In 1914 Gustav Holst began work on a new work tentatively named Seven Pieces for Large Orchestra. Holst had been considering the idea of composing a work on this scale with an astrological centre for some time; it began to take shape when he read Alan Leo’s "What is a Horoscope? ", which explained the attributes of those born under certain planets in a manner similar to Holst’s idea of a series of mood pictures. Mars was depicted as ‘headstrong and at times too forceful’; Venus emphasising the ‘affectional and emotional side of her subjects, giving them a keen appreciation of art and beauty’; Mercury with the ‘ability to use the mind in various ways’; Jupiter’s ‘abundance of life and vitality…noble and generous spirit’; Saturn’s ‘slow and steady progress through life; Uranus’ inclination towards the ‘metaphysical and occult…producing eccentric, strange and erratic reactions’; and Neptune being psychically sensitive and attuned to other-worldly experiences. Over a period of two years, the Seven Pieces became The Planets; as orchestration neared completion in 1916, Holst met the then-unknown Adrian Boult, who had requested
some items for small orchestra. During their discussions Holst arranged for Boult to hear his two-piano version of The Planets–which would become a central staple of Boult's repertoire until his death nearly seven decades later.
Vernon “Todd” Handley (b. 1930), a student of Boult, conducts the present recording of The Planets and Saint Paul's Suite. Over the past 40 years Handley has made countless award-winning recordings for major labels, mainly of British music including the complete symphonies of Bax, Arnold, Vaughan Williams, Simpson and Stanford. The Brook Green Suite is conducted by Barry Wordsworth, one of the world’s leading ballet conductors whose name has become synonymous with the London-based Royal Ballet.
ReviewsBest of the Year 2007: "This recording was released nearly 20 years ago but had an ephemeral life on an obscure label. I recall visiting shop after shop in the UK eventually tracking down a cassette copy of it. That cassette contained a truly exciting performance of The Planets by Vernon Handley. I welcome its re-release in spectacular digital sound and on a budget label." ” Len Mullenger, Musicweb International