Any would-be conductor of The Planets needs first to consult Holst's own recordings of 1923 and 1926; then Imogen Holst's The Music of Gustav Holst (3rd edition, in particular Chapter XXVI), and her and Colin Matthews's contributions to the Collected Facsimile Edition, Volume III. Opinions vary as to how far the constraints of the early recording studio affected the composer's interpretation, so the recent discovery of a miniature score with Sir Henry Wood's annotations on the 1931 Prom performance, where Holst had no such inhibitions, is of unusual interest. Its positive attributes, side by side with Wood's merciless exposing of the difficulties encountered by the composer, are all there. Durations of three movements have been added in Holst's writing, and Wood's own timings shed further light although, sadly, muddied by errors and inconsistencies. But there is new food for thought regarding such aspects as the speed of Saturn and a reminder where the central melody of Jupiter is concerned.
Alan Gibbs has written and edited books on Holst and already contributed articles on related subjects to Tempo. He is also a composer, a former pupil of Seiber, and serves on the Mátyás Seiber Trust.