Gustav Holst began composing his most famous work The Planets in 1914, alternating between a cottage near the village of Thaxted in Essex and the sound-proof room at St Paul’s Girl’s School, where he was Head of Music for most of his life. This manuscript shows the arrangement for two pianos of three of the seven movements: Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. Contrary to the usual course of events when musical works are adapted for different instruments, this reduced version actually predates the full orchestration of the work.
The composer was at the time suffering from tendinitis in his right arm, which made it very difficult to play over the sketches as he was composing. Instead, he solicited the help of two of his colleagues from the school. As they played the work, Holst dictated notes regarding instrumentation which can be found throughout this manuscript. These were later translated into the score when the piece was fully orchestrated.