#30: Gustav Holst - "The Planets" (1916)

File this entry under "You really, really haven't listened to this before, Emily?" Well no, I haven't, not in its entirety, not consecutively. Not much more beyond a hazy understanding of its impact and ubiquity. Classical music is something I've always enjoyed when it happens to be around but rarely something I've purposefully gone towards. Apart from my final year of my undergraduate, where Radio 3's Through the Night became a staunch companion during panicked revision sessions.

There was certainly plenty of recognition around Mars and Jupiter. The sheer fearful force of Mars is not only the Bringer of War but also Bringer of Being Very Much Awake Now. What a way to start, with urgency and certainty, managing to tap into and give shape and sound to such a primal fear. By contrast, the swelling refrain of Jupiter reminds me of Simon Callow dancing in Four Weddings And A Funeral. Giggling at someone who has had one too many and may not be in possession of all their critical faculties but so much the better for it. When they start singing a chorus you know, you can't help but join in. That sort of person. 

That each planet has such a defined character, a voice, is a staggering achievement on Holst's part. I had no idea as to how contemporary this work actually is, as I was under the mistaken assumption that they were written hundreds and hundreds of years ago, not within a whisper of the start of the century just gone. Being written within what was a conflict of apocalyptic proportions, there is something admirably stiff-upper lip in getting war over and done with first, then immediately following it with peace, in order to go on to the more interesting and better angels of human - and cosmic - nature. Venus is soft in a way that isn't sentimental but seasonal, a quiet power with gravitas. Hope springs eternal.

Holst's ability to create a coherent work comprised of these distinct movements, whilst managing to convey their ancient qualities makes for a striking and soothing experience.

Pluto missed out.