Musician and composer Gustav Holst was born and lived in Cheltenham, and in fact you can visit his home and see his possessions at the Holst Birthplace Museum. Holst is a much-loved and much-celebrated Cheltonian whose legacy lives on, and whose influence is still felt today. Earlier this year, we considered Holst's continuing influence 84 years after his death, while two public art pieces - a letterpress poster installation, and a piece at the Cheltenham Paint Festival - are just two of this year's celebrations.

Street art for Gustav Holst

That's not all though. Today - 29th September 2018 - marks exactly 100 years since the first ever full performance of Holst's composition - The Planets. Parts of the composition were heard before the official premiere, but never in full until 29th September 1918.

Holst wrote the planets over a two-year period between 1914 and 1916, creating the seven-movement orchestral suite that we know and love today. As part of his composition, Holst defined a series of astrological characters to each known planet in the solar system, and used these names and characters to label each of the movements.

Holst was introduced to the idea of astrology by Clifford Bax when on holiday in Majorca in the spring of 1913. Holst became an avid astrologer, casting horoscopes as a hobby. This went on to influence and inspire The Planets piece, with each movement designed to covey the emotions associated with the influence of each planet on human psyche. The movements include Mars (Bringer of War), Venus (Bringer of Peace), Mercury (The Winged Messenger), Jupiter (Bringer of Jollity), Saturn (Bringer of Old Age), Uranus (Magician), and Neptune (Mystic). 

Gustav Holst

The compsition has proven unerringly popular over the past 100 years, and continues to be performed around the world even now. The premiere performance was held at the Queen's Hall in Langham Place, London, on 29th September 1918, where the orchestra was conducted by Holst's good friend Adrian Boult, to a private, invited audience of 250 people. Between September 1918 and October 1920 there were a further four performances of the piece, however none of these were complete performances of the entire movement. 

It wasn't until November 1920 when a public performance of the entire movement was given. It was performed by London Symphony Orchestra on 15 November 1920 and led by Albert Coates, an English conductor and composer. 

Lovers of the piece can enjoy the Holst Birthday Concert today. 

This year, two lost scores written and signed by Holst, were given to the Holst Birthplace Museum. 




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