When Holst composed the Planets some 90 years ago, mankind had little knowledge
of the true nature of the massive neighbouring giants orbiting around the
Sun. He drew inspiration mainly from the Greek mythology and the astrology
of the Greeks and Romans. Venus, always portrayed as the incarnation of beauty
is actually an inhospitable planet. The mighty and formidable Mars, the bringer
of war, turned out to be a cold, desert world.
It was time for a musical update. It was time to portray the planets as they
really are. And this took form through a BBC series exploring the true nature
of our solar neighbourhood. To underscore the series, Jim Meacock took a
fresh look at the family of worlds inhabiting the solar system and created
a diverse and vast musical universe. From the typical trumpet passages in
the Main Title, later assisted by the whole orchestra to build a satisfying
theme, to each Planet's unique musical identity as depicted in the various
tracks, the composer successfully captures the coldness and magnificence
of Space. 'The Moon' theme paints the bright and lifeless Moon initially
with bright orchestral colours building a grand theme, followed by solo
instrumentation, discreetly accompanied by the orchestra. Venus is no longer
(musically speaking) a delicate and peaceful melodic landscape but harsh
and atonal, in keeping with the essential inhospitability of the planet.
Mars is no longer attributed the famous march theme but a refined, updated,
for the technologically advanced, Space Era, persuasion with percussion,
winds and piano depicting giant volcanos and red rust. Similar palettes are
utilised throughout the score, mixing short grand themes with
orchestrally-refined passages, often furious and atonal.
Unlike Holst, the composer does not glorify the Planets. He musically refers
the listener to various strange, cold, inhospitable and lifeless worlds.
Space is musically painted as it is: vast and cold. The booklet contains
various pieces of information about the planets and is a nice accompaniment
to the music, clarifying and justifying the composer's choices for orchestral
colours and the structure of the music.
It is a nice, although not easy due to the length and nature of the music,
stand alone listening experience and an appropriate update to the original