Wednesday, March 12, 2008

a brief, yet heartfelt, 242 words about Gustav Holst's "the Planet," opus 32

I'm very psyched about seeing the Philadelphia Orchestra performing Gustav Holst's "the Planets" tonight at the Kimmel Center. It was written in the early 19 'teens (first performed 1918)

Contact me if you're interested in coming along. The performance is at 8pm. You'll need to meet me at the kimmel box off by 5pm to get $10 rush tickets (one per person allowed.)

Here are my two favorite sections of the 7-part piece

Mars, the Bringer of War
after the Japanese intro, the music starts at 0:53
This is one of the most tense, angry pieces of
orchestral music out there. I love the insistent
rhythmic phrases first tapped out by the low strings
(it begins with the triplet) and the apocalyptically
doomy end with time almost standing still as the tempo
slows to a crawl and the orchestra crushes the

Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity:

In contrast to the cathartic anger of "Mars" Jupiter
is one of the most joyous orchestral pieces I've heard
(as the subtitle implies.) My favorite part is the
very "stately" slow waltz that starts at 1:43 with the
melody played by the lower brass and then soon
speeding up as the melody becomes lighter and more
staccato, literally flying away into the high
register. That part around 1:43 (and the reprise of it
near the end) is one of the few pieces of music that
often makes me cry. Happy tears. Flooded with emotion

And this section of "Jupiter" is the source for one of
my favorite "over taken" by the music stories. It was
reported that during the 9/28/1918 premier of the work
"the effect upon the small audience was intense---and
in the halls, during the playing of 'Jupiter,'
char-women were said to have set aside their scrubbing
to dance with each other."
The image of these working class downtrodden
cleaning women in Cheltenham, England throwing down
their mops and saying "fuck it, let's dance!" is so
beautiful. I think of it every time I hear this
section and I think it's what prompts the waterworks.

I think that music is the most powerful spiritual
force in the human world. And this is an example of
its power, at least to my non-denominational ears.

And at 6:47 in "Jupiter" the tambourine technique is
great. I'd actually never seen a close up of how the
sound was achieved until I saw this clip.

I enjoyed the Japanese characters and slight
out-of-sync nature of the video/soundtrack combo. It
gave the clips an otherworldly exoticism.

The other 5 sections are great too, but I'd be lying
if I didn't say they don't quite live up to the
intense rhythmic and melodic power of "Mars" and

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