Pluto, the renewer

Colin Matthews (1946)

Pluto, the renewer 2000

4444-6432-timp(2) - perc(4): - 2 harp - cel - organ - (offstage female chorus in 7 parts) - strings
Duration 
6
Genre 
Commissioner 
Publisher 

When Kent Nagano asked me to add Pluto to ‘The Planets’ I had mixed feelings. To begin with, ‘The Planets’ is a very satisfying whole, and one which makes perfect musical sense. Neptune ends the work in a way wholly appropriate for Holst - an enigmatic composer, always likely to avoid the grand gesture if he could do something unpredictable instead. How could I begin again, after the music has completely faded away as if into outer space? And, even though Pluto was discovered four years before Holst's death in 1934, I am certain that he never once thought to write an additional movement (he was in any case decidedly ambivalent about the work's huge popularity). In addition, the matter of Pluto's status as a planet has for some time been in doubt - it may well be reclassified (together with its tiny satellite Charon) as no more than one of the largest of the many Kuyper Belt objects beyond the orbit of Neptune. Another intriguing fact about Pluto us that its elliptical orbit means that for the past twenty years it has been nearer to us than Neptune.) Yet the challenge of trying to write a new movement for The Planets without attempting to impersonate Holst eventually proved irresistible. It quickly became clear that it would be pointless to write a movement that was even more remote than Neptune unless the whole orchestra were to join the chorus off-stage. Nor did I feel that I should rely on the astrological significance of Pluto, which is more than a little ambiguous (not that astrologers seem to have problems with a minute planet that they have only just become aware of). In any case I am a thoroughgoing sceptic as far as astrology is concerned - I suspect that Holst's interest too was pretty peripheral - and, apart from choosing the title 'Pluto, the Renewer', left that aspect to one side. The only possible way to carry on from where Neptune leaves off is not to make a break at all, and so Pluto begins before Neptune has quite faded. And it is very fast - faster even than Mercury: solar winds were my starting point. The movement soon took on an identity of its own, following a path which I seemed to be simply allowing to proceed as it would: in the process I came perhaps closer to Holst than I had expected, although at no point did I think to write pastiche. At the end the music disappears, almost as if Neptune had been quietly continuing in the background.

Pluto is dedicated to the memory of Holst's daughter Imogen, with whom I worked for many years until her death in 1984, and who I suspect would have been both amused and dismayed by this venture.

Colin Matthews

Performances 
11.5.00, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester: Hallé Orchestra/Kent Nagano
21.7.00 Symphony Hall, Birmingham: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / Sakari Oramo
22.7.00 BBC Proms, London: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / Sakari Oramo
5.10.00 City Halls, Glasgow: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; Osmo Vänskä
7.10.00 Brangwyn Hall, Swansea: BBC National Orchestra of Wales / James Judd
28.10.00 Bridgwater Hall, Manchester: Hallé Orchestra / Mark Elder
1.3.01 Bergen, Norway: Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra / Simone Young
29.3.01 Chicago, USA: Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Leif Segerstam
21.4.01 Suntory Hall, Tokyo, Japan: Tokyo Symphony Orchestra / Naoto Otomo
17.10.01 Poole: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Andrew Litton
9.3.02 Royal Festival Hall, London: London Philharmonic Orchestra / Marin Alsop
Selected performances only. For full listing please visit www.fabermusic.com
4
Flute
3rd piccolo, 4th alto flute
4
Oboe
3rd cor anglais, 4th bass oboe
4
Clarinet
4th bass clarinet
4
Bassoon
4th contrabassoon
6
Horn
4
Trumpet
3
Trombone
2
Tuba
2nd tenor tuba
2
Timpani
4
Percussion
glockenspiel, crotales, bells, tenor drum, bass drum, suspended cymbal, cymbals, tam-tam, triangle
2
Harp
1
Piano
celesta
1
Organ
1
Other
optional offstage female chorus in 7 parts
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