Journey through the Cosmos - The Planets - Gustav Holst

Journey through the Cosmos - The Planets - Gustav Holst
Journey through the Cosmos

The Planets – Gustav Holst
Journey through the Cosmos - The Planets - Gustav Holst
The Planets by Gustav Holst

•   Composed in parts between 1914 and 1916. Movements were performed as they were written
    with the first performance for invited guests on 29 September 1918 and then open to the
    public on 15 November 1920 with the London Symphony Orchestra.

•   The Planets is a seven movement orchestral suite.
     – Mars, the Bringer of War
     – Venus, the Bringer of Peace
     – Mercury, the Winged Messenger
     – Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
     – Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
     – Uranus, the Magician
     – Neptune, the Mystic
Journey through the Cosmos - The Planets - Gustav Holst
The Planets by Gustav Holst

•   The Planets is astrological rather than astronomical. Holst became very interested in
    Astrology while holidaying in Spain in 1913. Astrology is a very old belief that the
    stars, constellations and the planets affect our lives.

•   Each movement conveys ideas and emotions associated with the influence of the
    planets on the psyche.

•   Pluto is not included as it was not discovered until 1930. At the time of writing the
    suite, Neptune, discovered in 1846, was the extreme point of the solar system.

•   Gustav Holst conducted The Planets in 1923 and recorded the work with the London
    Symphony Orchestra twice, in 1924 and then in 1926.
Journey through the Cosmos - The Planets - Gustav Holst
The Planets by Gustav Holst

The Composer
•   Gustav Holst was an English composer, arranger and teacher, born in 1874 and died
    in 1934.
•   He was influenced by English folksongs.
•   He played trombone professionally and was also a teacher pioneering music
    education for women at St Paul’s Girls School from 1905 until his death in 1934.
•   The St Paul’s Suite for String Orchestra was composed for the girls of the school.
•   The Planets was Holst’s best known work and made him famous although he was
    very shy.
•   In his compositions, Holst used unconventional time signatures, rising and falling
    scales, ostinato, bitonality and polytonality which was unusual for English
    composers of the time.
Journey through the Cosmos - The Planets - Gustav Holst
The Planets by Gustav Holst

•   The Planets is composed for a large orchestra.
     –   4 flutes with 3rd doubling on Piccolo and 4th flutes doubling on Piccolo and Bass Flute
     –   3 oboes with the 3rd oboe doubling on bass oboe
     –   1 English Horn (Cor Anglais)
     –   3 Clarinets and 1 Bass Clarinet
     –   3 Bassoons and 1 Double (or Contra) Bassoon
     –   6 French Horns
     –   4 Trumpets
     –   3 Trombones
     –   Tenor Tuba and Bass Tuba
     –   6 Timpani, glockenspeil, xylophone, bells, triangle, tambourine, side drum, bass drum, cymbals, gong.
     –   2 Harps, 1 Celesta, 1 organ
     –   Violins, violas, Cellos and Double Basses
     –   Chorus of female voices (for Neptune)
Journey through the Cosmos - The Planets - Gustav Holst
Mars, the Bringer of War

•   Time signature is 5/4 - 5 crotchet beats per bar grouped in 3 then 2.
•   The first beat of the bar is a triplet which is a note grouping of 3.
•   The tempo marking is Allegro - lively and fast.
•   Clap the rhythm.

•   The dynamics at the beginning is piano (p). The soft start and persistent rhythm sets up
    the feeling of dread and uneasiness.
•   There is a gradual crescendo gradually getting louder until bar 29 when the dynamic is
    forte (f) - loud. Then at bar 40 the dynamic is (fff) which is louder than fortissimo - very
•   The string players begin playing col legno which means they are tapping the strings with
    the wooden part of the bow and not the horsehair.
•   Listen to Mars played by London Symphony Orchestra It starts very softly so be ready.
•   Score of Mars from
Journey through the Cosmos - The Planets - Gustav Holst
Mars, the Bringer of War

•   The trombone is a member of the brass family.
•   The sound is made by vibrating the lips at the mouthpiece.
•   Notes are changed by lengthening or shortening the slide and using harmonics.
•   The name trombone comes from the Italian tromba meaning large trumpet
•   Trombonists read music in bass clef.
•   The other brass instruments are French Horn, Trumpet and Tuba
•   Theme from Mars played by trombones. Read the melody in bass clef.
Journey through the Cosmos - The Planets - Gustav Holst
Venus, the Bringer of Peace

•    The feeling is the complete opposite of Mars. Venus restores peace and harmony.
•    Time signature at the beginning is 4/4 – 4 beats per bar.
•    There are time changes throughout. There is one bar of 2/4 at bar 20, then a change
     to 3 /4 and a change of tempo to Andante - at an easy walking pace, at bar 30.
     Venus returns to 4/4 at bar 83 with a short return to 3/4 .
•    The dynamics at the beginning is pianissimo (pp) - very soft.
•    The tempo marked is Adagio - slow.
•    The celeste is featured in this movement. However the french horn begin the
     movement with a 4 note motif.

•    Listen to Venus played by London Symphony Orchestra.
•    Score of Venus from
Journey through the Cosmos - The Planets - Gustav Holst
Venus, the Bringer of Peace

•   The Celeste or Celesta is an orchestral percussion instrument resembling a small
    upright piano.
•   Sound is made by hammers hitting a set of graduated steel plates. Hammers are
    connected to the keyboard.
•   It was patented by Auguste Mustel in 1886.

