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Symphony no. 3 Planet Earth (Orchestral Version)

Johan de Meij
 
 

Symphony N° 3 Planet Earth – Johan de Meij
The guideline of my First Symphony The Lord of the Rings was the novel trilogy of the same name, and my Second Symphony The Big Apple was conceived as an ode to the city of New York with its many aspects. Symphony N° 3 is also an ode: this time not devoted to a town or a region, but to the entire world with its fascinating beauty and appearance.

The title Planet Earth may remind us of The Planets by Gustav Holst. In that composition the composer deals with all of the planets... except for the Earth. In Planet Earth I continue where Holst has stopped, not only in the figurative sense, but also in the literal. Whereas The Planets concludes with a six-part choir of female voices and a large orchestra, I use a similar strength at the beginning of my first part (entitled Lonely Planet) in the same vein. But that is where the similarity ends. I also borrow some material from my Continental Overture (1995), a composition that was actually a preliminary study for this symphony. In the opening movement we approach the ‘lonely planet’ by means of a big bang that launches us into the universe. The comets and planets fly about our ears through loudspeakers put on the stage.

The sampled sounds become the connection between the three movements. This technique compares with the city sounds used in The Big Apple. In the central movement (Planet Earth) the cosmic noise of the first part is replaced by a pastoral flock of flying birds over the splendid landscapes of our planet. Moreover, this part evokes the concentrated energy and the spirit which life on Earth gives me. In the final part of the symphony (Mother Earth), I use an ode to Mother Earth (Gaia in Greek) which I borrowed from the Old Greek Hymns by Homer, an abstract classical language in which the beauty and vital energy of the earth are praised. The symphony concludes with this cantata in a finale in which I pull out all the stops. All musicians contribute to this ode and conclude the composition in a majestic way: with an endless hymn sung at the top of their voices, the choir sings the original words of Homer from thousands of years ago: “I will chant the Earth, mother of all things!”
Johan de Meij
Amsterdam, November 2006

Hymn to Gaia
I will sing of well-founded Earth,
Mother of all, eldest of all beings.

She feeds all creatures that are in the world; all that
go upon the goodly land and all that are in the paths
of the seas and all that fly; all these are fed of her store.

Hail mother of the gods, wife of starry Heaven
freely bestow upon me for this my song
substance that cheers the heart!

Hail mother of the gods, o Gaia!
Through you, O queen, men are blessed in their children and blessed
in their harvests, and to you it belongs to give means of life to mortal men
and to take it away, O Gaia!


The Symphony N° 3 Planet Earth has been written at the request of Marcel Mandos, artistic manager of the Noord Nederlands Orkest (NNO, the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra) and was premiered by the NNO and the North Netherlands Concert Choir conducted by Otto Tausk at the Rotterdam concert hall “De Doelen” on March 2, 2006. (CD: Amstel Classics 2006-01)
Symphony N° 3 Planet Earth was awarded the second prize at the International Composition Competition of Corciano (Italy). It was not the first time Johan de Meij was awarded a prize at this prestigious competition: in 1993 his Symphony N° 2 The Big Apple received an honourable mention and in 1999, De Meij was awarded the first prize with his cello concerto Casanova.