hero promise

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The orchestral music cycle reaches its end of the season with the suite for orchestra «The Planets» (opus 32), composed by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) at the age of forty at the beginning of the First World War.

Contrary to what one might think, the work was conceived in seven parts with the idea of ​​representing the astrological character of each planet, although in the end the music prevailed over this original idea and even distanced itself from other considerations of Roman mythological nature. .

Each of the seven movements is related to a planet in the solar system, with the exception of Earth. Hence the astrological and non-astronomical conception of Holst’s composition.

The Planets is a work of elaborate, elaborate orchestration and a great variety of colors with which the British master paints melodies about the masculinity of Mars, the sweetness of Venus, the vivacity of Mercury, the majesty of Jupiter, the melancholy of Saturn, the magic of Uranus and, finally, the mystery of Neptune.

Mars tells us about war and its consequences with an inhuman and insensitive speech in which there is no room for glory, heroism, drama or death. Nothing is right in Holst’s view of what will happen to Europe. The master makes the string play “con legno”, that is, touch the wood of the bow, generating a very exciting musical effect.

After the wrath of Mars comes Venus, a place where tranquility and peace come through the contributions of the harp, flute and violin. Holst uses only part of the orchestral instruments, which gives the movement a great delicacy. For Holst, it is on Venus that the hero finds rest while contemplating the starry sky.

The third movement activates the listener through the liveliness of the harp, flute and glockenspiel melodies that make the winged messenger Mercury leap. Apart from the speed, the particularity of the movement arises from the contrast of two simultaneous notes and two simultaneous rhythms. In this way, Holst quickly jumps between keys and never settles on a single key, so that in the score some instruments are written with flats, others with sharps and the rest without key.

Undoubtedly, Jupiter is the audience’s most famous movement, as his music reflects the majesty of the god of gods and the central part is a solemn patriotic anthem that captivates the listener, with feelings of triumph inevitably invading him.

But Holst’s favorite fragment was Saturn, a reflection of the different human reactions to the inexorable stage of old age. Indeed, each of us views old age differently, but ultimately the wisdom we have acquired over the years allows acceptance and serene reconciliation.

Continuing this series of contrasts, four metallic tones herald the magic of Uranus and the full orchestra demonstrates the awe-inspiring power of this icy planet, bringing to mind Holst’s mastery of composing with a grand orchestra.

The mystery of Neptune comes from another planet, rather. It is made up of fragments of melody and harmony to which is added an imperceptible double chorus of female voices that gives the movement a human dimension and gradually leads us to the silence at the end. The suite “The Planets” doesn’t end in a powerful way and this great farewell between cotton is a clear reflection of how unconventional this great composer was.

Source: La Verdad

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