•   You tube: The Nutcracker’s celesta with Kelly Zuercher. Kelly Zuercher is a
    keyboardist with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, and in this video, demonstrates
    the magical sounds of the celesta. The celesta is one of the featured instruments in
    Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker.
Journey through the Cosmos - The Planets - Gustav Holst
Mercury, the Winged Messenger

•   Mercury is the smallest planet and closest to the sun.
•   Mercury does not spin on an axis so one side is always facing the sun.
•   Mercury was a Roman god known as the swift-footed messenger.
•   The time signature is 6/8 or compound -duple time and the tempo marking is Vivace
    - lively and fast.
•   To begin the strings music is marked con sord meaning with mute. This small device
    is placed over the strings at the bridge changing the sound of the instrument.
•   Notice how the music is soft, fast and jumps in pitch.

•   Listen to Mercury performed by the London Symphony Orchestra
•   Score of Mercury from
Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity

•   Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and the largest in the solar system.
•   Jupiter ruled over all other Roman gods.
•   This movement begins Allegro giocoso - fast and cheerful. Note the syncopation
    and tied notes over the bars.

•   The middle section then becomes solemn and regal sounding.
•   The British hymn I Vow to Thee my Country is the melody for the middle section and
    this was also used to commemorate the death of Princess Diana in 1997.
•   Listen to Jupiter performed by London Symphony Orchestra
•   Score of Jupiter from
Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age

•   Saturn is the god of agriculture (farming).
•   The tempo is adagio – slow
•   Time signature is 4/4 . Clap the rhythm or play the melody of the opening flute part
    noting the tied notes over the bar lines.
•   Tenuto markings over the minims mean to hold for the full value.

•   Listen to Saturn performed by London Symphony Orchestra.
•   Score of Saturn from
Uranus, the Magician

Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun
• The time signature is 6/4, 6 beats per bar
•    Clap the rhythm         6/4 I Z I I Z I | I Z I I Z I | I Z I I Z I | I Z I I Z I |
•   The tempo marking is Allegro – fast
•   Listen for the brass unison notes with the dynamic marking of fortissimo (ff) - very loud.

•   Tenor trombone is playing in Tenor Clef.
    Note where C sits on the staff.

•   Listen to Uranus played by London Symphony Orchestra.
•   Score of Uranus from
Neptune, the Mystic
Note: This movement will not be performed in the Journey through the Cosmos Education Concert

•     Neptune is the Roman god of the sea.
•     Neptune returns to the 5/4 time signature (3 beats followed by 2)
•     The tempo marking is andante - easy walking pace.
•     Neptune is the only movement to include a choir. Listen for the quiet, mysterious
      singers. The direction for the chorus is to place the singers in a room off stage with
      the door open until the last bar of the piece when it is to be slowly closed.
•     The two harps play clusters of notes to creating a shimmering effect.
•     The flute begins with the melody played pianissimo - very soft.

•     Listen to Neptune .
•     Score of Neptune from
Conducting patterns

•   Conducting 5/4 in grouping of 2 then 3 and in grouping of 3 then 2.

•   To conduct in 6/4 add another beat after in the horizontal line.
    Draw a 6/4 conducting pattern.
•   Basic Conducting Patterns
          In 2:                    in 3:                         in 4:
Australian Curriculum – Music
                                      The Planets - Holst
Elements of   Foundation               Years                   Years                  Years                    Years
Music          to Year 2              3 and 4                 5 and 6                7 and 8                  9 and 10
                                  Tempo changes           Triplet                2/4,3/4,4/4,             Irregular time
Rhythm                            (Jupiter)               Dotted rhythms         Anacrusis, tied note     signature 5/4, 6/4
              Crotchet, quaver,                                                  Syncopation (Jupiter)
              rests                                                              Beat groupings
                                                          Treble and Bass clef                            Tenor clef
              Piano (p)           Crescendo, fortissimo   Tempo: Adagio          Dynamic gradations
Dynamics &    Forte (f)           (ff), pianissimo (pp)   Andante
Expression                                                Allegro , Vivace

Form and                                                                         Voice and orchestra
Structure                                                                        (Neptune)

                                  Recognise               Trombone               Celeste                  Col legno (strings)
Timbre                            instruments of the
                                  Large orchestra
                                                          Conduct music          Change tempo ,
Creating                                                                         dynamics
                                  Perform rhythms
                                                          Score reading          Historical perspective
Curriculum Links – Australian Curriculum

•   Australian Curriculum General Capabilities
     –   Literacy (L)
     –   Numeracy (N)
     –   Information and communication technology capability (ICT)
     –   Critical and creative thinking (T)
     –   Intercultural understanding (I)
     –   Personal and social capability (P)

•   Australian Curriculum Cross Curriculum Priorities
     –   Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and culture
     –   Ethical Understanding
     –   Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia

•   In Music, Students will develop:
     –   The confidence to be creative, innovative, thoughtful, skilful and informed musicians
     –   Skills to compose, perform, respond, and listen with intent and purpose
     –   Aesthetic knowledge and respect for music and music practices across global communities, cultures and music
     –   An understanding of music as an aural art form as they acquire skills to become independent music learners.
Prepared by Pam Lowry, Education Officer
    Queensland Symphony Orchestra
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