Wednesday, December 5, 2007

under the covers: Gustav Holst

English born composer Gustav Holst is best known for his orchestral masterpiece The Planets. Holst, of Latvian and Russian decent, walked this planet from 1874-1934. Holst's catalog of compositions, totaling nearly 200, includes suites, operas, ballets, hymns, and concertos.

Sometimes referred to as "The English 'Rite of Spring'" (a reference to Stravinsky's most famous ballet), The Planets was written by Holst between 1914 and 1916 and is broken down into 7 parts, each one corresponding to a different extra-terrestrial planet (Pluto's short tenure didn't begin for another 15 years).

Holst intended the Planets to act as a series of 'mood pictures':

Mars – Independent, Ambitious, Headstrong
Venus – Awakens Affection and Emotion
Mercury – The ‘Winged Messenger of the Gods’, Resourceful, Adaptable
Jupiter – Brings Abundance, Perseverance

Fast forward 60 years:

In late 1975, Japanese synthesizer pioneer Isao Tomita began reworking Holst's Planets as an electronic suite. Released the following year, the album, aptly named The Tomita Planets, is practically a note-for-note reconstruction of Holst's original work utilizing state-of-the-art synthesizers and electronic manipulations. The impressive part about Tomita's version is that not much of the original suite is compromised in his re-workings. Even so, Tomita is still able to add freshness and imagination.

Isao Tomita - Jupiter - The Bringer of Jollity [from The Tomita Planets]
Gustav Holst - Jupiter - The Bringer of Jollity[from 1981's Berliner Philharmonic; Conductor: Herbert von Karajan]

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