Sunday, September 25, 2011

Special Concert Review: The Planets: An HD Odyssey

As most of you know, I am a big fan of heavy metal music but I also enjoy classical music and neither Ft.Worth nor I are not without a little culture. Both heavy metal and classical music share some of the same heavy themes and power with pieces such as Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Moussorgsky and of course The Planets by Gustav Holst. Last night, I experienced a very special concert (which I almost missed because of my health) at the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, Texas: The Planets: An HD Odyssey performed by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Associate Conductor Andrés Franco and also featuring a performance by the TCU Chorale. To begin the concert, the symphony performed the Star-Spangled Banner and then the 1812, Overture solonelle Op. 49 by Tchaikovsky, a surprising but fitting and impressive prelude to The Planets. This particular performance was accompanied by a visual presentation on a movie screen above the symphony featuring HD images of the actual planets of our solar system taken from satellite photos and The Hubble Telescope. Before the music began there was a short, documentary-style interview session featuring several prominent scientists and astronomers from institutes such as the Jet Propulsion Lab.
Ironically, although the performance features images of the actual planets, the theme of The Planets has more to do with their Roman mythological counterparts than the actual planets. The performance began with the most popular and recognizable of pieces from The Planets: "Mars, the Bringer of War". Mars is a very powerful and bellicose piece that incorporates images of battle and destruction, however while the planet Mars itself has a very barren, rocky terrain which has sparked the imagination of astronomers and Sci-Fi writers for years. Also on the screen, were images from the Mars Rover Mission in 2004. Next was "Venus, the Bringer of Peace", a very slow and light piece which reflects the mysterious surface of the planet accompanied by very colorful images. Then came "Mercury, the Winged Messenger", a very light and playful piece which hardly compliments the actual planet as it appears very grey and resembles our moon. "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity" is probably the next best-known piece from The Planets and is quite possibly the most uplifting and triumphant with a very Western-themed sound. The images of it's gaseous surface and particularly it's great red spot are wondrous. Next came "Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age", a piece that starts out very slow and grows very ominous. The images of Saturn's rings were especially impressive. Next was "Uranus, the Magician", while starting out very playful and lively, the piece ends very somber and foreboding. The striking blue color of the planet complimented the piece very well. The last piece of The Planets is "Neptune, the Mystic", another haunting and mysterious piece which featured the marvelous voices of the TCU Chorale towards the end. The performance was a success and very special experience which earned a standing ovation for the conductor and the symphony. This concert was originally performed by the Houston Symphony and is also available on DVD and Blu-ray


"Every artist ought to pray that he may not be a 'success.' If he's a failure he stands a good chance on concentrating upon the best work of which he's capable." - Gustav Holst, 1925