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NOAH ADAMS, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Noah Adams.

(Soundbite of The Planets)

Back in 1917, when Gustav Holst finished up his iconic work, The Planets, Pluto had yet to be discovered. It was named a planet a few years before Holst died, in 1934, but the composer had declined to add to his famous musical collection. Six years ago, British composer Colin Matthews was commissioned to round out the set. He called his composition Pluto the Renewer. And a new recording of the piece - with Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic - is to be released this Tuesday.

(Soundbite of Pluto the Renewer)

ADAMS: However, as we know the big news is that scientists have now booted Pluto out of the planetary club, downgrading it as a dwarf planet. Composer Colin Matthews joins us from his home in England, in London.

Mr. Matthews, when you heard this news, what did you think?

Mr. COLIN MATTHEWS (Composer): Well, I was a bit disappointed but I wasn't exactly surprised. In fact, when I wrote the program notes for the first performance six years ago, I said that Pluto might well be reclassified. So I knew it might be coming.

ADAMS: When did it come about that you would actually sit down and write this six-minute piece called Pluto the Renewer?

Mr. MATTHEWS: Well, I was asked - I think it would have been in '99 - by Kent Nagano for his final season with the Halle Orchestra. It was very much his idea. And I took a bit of persuading because actually I have a big connection with Holst. I'm chairman of the Holst Foundation, in fact. And I worked on a score of The Planets with Holst's daughter Imogen back in the late '70s, so I know the work inside out.

ADAMS: The Planets ends with Neptune the Mystic. And it has this very famous ending, ethereal women's voices trailing off into outer space. That's the real challenge that you're faced with when you follow it with Pluto. How did you...

Mr. MATTHEWS: Well, absolutely.

ADAMS: What did you do?

Mr. MATTHEWS: I mean couldn't do anything that was more remote than Neptune, you know, unless the orchestra joined the chorus off-stage as well. And it didn't seem that I could do something that was going to be absolutely, you know, quiet and remote. I had to do something, I thought, by contrast, fast. Because I mean we know very little about Pluto. What I thought about were the extreme edges of the solar system, with solar winds, and perhaps a comet appearing out of nowhere. That was really the sort of starting point.

(Soundbite of Pluto the Renewer)

ADAMS: And there is always Earth. I mean Holst left out planet Earth.

Mr. MATTHEWS: He left out Earth. In fact, that was another suggestion of Kent Nagano, that perhaps I could preface The Planets with Earth. I thought that was going a little too far. And the reason, in fact, that Holst left it out is because he was concerned with the astrological significance of the planets. And of course Earth has no astrological significance of its own.

ADAMS: What does it look like for your composition for the future? Are you concerned that your Pluto would simply end up, a long time from now, as a footnote in some digital edition of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians?

Mr. MATTHEWS: Well, that's a possibility. I mean, the thing is that it's had a very good life. You know, just in that six years, it's had getting on for nearly 100 performances and this is now the fourth recording. So you know, if it disappears now, it's done pretty well already.

ADAMS: Colin Matthews, composer of Pluto the Renewer. A new CD recording of Holst's The Planets along with Pluto, performed by Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, comes out this Tuesday.

Thank you very much, Mr. Matthews.

Mr. MATTHEWS: Thank you.

(Soundbite of Pluto the Renewer)

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