Gustav Holst – The Planets

The Choir and Symphony Orchestra of Bavarian Radio. Daniel Harding, conductor


Gustav Holst’s The Planets had not been performed by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra for more than thirty years when, on February 25, 2022, British conductor Daniel Harding brought it back to the Munich concert going public audience. The BR KLASSIK live-recording release is proof of the success of the concert.


Composed during the years of WWI, Gustav Holst’s The Planets depicts in its music the planetary “personalities” of the then seven known planets: Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, both as astral bodies and as incarnations of ancient deities. While Holst’s continental counterparts were committed to the new vocabularies of atonality and twelve-tone composition, Holst – a master of orchestration – held fast to a tonal vocabulary that still allowed him the freedom to explore the frisson of dissonance in several moments of The Planets


Daniel Harding obtains from his gem of an orchestra a superbly varied performance from his Munich musicians: martially dramatic for Mars, rapturously lyrical for Venus, nimbly agile for Mercury, now playful now grand for Jupiter, obstinately moody for Saturn, surreptitiously sardonic for Uranus, evanescently decrescendoing for Neptune. Featuring the fine female component of the Bavarian Radio Choir, the BR recording reminds us of the lasting presence of The Planets as one of the most significant symphonic works of the 20th century.

Rafael de Acha © 2023

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