Almost a century after its was written, St Albans Abbey will reverberate to the sounds of Gustav Holst’s celestial Planets suite, performed by St Albans Symphony Orchestra as part of its yearly festival concert on Saturday 8th June (7.30pm).
From the terrifying power of ‘Mars, the Bringer of War’ to the ethereal quiet of distant ‘Neptune’ – complete with wordless women’s chorus – The Planets has established itself among the most popular of all English classical compositions. Its seven movements, most famously ‘Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity, have more to do with the supposed influence of planets in astrology than any astronomical significance.
The orchestra will also play a suite of music from Aram Khatchaturian’s ballet Spartacus. One dance – a pas de deux – has been famous in Britain since it was used as the theme music for TV’s The Onedin Line in the 1970s. But by playing the whole suite, conductor Bjorn Bantock intends to demonstrate that the colourful score is more than a ‘one hit wonder’.
Unusually, another 20th century Armenian composer, Alexander Arutiunian is represented in the programme by a lively and tuneful Trumpet Concerto. The soloist will be the talented young Sicilian trumpeter, Giovanni Re, who studied at Palermo Conservatory before being appointed principal trumpet with the Academy Orchestra of La Scala, Milan.
Also featured will be the sad and dignified Pavane pour une infante défunte. Although it translates as ‘Pavane for a dead princess’, composer Maurice Ravel once admitted that he had no particular princess in mind and just liked the sound of the French words.