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Gustav Holst: The Planets


John Simkin
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When Gustav Holst, The Planets, was first performed in 1919, one critics said it sounded like it had been written by someone living on another planet. It is difficult to understand this reaction because we have grown up with this music and the music of the composers inspired by it. Stephen Johnson has argued that virtually all film music has been influenced by this work. It is now the most performed classical music written by a British composer.

http://www.youtube.com/embed/AHVsszW7Nds

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I just watched the latest Mission Impossible. I was struck by the intro of this piece. There is definitely a similarity in parts of the soundtrack.

Somber fellow. A bit 'monolithic'.

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Somber fellow. A bit 'monolithic'.

Holst was an international socialist who had been disillusioned by the nationalism of the First World War. He was also very ill at the time and was probably suffering from cancer. Even so, there are several uplifing moments in the Planets, for example, Jupiter. You can see how Leonard Bernstein was influenced by this work.

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This version seems to me to be more like it was meant (imo, that's all) to be. It has on occasion seemed to me that the Japanese can be a bit 'harsh' or perhaps pedantic when orchestrating western music so in response to a percieved discordance. that made it seem kind of patchy and at times 'disney like'. I looked for a different version and was not surprised to find that a longer version by the London Symphony Orchestra irons out the kinks and presents Holst as the composer he was and then it is easier to see the influence he has had on musicians. (imo)

This version has a reasonable, but not great, soundtrack and to me annoying graphics. ( I dealt with that by starting it and a version that only has a photo of Holst and pausing it to look at while the other piece played ).

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