The Planets, Op. 32, is a seven-movement orchestral suite by the English composer Gustav Holst, written between 1914 and 1916. Each movement of the suite is named after a planet of the Solar System and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst. With the exception of Earth (the centre of all yet influentially inert astrologically), all the astrological planets known during the work’s composition are represented.
The suite has seven movements, each named after a planet and its corresponding astrological character (see Planets in astrology):
1.Mars, the Bringer of War
2.Venus, the Bringer of Peace
3.Mercury, the Winged Messenger
4.Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
5.Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
6.Uranus, the Magician
From its premiere to the present day, the suite has been enduringly popular, influential, widely performed and frequently recorded. The work was not heard in a complete public performance, however, until some years after it was completed. Although there were four performances between September 1918 and October 1920, they were all either private (the first performance, in London) or incomplete (two others in London and one in Birmingham). The premiere was at the Queen’s Hall on 29 September 1918, conducted by Holst’s friend Adrian Boult before an invited audience of about 250 people. The first complete public performance was finally given in London by Albert Coates conducting the London Symphony Orchestra on 15 November 1920.7.Neptune, the Mystic
The work is scored for an exceptionally large orchestra:
Woodwind: 4 flutes (3rd doubling 1st piccolo; 4th doubling 2nd piccolo and a “bass flute in G”, actually an alto flute), 3 oboes (3rd doubling bass oboe), an English horn, 3 clarinets in B-flat, a bass clarinet in B-flat, 3 bassoons and a contrabassoon
Brass: 6 horns in F, 4 trumpets in C, 3 trombones (2 tenor and 1 bass), a “tenor tuba” (euphonium in B-flat) and a bass tuba
Keyboards: a celesta, and an organ
Percussion: 6 timpani (2 players, 3 drums each except in “Uranus” having 4 drums for 1st and 2 drums for 2nd), a bass drum, a snare drum, cymbals, a triangle, a tam-tam, a tambourine, a glockenspiel, a xylophone, and tubular bells
Strings: 2 harps, 1st and 2nd violins, violas, cellos, and double basses
Voices: (“Neptune” only), 2 three-part women’s choruses (SSA) located in an adjoining room which is to be screened from the audience.