TSO – Holst – The Planets

I’ve heard of music bringing tears to peoples’ eyes, but I’ve never experienced anything remotely close to that, until this past Thursday at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Gustav Holst’s The Planets. I’ve listened to the suite countless times on my MP3 player, but never performed live. As great as it is as a recording, it’s like a completely different work live. I thought Roy Thompson Hall’s tagline, ‘Intimately Powerful‘ was especially appropriate for the evening. The music was like a wave washing through the hall, but was, at the same time, extremely personal.

The chilling beginning to Mars, the opening piece of the suite, sent shivers down my spine. The giant dynamic variations in this movement were splendid and the quintuple meter helped keep up the feeling of urgency. It was as though the music were straining against an invisible leash. I consciously felt my heart beating rather quickly through this movement, probably my second favorite of the suite. The almost-splitting-to-splitting brass themes can be heard in similar form throughout many modern-day soundtracks, such as Star Wars and Gladiator (John Williams and Hans Zimmer).

My favorite movement of The Planets is without a doubt Jupiter. The slow middle theme is the most beautiful orchestral theme I’ve ever laid ears on. It was already absolutely gorgeous in recordings, and sitting there about 10 feet from the stage, I could feel tears welling. It was one of those rare moments in life when nothing else quite mattered and I was completely absorbed in a warm, content cocoon. I didn’t want it to ever end.

Earlier this week, as I sat at my computer looking at the $80 ticket in my online cart, I found myself second-guessing my decision to go. In the end, I reasoned that the opportunity to hear one of my favorite works live wouldn’t present itself very often, so I purchased it. In retrospect, I’m simply so happy I did buy the ticket. It was an experience I won’t ever forget.


4 Replies to “TSO – Holst – The Planets”

  1. I’ve had so many experiences just like that one. I’m convinced that the most integral part of the whole thing is familiarity, the “I’ve listened to the suite countless times on my MP3 player”, in combination with your musical knowledge. In order to truly transcend the mundane in music I think it takes some kind of intimate understanding to bring us to the point of tears.

    Unfortunately it seems that in today’s world of instant gratification too few people are willing to spend the time necessary to connect with music as you clearly have; thus the decline in attendance of classical music performances. I’m learning to savour experiences like yours and I’m happy to know that I’m not alone.

    All of this comes from a video I watched a while ago which really struck a chord with me and pushed the cogs into motion. It’s a TEDtalk, and if you’ve never watched any TEDtalks let me apologize now for your inevitable decline in productivity due to their educationally time-wasting awesomeness. Check it out here:


    also, if you’ve never heard of it, I’ve just discovered a new internet application in my paper writing procrastination adventures:

    something this good deserved to be shared and used (plus it’s ALL FREE).

    Peace, N

  2. Yeah, part of it definitely has to do with the fact that I was already familiar with the work, so I could really enjoy some of the finer points. However, I don’t think that means someone new to the work, or perhaps even classical music in general can’t enjoy it.

    I’ll check out the TEDtalks when I have a bit more time on my hands, like this Christmas… 🙂

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