By Seán Martinfield
San Francisco Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Telarc has just released their sixteenth collaboration with Music Director Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra – Gustav Holst’s The Planets and Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra. The CD, produced by Robert Woods and engineered by Grammy Award winner Michael Bishop, is intensely grand in its musical scope and an unbounded trip for the imagination. Says Conductor Järvi, “The Planets and The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra are probably two of the best known orchestral works to come out of England in the twentieth century. I have always been thrilled by the brilliant orchestra in both works and the powerful sound-images each uses to vividly bring to light the mysteries of outer space and the intricacies of the orchestra.”
Completed in 1916 before the discovery of Pluto and leaving Earth out of the picture, Gustav Holst’s The Planets is a mind-blowing meditation – best experienced when in the throes of surrender and (if not at the Symphony Hall) settled into an easy chair. The journey is not one NASA might plan. Rather, it is an astrological search and rescue. Holst’s seven movements reveal the attributes of the Roman gods in relationship to their governing planetary positions and how their particular concerns effect our psyche and physical state. That is, how seven of the known planets can screw up or yield us our daily bread. Take Mars, for instance.
Track 1. Mars, the Bringer of War
According to Holst, the God of War bursts onto the scene like an advancing Roman army straight out of the swords and sandals epics. It’s about armor, the flash of swords, red capes and blood everywhere. And with the bold use of the horn section and crashing percussion, there’s just no let-up until the passion, conflict – and perhaps, the chance brief encounter – is over. But it’s only a matter of time until the commander god stirs it all up again. Gustav Holst and Paavo Järvi know that much of the red planet’s pulsating energy is about the libido. Mars also rules your slightest hint of competition as much as he effects the outcome of a major sporting event. His influence concerns the strategy of dealing with a foe – and the challenge of a lover. At the conclusion of “Mars”, Holst has the heated deity in control of the competing force, pounding away until whatever It or It’s About is clearly consumed. The sustained final moments are an immolation.
“It is such a famous piece, but this is the first time I’ve conducted it with the Cincinnati Symphony,” said Mr. Järvi. “This music has real staying power… Holst paints a ’sound picture’ of the planets - it’s both intriguing and charming.”Shostakovich: Symphony No. 10 and Tormis: Overture No. 2 . The September 2008 release of an all Mussorgsky program won a GRAMMY® for Best Surround Sound. Other recordings include the January 2008 release of a celebrated all Prokofiev CD, and the 2007 release of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2. In May 2006 the CSO’s Bartok and Lutoslawski: Concertos For Orchestra debuted on the Billboard classical chart at number 9.