This is apparently the first of Sir Adrian Boult’s five (!) recordings of The Planets. He did record them over a period of 33 years, so it’s not like he decided to make a recording every week. (One Boult Orchestra Member talking to another Boult Orchestra Member: “What day is it? Friday? Oh no, it’s Planets Day…”)
Right. Now to the recording. “Mars” is fine. It’s brooding and ominous. By the way, the recording quality is OK, I suppose, for 1945. I couldn’t really tell you if it’s good or not, because I haven’t heard any other recordings of The Planets from 1945. I’ll go with “It’s good for 1945” and just move on to the performances. (Note to self: Good idea, Peter. The performance is what matters.) In “Mars” there’s a tiny horn mistake at 1:29, but it isn’t calamitous to the proceedings. “Mars” is still brooding and ominous. There’s a pretty severe editing problem at 1:43/1:44, but it’s 1945, and I guess these things happened. Despite the poor recording quality, you can hear the heft in the orchestra – just listen to them throw the music around from 1:49-2:04. Fabulous. Oops. Another editing mistake at 2:13. But I’m not worrying about that at all, because I’m really enjoying this performance of “Mars”. Oops again: 2:39. And 2:47. 2:55. I hope I’m not going to simply list the editing mistakes here. In fact, I won’t. This “Mars” is mighty good, and can ride roughshod over any mistakes. 3:13. (Sorry.) In the section from 3:07-4:12, the orchestra is positively seething in its pent-up violence. This is great stuff. 3:41. Don’t care. 3:58. It doesn’t matter. 4:08. The build-up to the march is incredible. And when the march finally gets underway at 4:12… Oh man. Another editing mistake at 4:17. Who cares? This is amazing. I am officially not noting any more editing mistakes until “Mars” has finished. (There are plenty more.) This is too good for me to mess up with my nonsense. Nothing can stop this “Mars”. I was glued to my seat for its entirety. (Well, not actually glued. I could get up out of my seat and make a cup of tea – but I didn’t want to.)
Now for “Venus”. It’s lovely, despite all the editing glitches. (Stop mentioning them, Peter.)
“Mercury” is frisky, despite the sound quality – and the editing woes. (Stop it.)
“Jupiter”, “Saturn”, “Uranus”, and “Neptune” are all magnificent.
To sum up…
Historical Document: Priceless.
Sound Quality: Dreadful.
Editing Problems: Horrendous.
Verdict: Well worth having. (See “Performance”.)