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Classical Breakdown

12. The Planets by Holst

January 14, 2020

The Planets is for better or worse, the most well-known work of English composer Gustav Holst. Over seven movements, Holst builds a world of different characters, the gods our planets are named after in our solar system, contrary to the idea he wrote about the physical planets themselves. We explore this masterpiece with a recording that is rather legendary, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and conductor William Steinberg. 

Show Notes

The recording we sampled can be found here.

BSO recording of Holst's The Planets with Steinberg

Learn more about Gustav Holst here.

What is a Euphonium?

Euphonium

The euphonium is a medium sized brass instrument and is kind of like a small tuba. It has a conical shape, which means the tubing gradually gets larger from the mouthpiece to the bell (the sound end). This helps create a rich, warm, and colorful sound. Instruments like the trumpet are cylindrical, meaning the tubing stays roughly the same size until the bell section. The euphonium is common in wind ensembles, military bands, and brass bands. All popular ensembles in Holst's native England. 

Then what is an F Tuba?

Miraphone Firebird F tuba
The F tuba (shown above) is an instrument that lives between the big CC Tuba you see most commonly in American orchestras and the higher-pitched Euphonium. It has a more compact sound than it's bigger CC Tuba brother, and is often used for certain orchestral works, like the Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. Pictured here is my F tuba, a typical German style with 6 rotary valves.