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Royal College of Music presents Holst’s masterpiece The Planets in debut performance at BBC Proms and Helsinki Festival

Thursday 25 April 2024

The Royal College of Music (RCM) Symphony Orchestra bring Gustav Holst’s dazzling depiction of a journey through space to the BBC Proms on 25 August and Helsinki Festival’s closing concert on 1 September, in collaboration with the Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki. 

Marking the 150th anniversary of Gustav Holst’s birth, the joined forces of the Royal College of Music and Sibelius Academy Symphony Orchestras guide audiences through one of his best-loved works, The Planets, with the senior College and RCM Junior Department Chamber Choirs in the spectacular surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall on 25 August 2024 and the Helsinki Music Centre on 1 September 2024. 

One of the 20th century’s best-loved composers, Holst studied composition at the Royal College of Music and in 1919 joined the teaching staff at his alma mater working alongside Adrian Boult who conducted the first private performance of The Planets. The manuscripts for the two-piano versions of five of The Planets’ movements are kept in the RCM Library alongside many other manuscripts by the composer. 

Under the baton of Sakari Oramo, a seasoned BBC Proms figure and regular guest conductor at the College, the programme’s first half explores the sounds of Finland. The orchestra give the second ever Proms performance of Sibelius’s lesser-known tone poem The Wood Nymph, preceded by the world premiere of Laulut Maaseudulta (‘Songs from the Countryside’) by Finnish-American composer and Royal College of Music alumna Lara Poe.


Laulut Maaseudulta features acclaimed Finnish soprano Anu Komsi and channels haunting Nordic cow-calling traditions. Lara Poe describes how she approached the piece: ‘I’d heard Anu Komsi performing ‘kulning’ (cow-calling) in previous concerts and was always so inspired by her extraordinary voice. When writing Laulut Maaseudulta I remembered this experience and began thinking about my grandmother’s upbringing on a farm in Espoo, Finland. I’ve also woven other Finnish folk material into the piece.’ 

Stephen Johns, Royal College of Music Artistic Director, commented: ‘We are delighted to be collaborating for the first time with the Sibelius Academy, and welcoming Sakari Oramo back to the Royal College of Music. This celebration of the music from Finland and the UK is a wonderful opportunity for our musicians to work together, performing in two of the greatest summer music festivals, the BBC Proms and the Helsinki Festival.’  

The BBC Proms performance will be televised on BBC Four and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.  

Booking is open for the Helsinki Festival and Promming tickets for our sold out BBC Proms concert will be available from 10.30am on the day. 

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