Prom 14: Williams and Holst

As part of the Great Symphonic Classics which have featured so heavily so far, Vaughan Williams and Holst take their place in Prom 14 and join the group of musical heavyweights who feature in this Proms season.

Vaughan Williams gives us a piece of music that opens up moodily. In parts, it’s almost otherworldly and space aged, but it also has the ability to blend the orchestra. There are glimmers of confident and clean brass work lured by a singing cor Anglais. In many ways, this piece of music reminds me of the Elgarian pieces that have featured so far and just in that way, it’s not making too much of an impression. I feel like I have heard this type of music before. However, it was delightful to hear a saxophone being featured as well as the sound of the flugelhorn and this was enhanced by the strength in structure.

Soon, this would be followed by Holst and his well renowned Planets suite. In the interval, it was explained that Holst had a strong interest in astrology, rather than the precise science of the skies. Notably this was war-time music, premiered in 1918. Of course Pluto was still not classified as a planet yet, let alone declassified.

A mighty horoscope, this is a suite that carried great mystique, it feels as if you are leaving this atmosphere to discover the undiscovered. The music itself is very strong and affirmative. It’s very visual music and has a film like quality. It could even be considered ethereal with a dreamlike quality.

This is a grandiose suite which is confident and demonstrated honesty if not tenderness. Holst is really digging deep to express each planet’s personality in musical form. This is charged in energy, this is hard music being pushed to the limits. This is underlined by a good break between movements, a defined silence which adds to the tension.

This is certainly a showpiece for the orchestra and an absolute joy to listen to.