Holst famously stated “When I’m composing I feel just like a mathematician”. However, for his most famous composition The Planets he must have felt just like an astrologer, the composer turning to his extra-musical interest of space for inspiration. Premiering in 1918, the seven-part tone poem, which evokes the characters of the then known planets of the universe, came to express the nation’s collective emotions during the First World War. The work is full of familiar episodes that have become ingrained in British culture - the menacing ‘Mars’ movement, the eerie calm of ‘Venus’, the triumphal, patriotic ‘Jupiter’ – and is one of the most celebrated pieces of the 20th Century. Elgar’s epic Violin Concerto was composed for celebrated Viennese virtuoso Fritz Kreisler, who shortly before giving the 1910 world premiere in London vowed ‘I will shake the Queen’s Hall!’ He obviously had the desired effect as according to one reviewer, ‘for a quarter of an hour they called and recalled the man [Elgar] who had achieved a triumph not only for himself, but also for England, and hailed him as master and hero.’ Elgar’s own opinion was that ‘It’s good! Awfully emotional! Too emotional...but I love it.’ The score’s enigmatic Spanish inscription is now thought to refer to Alice Stuart-Wortley, whom Elgar referred to affectionately as his ‘windflower’.
More concerts with Vladimir Ashkenazy
May 01 2014, 19:30 - Royal Festival Hall
Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts Prokofiev's score to Sergei Eisenstein's 1944 film Ivan the Terrible
Oct 20 2013, 15:00 - Royal Festival Hall
Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts Holst's The Planets, Delius's The Walk to the Paradise Garden and Grieg's Piano Concerto