10. Sir Adrian Boult, Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra, 1954

Holst - The Planets (Boult, Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra, 1954)
(Image Attribution: This cover was inadvertently nicked from The Music Parlour via a website called Pics about Space which is where I found it.)

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This is the second of Sir Adrian Boult’s umpteen recordings of Les Planètes, and it’s magnificent. The recording is in mono, but it’s not bothering me as much as mono recordings usually do (I’m a monophobe), because the music-making is mightily magnific. (Yes, “magnific” is a word.)

“Mars” is a beast. It’s fast and dangerous, and I love how the microphones have trouble coping with the first big orchestra bang (at 2:52). Boom! goes the orchestra, as the recording engineers look at each other and think, “Oh dear.” This is not a timid “Mars”. Unfortunately, there’s a fairly noticeable mistake from a horn player at 4:00. But I’m imagining The Adrian bellowing, “No time for retakes! This must be recorded NOW!” As far as mistakes go, there are very few, and they don’t mar my enjoyment of the whole thing. (The slip-ups are tiny, and not worth mentioning at all.)

I do want to finish talking about this recording so I can go on to the next one, but before I do that I want to mention two things. One is the xylophone in “Uranus” from 0:39-0:55. It’s LOUD. The xylophonist must have placed his or her xylophone right up against the microphone, because honestly, you’re not going to hear a xylophone that loud in any other recording.

The other thing is the women’s chorus at the end of “Neptune”. It’s probably the best I’ve ever heard in a recording of “Neptune”.

As for everything else, it’s tickety-boo. (Translation: “exceptionally good”.)

If you can get past it being in mono (most of the time I can’t, but here I can), this is one excellent Planets. And I think it’s much better than Adrian’s highly-regarded 1978 recording, the one that everyone apparently thinks is the best Boult Planets recording. Not me.

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6 thoughts on “10. Sir Adrian Boult, Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra, 1954

  1. Sgt Yard August 26, 2016 / 12:34 am

    I have a feeling this is the version I was bought from a charity shop when I was a child. Mine’s credited to the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, but the record was apparently issued in 1966 (just before his New Philharmonia version) and is in “electronically created stereo”, which makes me suspect it’s the 1954 version given a lick of paint. It has a groovy spirograph cover!

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    • Peter August 26, 2016 / 10:08 am

      According to Discogs, the LP you have was released in 1966 on the Hallmark label. This is the cover:

      Holst - The Planets (Boult, London Philharmonic Orchestra, 1954)

      It must be the 1954 version, with the orchestra originally billed as the “Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra”, because on Wikipedia’s “The Planets discography” page, the notes on the 1954 version state:

      “The orchestra was the London Philharmonic Orchestra recording pseudonymously for contractual reasons.”

      I guess the contractual nonsense was resolved by the time it was re-released in 1966.

      It’s all a bit confusing because of Ol’ Boulty Boy’s habit of not leaving The Planets alone. His five recorded versions are:

      1945 – BBC Symphony Orchestra
      1954 – Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra
      1960 – Vienna State Opera Orchestra
      1967 – New Philharmonia Orchestra
      1978 – London Philharmonic Orchestra

      Anyway, that 1954 recording is my favourite Boult Planets.

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      • Sgt Yard August 27, 2016 / 4:05 am

        That’s the one! Except mine’s got a dirty great price written on it in felt tip, courtesy of the charity shop! I see that this recording is available on iTunes in both it’s original mono “Philharmonic Promenade” and stereoised spirograph guises. Sadly, the sound quality isn’t up to much on either – they’ve likely been taken straight from vinyl.

        It was this version of “Mars” that was used as the theme tune to the 1955 BBC serial “Quatermass II”. I’ve been rewatching that this week, and Sir Adrian’s aggressive reading makes for an arresting opening! :)

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  2. Geoff Arnold February 22, 2017 / 6:24 am

    I bought what I thought was Boult’s 1954 Planets on Amazon and it was stunning. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the Boughton, which I already had, and the genuine Boult ’54 is £10 on Amazon which is beyond my budget, especially for a mono CD dubbed from an LP, so I was pleased that you included the Spotify link for the same recording. Thank you. Still, apart from the usual extraneous noises from the LP dub, this is pretty good, and I agree with you about the chorus – a lovely fade. It’s a pity there isn’t a proper pressing from the original master (tape?) because just 4 years later Sargent made a wonderful recording, in stereo, which, even today, can compete with any on your list, as your placing shows.
    Geoff.

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  3. Geoff Arnold February 23, 2017 / 1:33 am

    AND……. I have just found another CD in my pile of Planets which purports to be Boult and the LPO (no other info – cheapo bought on e-Bay) which also turns out to be Boughton! I’ve got Boult ’78 and Boult ’67 so I think I’ll give up on Ade now.
    Geoff.

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    • Peter February 23, 2017 / 10:20 am

      “AND……. I have just found another CD in my pile of Planets which purports to be Boult and the LPO (no other info – cheapo bought on e-Bay) which also turns out to be Boughton! I’ve got Boult ’78 and Boult ’67 so I think I’ll give up on Ade now.
      Geoff.”

      I think the universe is telling you something. (It’s whispering in your ear: “Listen to the Boughton, listen to the Boughton…”)

      Like

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