Watch a full orchestral performance of 'Mars' from Holst's 'The Planets' by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Thomas Søndergård.
Listen out for:
- a relentless, driving 5 beat ostinato
- strings playing with the wood of the bow
- brass instruments and trumpet fanfares
- loud dynamics and crescendos
- pulsing drum beats
* Holst was a British composer. He was born in the Victorian times and lived during WW1.
* Holst was a music teacher in schools.
* Gustav Holst’s most significant piece is The Planet Suite written at the start of World War 1.
Find out more in our Assembly video:
Gustav Holst was a British composer living and working in London 100 years ago. He was a very interesting man. He was fascinated by space, astrology, religion, meditation and vegetarianism - in many ways he was completely ahead of his time. Music ran in Holst's family and so it wasn't a surprise to his parents when he decided to learn the piano. Sadly, an injury to his arm meant that he had to give up and so he took up composing and, because it made more money, he played trombone in theatre bands.
Holst attended the Royal College of Music in London, where he studied composition. After studying, Holst made a living playing the trombone in orchestras before becoming a teacher of music.
Holst wanted to join the army when WW1 started but he was rejected for military service because he had bad eyesight. Instead, Holst had the opportunity to serve his country by teaching music to the British troops
His biggest success came with his Planets Suite - a set of pieces for orchestra that describes the character of each planet. Holst didn't like the fame that this piece brought him. He wouldn't sign autographs, do interviews or accept awards and as the years went by he spent more and more time teaching. He inspired many young composers.
Mars from The Planets Suite
Watch Dick and Dom introduce 'Mars' from Holst's 'The Planets':
Gustav Holst’s most significant orchestral piece is The Planet Suite written between the years 1914-16. There are seven movements in The Planets, and each of these musically depicts a planet.
The Planets Suite