Boston Philharmonic Orchestra

Strauss / Holst

Also Sprach Zarathustra

The Planets

Benjamin Zander, conductor

About the Program

“You, great Star, what would your happiness be if you did not have those for whom you shine?” Thus spake Zarathustra at the opening of Nietzsche’s famous book.  Richard Strauss’s tone poem addresses the sun and all earthly things that it shines on, but when we were putting together the programs for this season we thought “Why be so restrictive?” Why not everything that the sun shines on—the whole solar system? And so we have put together a program that is literally out of this world, pairing the Strauss work with Holst’s beloved and gigantic sonic spectacular The Planets. And so this dizzyingly colorful, kaleidoscopic program came to be. Another factor that led us to this pairing of works is that, quite unusually, we are giving our first concert of the season in Symphony Hall, and both works will make prominent use of the magnificent Symphony Hall organ. 

The two pieces have “programs” of a sort. In the case of the Strauss, each section relates to specific philosophical concerns of Nietzsche. But the truth is that the philosophical underpinning is something of a pretext: what really mattered to Strauss – and matters to us – is the extraordinary explosion of new and spellbinding orchestral sounds in every bar of the score. It was with this work that Strauss’s orchestral mastery took its quantum leap from being inventive and colorful to being truly path breaking. Every bar (and not just the Stanley Kubrick 2001 opening) is a sonic adventure, and is a treat for the audience and bracing challenge for the orchestra. 

Likewise, in The Planets, the astrological associations of the planets served as a pretext for Holst, but the real substance is the range of sounds, from the grandiose to the ethereal and eerie, that the composer was able to coax from his huge and varied orchestra (plus offstage women’s chorus). Everyone who revels in true sonic spectaculars will want to be in Symphony Hall for this amazing and unique pairing of works.

thursday, october 22, 2015
8:00pm / Symphony Hall

Guide to the music with Benjamin Zander, 6:45pm