Orchestration: 4 flutes (3rd = piccolo, 4th = alto flute and piccolo), 3 oboes (3rd = bass oboe), English horn, 3 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 tubas, 2 timpani, percussion (bass drum, cymbals, glockenspiel, gong, orchestra bells, snare drum, tambourine, triangle, xylophone), 2 harps, celesta, organ, strings, and women’s chorus
First Los Angeles Philharmonic performance: July 14, 1925, Sir Henry Wood conducting
The Planets is a suite for orchestra in which each movement represents a planet in the solar system and its astrological character.
The suite is made up of these seven movements:
- Mars, the Bringer of War
- Venus, the Bringer of Peace
- Mercury, the Winged Messenger
- Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
- Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
- Uranus, the Magician
- Neptune, the Mystic
Written between 1914 and 1916, the seven movements represent each known planet in the solar system, with the exception of Earth. Holst did not include Earth because astronomers could not observe it unless they traveled into space. Space travel was, of course, completely unknown at the time the work was composed.
Pluto was not discovered until 1930, some years after The Planets was written. Holst never expressed any interest in writing an extra movement to incorporate the newly discovered planet. In 2006 the definition of what constitutes a planet was re-examined, with the result that Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet.