NeptuneGustave Holst’s Neptune, The Mystic, the seventh planet in his Planets Suite, was an early example of a fade-out ending. In the score, Holst wrote that the women’s choruses are ‘to be placed in an adjoining room, the door of which is to be left open until the last bars of the piece, when it is to be slowly and silently closed,’ and that the final bar (for the choruses alone) is ‘to be repeated until the sound is lost in the distance.’ His daughter, Imogen, wrote about this ‘unforgettable’ ending, with the voices fading ‘until the imagination knew no difference between sound and silence’. I have heard this performed once before live and those ethereal voices at the end are indeed very special. The problem is that the singers are kept hidden away for the forty-to-fifty minutes of the Suite and so, I imagine, are quite an expensive luxury. So when I saw that there would be a performance at Bozar with choir I grabbed some tickets and tonight took three teenage boys (including N° 2 sprog) along for the experience. The boys turned out to be quite discerning. I had thought bellicose Mars would be their favourite, but for one it was Jupiter and his jollity, and for another the mysticism of Neptune. The choir was definitely there in the beginning. After three intense Skryabin piano solos, performed by Bernard Lemmens, we were treated to Skryabin’s Prometheus, the poem of fire. The splendid performance ended with the Belgian National Orchestra, under the baton of Stefan Blunier, in full cry together with the full-blooded voices of the Choirs of the European Union. Moreover, the piece was accompanied by the kinetic paintings of Norman Perryman, created live and projected onto a screen above the choir. At times organic, at times astronomic, the paintings were a perfect accompaniment. After the interval I sat down and prepared myself for those etheral voices. The conductor and the orchestra did a brilliant job. Mars was every bit as bellicose as it should be, Mercury sprightly, Saturn stately and Neptune… Well, Neptune was wonderful except that either there was no choir anymore or the voices were so etheral that we couldn’t hear them. Now, it could have been an acoustic trick (we were sitting quite near to the orchestra), or it could have been that they performed the piece as scored for orchestra alone, but I couldn’t hide my disappointment. It was a wonderful evening, but if those etheral voices had been there, it would have been perfect. You can hear a version of what I missed here.