Gustav Holst complained late in life that the fame his orchestral suite The Planets, like some kind of musical kudzu, had grown to define his oeuvre pretty much to the exclusion of everything else that he had composed. I wish I could tell Gustav that the situation has improved since his death in 1934. Alas, the only good news we have for Holst is that The Planets is more beloved than ever, and its enduring popularity has positioned him as one of the rock stars of orchestral music, albeit a one-hit wonder.
With its astrological themes and structure and the sharp musical distinctiveness of each of its seven movements, The Planets lends itself to spectacle and is often performed with accompanying visuals. It inverts the dynamic movement that we tend to expect of orchestral works, beginning with the dark, martial energy of “Mars” (from which John Williams learned a thing or two about Vadering) and ending with the distant, airy and alien “Neptune,” a high point in serious 20th-century music.
On Saturday, November 23 at 8 p.m., the Bardavon presents the second performance by the Hudson Valley Philharmonic of the 2013/14 season, including The Planets accompanied by rare images from NASA and the Hubble Space Telescope. This is also the closing event of the Bardavon’s “SkyFest: Astronomy & the Arts” series. Maestro Randall Fleisher will conduct the program, which will also include Prokofiev’s Symphony no. 7, op. 131. Ticketholders are invited to a pre-concert talk by Maestro Fleischer with members of the orchestra one hour before curtain.
Tickets for Holst’s The Planets range in price from $32 to $54. Student Rush tickets will be available one hour prior to the concert for $20. Tickets can be purchased at the Ulster County Performing Arts Center box office at 601 Broadway in Kingston, (845) 339-6088; at the Bardavon box office at 35 Market Street in Poughkeepsie, (845) 473-2072; and via Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 and www.ticketmaster.com.
Holst’s The Planets, Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Saturday, November 23, $20, $32, $54, Bardavon; (845) 473-2072, www.bardavon.org.