrabass saxophone, many saxophonists have told me that it existed but that they've never seen or heard one, so the YouTube link will be useful, thank you, Nick Parker! :D I've first seen and heard the thing live last year at the Musikmesse in Frankfurt. BTW, in the concert band that I play in, I've had the privilege of playing with e. g. the bass saxophone and the contrabass clarinet, which are also quite interesting, to put it that way. :P

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Sorry if I am venturing off-topic, but I was watching that video you linked to, Damien, and I saw

in the Related Videos. Sweet Golly Moses, look at that thing! I never even knew one existed....

Now there's a back problem waiting to happen! That's the sort of thing you can imagine Bernard Herrmann writing for given half the chance.

Can you imagine trying to march while playing that? Yikes!

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That's the third movement of the Second Suite, "Song of the Blacksmith." That one's hard to play because of how frequently the meter changes, meaning the low brass and percussion need to be on the ball to keep the beat going steadily. You know how often THAT'S going to happen.

LOL! So true!

(... said the trumpet player. :blink: )

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Omen II, thanks for the elaborate research on your behalf, however, my "intel" comes from a professional oboist with whom I spoke specifically about The Planets (though I am myself an orchestral musician with an avid interest in all instrument families, prior to the conversation with that oboist, I didn't know that the bass oboe and the heckelphone were actually two slightly different instruments). I was told that often, heckelphone and bass oboe are thought as the same instrument and that many times, it's actually easier to come across the heckelphone than across the bass oboe, at least "in these lands" :D , so the guy told me that most often, The Planets' bass oboe part is played on the heckelphone. He also told me that the sonic difference between the two instruments is close to no difference at all, so basically, it doesn't really matter whether the bass oboe or the heckelphone is used in The Planets and so Holst could've just as easily written the part for the heckelphone as he did for the bass oboe. :)

:P

That makes perfect sense - it seems that the heckelphone is more prevalent in eastern than in western Europe.

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