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.