Holst’s “The Planets” or Holst ke Sayyare III

Holst despaired of his work ever being performed. But in 1918 he was sent abroad to organise music among the troops and as a going-away present, the wealthy Balfour Gardiner hired the Queen’s Hall and the entire Queen’s Hall orchestra for a private performance under the young Adrian Boult, on Sunday, September 29, 1918.

It was a momentous occasion. During Jupiter the charwomen in the corridors downed brushes and danced. The most memorable effect was the close of Neptune. To get this right Holst decreed that choristers with squeaky shoes should remove them and walk barestockinged.

The Planets has proved to be Holst’s most enduringly popular work but the aftermath – an artist’s failure to match the standards of a popular piece which people wanted more of – was tragic but, in a way, inevitable. 

Holst never wrote another piece like The Planets again. He hated its popularity. When people would ask for his autograph, he gave them a typed sheet of paper that stated that he didn’t give out autographs. The public seemed to demand of him more music like The Planets, and his later music seemed to disappoint them. In fact, after writing the piece, he swore off his belief in astrology, though until the end of his life he cast his friends horoscopes.

It is indeed ironic that the piece that made his name famous throughout the world brought him the least joy in the end.

Such are the perils of fame……..


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