Listening Guide – ‘Uranus’ from The Planets


‘Uranus: The Magician’ is the sixth movement of The Planets Suite by Gustav Holst. You can read all about The Planets in our Listening Guide.

‘Uranus: The Magician’

‘Uranus: The Magician’ starts off with a dramatic statement of four notes (G, Eb, A and B), which represent Holst’s name. Holst converted some of the letters of his name into that four-note melody but he had to cheat and use different languages.  In Russian, S is the same as the note Eb.  In German H is the note B in English. So, G – Eb – A – B become the letters G – S – A – H in his name Gustav Holst (GuStAv Holst).

After the dramatic opening, where Holst’s name is intoned three times, the music sounds like the Magician might be walking along in a hurry.  It builds up with more and more of the orchestra involved, but gradually the mood lightens until we reach a loud section where the melody is played by the French horns all together. The music reaches another dramatic climax again (listen out for Holst’s name-tune again!), before marching off again.

Next, the melody is passed around different members of the brass section, with the same sort of marching accompaniment continuing underneath played by the woodwind and strings.

Listen out for the climax of the piece – where an organ is introduced, just for a moment! The ending features the harps playing Holst’s name-tune again and another very loud climactic moment before quietly disappearing.

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This resource was written by John Webb