Special Sub-Topic: Mars - The Bringer of War
|"Mars - The Bringer of War" is the first movement of "The Planets". How many movements are there in total?|
Seven. Written between 1914 and 1916, the seven movements represent each known planet in the solar system, with the exclusion of Earth. Earth is not included as it cannot be observed by astronomers unless they travel into space. Space travel was, of course, completely unknown at the time the work was composed.
|"Jupiter - The Bringer of Jollity" was later adapted into a hymn/patriotic song with words by Sir Cecil Spring-Rice. What is the title of the hymn?|
I Vow to Thee My Country. In 1921 Holst adapted part of "Jupiter" to create "I Vow To Thee My Country".
It is most commonly heard on Armistice Day. Princess Diana asked for it to be sung at her wedding, and it was also sung at her funeral.
"I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice."
|The fifth movement is "Saturn". What is Saturn the bringer of?|
Old age. Old age and death have been associated with Saturn since ancient times. In an astrological chart Saturn can also indicate a domineering father, as well as intense feelings of isolation and loneliness. Those who have accepted Saturn's limitation and restrictions will go into old age with dignity.
|Which movement is sub-titled "The Magician"?|
Uranus. Uranus governs the mysteries of life. All the things we cannot see or understand, hence "The Magician". It is also the first planet in our solar system that was not known to ancient man. It is such a vast distance from Earth, approximately 2.87 billion kilometres, that it can barely be seen with the naked eye. It was discovered in 1781 by William Herschel.
|Why is Pluto not included in "The Planets"?|
It hadn't been discovered at the time the work was written. Pluto was not discovered until 1930, some years after "The Planets" was written. Holst never expressed any interest in writing an extra movement to incorporate the newly discovered planet. In 2006 the definition of what constitutes a planet was re-examined with the result that Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet.
|Movement three, "Mercury - The Winged Messenger" refers to him being the messenger of the Roman gods. Who was his Greek equivalent?|
Hermes. Mercury is the planet that moves most swiftly across the sky, so Greek astronomers named it Hermes after the swift messenger of the gods. The Romans took the name of their equivalent messenger, hence Mercury as we know it today.
|"Venus - The Bringer of Peace" is the second movement. As a goddess Venus is usually more associated which what?|
Love. Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty. It appears in the sky just before dawn or just before sunset and because of this is also known as the "Morning Star" and "Evening Star". Because the astrological influences of Venus are concerned with harmony in relationships, "The Bringer of Peace" is a very apt sub-title.
|"Neptune - the Mystic", the final movement, has an unusual (for the time) ending. What is this?|
Fade-out. Today fade out is a commonplace recording technique, but in the early 1900s it was unheard of. Holst had the female choir placed in a separate room adjacent to the stage, and at the end of the movement the door to the room is slowly closed, so the voices become fainter and fainter until they fade away completely.
|Is "The Planets" written from an astrological or astronomical viewpoint?|
astrological. "The Planets" is written from an astrological viewpoint. Each sub-title is the attribute of the planet in astrology rather than mythology, although there is a degree of crossover between the two.
|Gustav Holst wrote part of "The Planets" whilst living in which village in Essex?|
Thaxted. Holst first came to Thaxted in 1913 when he rented a cottage for weekends and holidays. He subsequently lived in the village and surrounding area on and off for the rest of his life. Much of "The Planets" was written in the first house he rented in Thaxted.
In 1916 he and the local vicar established a Whitsun Music Festival, but this ceased in 1918. In 1980 it was restarted as a two month festival during June and July, and is now an established annual event attracting top class performers.
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