Holst: The Planets


In Holst’s ‘The Planets’ each of the seven movements is named after a planet and its corresponding astrological character. Epic for wind quintet and piano!

  • Instruments : Fl.+Picc, Ob., Cl. (in Bb), Hn., Bsn., Pno
  • Difficulty : E – approx. ABRSM Grade 8
  • Duration : 50′
  • ISMN : 979-0-708141-47-1
  • Portus Press reference : PPQP20


The idea for The Planets was born whilst the English composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was on holiday in Majorca in 1913. At that time Holst was keen to produce a large-scale symphonic piece and when his friend, Clifford Bax, introduced Holst to astrology he had his subject matter.

He finished the first sketch of Mars at the outbreak of the First World War and completed the suite of what Holst called ‘mood pictures’ in 1916.  The suite has seven movements, each named after a planet and its corresponding astrological character: Mars, the Bringer of War; Venus, the Bringer of Peace; Mercury, the Winged Messenger; Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity; Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age; Uranus, the Magician; and Neptune, the Mystic.

Prior to its first complete public performance in 1920 all but one of the suite’s individual movements had been given public airings, despite Holst’s opposition to part-performances – and especially those that finished off with the upbeat Jupiter because, he explained, “in the real world, the end is not happy at all”.

The Planets became a huge success and remains enduringly popular and influential.  Holst experienced its success but never enjoyed the limelight.  He also complained later in life that its popularity had completely overshadowed his other – better – creations.

Score Preview

   LISTEN – 1 – Mars, the Bringer of War

   LISTEN – 2 Venus, the Bringer of Peace

   LISTEN – 3 – Mercury, the Winged Messenger

   LISTEN – 4 – Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity

   LISTEN – 5 – Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age

   LISTEN – 6 – Uranus, the Magician

   LISTEN – 7 – Neptune, the Mystic



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