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California Philharmonic explores space, the musical frontier

Here’s a concert that’s really far out: the Cal Phil’s space-themed evening of music inspired by the planets. The highlight, of course, is Gustav Holst’s magnificent suite, The Planets, a work inspired not by space, per se, but rather astrology. Holst, a devotee of the subject, who liked to do his friends’ horoscopes for fun, composed The Planets according to astrological rather than astronomical principles, which is why — in case you were wondering — the Earth is not included. Each movement is meant to convey aspects of the human psyche, and not, as most people assume, the Roman deities. Since its premiere in 1918, The Planets has become the most popular of Holst’s compositions, a fact that irritated the composer, who wasn’t all that fond of it. This performance will be enhanced by projected images of the planets, recently captured by Pasadena’s own Jet Propulsion Lab scientists. “We’re not using a canned bunch of old slides or pre-fab visuals,” Cal Phil production manager David Kessler assures us. “We’re taking advantage of the fact that we live here in Pasadena, with an institution — unquestionably the world’s leader in the exploration of space — generously willing to share with us brand-new images their own scientists are working with.” Also on the program: John Williams’ score to Star Wars, and the “intergalactic” premiere of Earth: You Are Here, by Cal Phil composer-in-residence Roger Allen Ward. Ambassador Auditorium; Sat., May 17, 8pm; pre-concert lecture by conductor Victor Vener, 7pm; $30-$95. (626) 300-8200, www.calphil.org.—Mary Beth Crain