GUSTAV HOLST’S THE PLANETS
Sure, you’ll find excerpts of the English-born composer’s masterwork on every classical sampler ever released, and its themes are regularly cannibalized by composers scoring space movies, but that shouldn’t diminish this work’s cosmic grandeur. Written at the outset of WWI, astrology — all the rage at the time — and not astronomy was Holst’s primary thematic inspiration (zodiac lovers take note!). Each of the seven movements taps into the influence of a planet (Pluto, not yet a planet, got a foreshadowing snub) and its effect on the psyche — “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity,” “Mars, the Bringer of War,” etc. Musically, Arnold Schoenberg’s 12-tone technique had begun its expressionist takeover of modern classical and exerted its gravitational pull on some of Holst’s planet-suites — mostly as a bridge between modernism and the Romantics that Holst admired, especially Brahms. The 50-minute orchestral piece may be familiar, but its grand sweep is still to be admired. Christopher Warren-Green conducts the Charlotte Symphony and the performance features Lukas Vondracek on piano and the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte’s Women’s Chorus.