Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium hosts unique piano performance of 'The Planets' amidst the Solar System


Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium is hosting a live immersive performance of Gustav Holsts 'The Planets', played by two acclaimed pianists – at one piano – surrounded by the Solar System on 16 June.

Brought to life by musicians Robert Hunter and Zoë Mather, 'The Planets' will be performed as a unique audio-visual experience inside the 360-degree domed screen planetarium, where the audience will be taken on a flight through the Solar System exploring the seven planets in synchronisation with the performance.

The orchestral score of 'The Planets' premiered in 1918 and it became hugely popular, but Holst originally composed the suite as a piano duet which lay forgotten for over half a century before being recently unearthed. The Planetarium performance, 'Keys to the Universe' brings this composition to life as a magical arrangement for one piano, four hands.

The enigmatic story of 'The Planets' also impacts Robert Hunter and Zoë Mather who have their own links to Holsts original composition, as Robert explains:

"At the age of 16 I began lessons with pianist John York, who was Head of Keyboard at St Pauls Girls School in London, where Holst composed 'The Planets'. He showed me the Holst Room and told me that in 1991 he had discovered a leather-bound copy of 'The Planets' arranged for 1 piano, 4 hands in the cupboard, with Holsts signatures written on the inside cover; it had never really seen the light of day before then."

"From that day, I dreamed of playing it myself and after a few failed attempts I finally suggested it to Zoë, who joined me on my plight. Amazingly during rehearsals, Zoë discovered that her mother-in-law had studied the piano with Vally Lasker, who helpedarrange this version with Holst himself. Being able to perform 'The Planets' with Zoë feels like my dream has finally come true and that it was obviously meant to be!

Gustav Holsts 'The Planets' represents all the known planets of the Solar System seen from Earth at the time, and their corresponding astrological character. All were scored as a piano duet, except Neptune which was scored for an organ because Holst believed that the sound of the piano was too percussive for a world as mysterious and distant as Neptune.

Ever since its first performance, The Planets has resonated with its audience becoming highly influential; it is regularly referenced by rock musicians, was reconstructed as a patriotic hymn, and provided the soundtrack to countless television shows and films – most famously providing the inspiration for John Williams iconic score to Star Wars.

Keys to the Universe takes place on Friday 16 June in Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium at 7.30pm.