Holst — ‘Mars’ from ‘The Planets’

About the piece

This piece is called Mars, the Bringer of War and was written by Gustav Holst in anticipation of the outbreak of World War One and performed immediately after the war in 1918. The music tells us about the planet’s mood – brutal and frightening just like the Roman god of war that it was named after. It’s a march but an unusual one as normally a march has 4 beats in a bar so you can say “left, right, left, right”, but Mars has 5 beats in a bar which makes it tricky to march to! The music was written for a large orchestra using lots of percussion which describe the sinister planet perfectly. Holst wrote music about other planets as part of this huge piece – why don’t you have a listen to those too?

About the composer

Gustav Holst (born in England, 1874-1934) loved astrology and wanted to explore the planets so much that he went into space using his imagination. His best known work is The Planets Suite which is a group of individual pieces starting with Mars, the Bringer of War. People often forget that Holst wrote 200 other works!

Gustav Holst on the Ten Pieces website

More resources for Gustav Holst from the Ten Pieces pages on the BBC website.

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