On March 5, 1913, a 38-year-old music schoolmaster wrote to a friend about the premiere of his latest composition, The Cloud Messenger: “ The Clouddid not go well and the whole thing has been a blow to me. I’m fed up with music, especially my own”. The sentiments were expressed by a man unable to find favour in a rapidly shifting musical Zeitgeist: Schoenberg’s atonal revolt had turned the landscape on its head, and Stravinsky’s The Rite of Springwas only months away from causing an aesthetic cataclysm in Paris.
Seven years later, The Sunday Timescritic Ernest Newman declared the schoolmaster to be “one of the subtlest and original minds of our time”. He was referring to Gustav Holst, following the premiere of his orchestral suite The Planets.
What is The Planetsreally all about and how did this once-insecure schoolmaster manage to produce a work of such lasting significance?