74. Sir Adrian Boult, Vienna State Opera Orchestra, 1960

Holst - The Planets (Boult, Vienna State Opera Orchestra, 1960) 3

Alternate cover:
Holst - The Planets (Boult, Vienna State Opera Orchestra, 1960)

Other alternate cover:
Holst - The Planets (Boult, Vienna State Opera Orchestra, 1960) 2

Yes indeed.


This “Mars” is pretty shoddy. First of all, it’s not all that overwhelming. And it features mistakes galore. Listen to the tenor tubas lose their nerve from 0:52-0:54 (I’ve never heard that before), but immediately after that (1:25-1:28) the horn section sounds like it has no idea what it’s doing. The players actually sound frightened. And at 1:29 there’s a mighty noticeable mistake. This “Mars” isn’t going well. What’s more, everything from 1:47-2:04 is wrong. If you listen, you’ll hear how the orchestral balance is off, the accents are odd, the timpanist sounds like he or she is fainting (the thwacks get weaker with every hit), and it’s all just… bad. I’m surprised the people involved with this recording (especially Our Man Adrian) thought this was OK to release to a record-buying public. Oh-oh. The horn player has trouble with his or her solo part from 2:43-2:53. At least the first orchestral boom (at 3:03) is alright. (Well, that’s something.) But the bit at 6:13 is so limp. And the orchestral death throes at the end (from 6:45 onwards) are even more limp.

I’m relieved to say that “Venus” is nowhere near the disaster that “Mars” was. There are still intonation problems, though (the violins from 2:24-2:56 are moderately painful to listen to).

“Mercury” is much better. Maybe the orchestra improved as it went along.

Er, no it didn’t. “Jupiter” starts off sloppily, with no real sense of where it’s going. Various members of the orchestra have trouble with their parts, with a special mention for the monumental slip-up by the trumpeter at 0:58. However, I will give the flutes their due – they play well from 2:05-2:16 (you can hear them in the left channel). But apart from that, this “Jupiter” is a bit of a mess. The Big Tune (3:18-5:17) is OK, but that’s not enough to save this bizarro “Jupiter”. (The orchestra even plays a chord at 3:43 that I’ve never heard before.)

I’m very happy to report that “Saturn” is gaffe-free. It’s actually not bad. Phew. Was the orchestra replaced for this movement? There are a few horn intonation problems (e.g., 4:21-4:26), but they’re not even worth worrying about (especially when you consider what happened in “Mars”). There’s some lovely flute ‘n’ harp playing in the left channel from 6:08 until the end.

Hooray! “Uranus” is a success. I don’t think it’s a great interpretation, but at least it’s played all the way through with no horrible “Did I really hear them do that?” moments. Aw, nuts. Just as I was praising “Uranus”, a horn player came along and cracked a note at 4:15. Grrr. Ah well. I hope nothing else happens by the time I finish typing this sentence. Nope. All clear. Now that it’s finished, I can say that this “Uranus” is OK-ish. It’s an almost-OK “Uranus”.

“Neptune” is decent. There’s not much mystery, and the ensemble playing’s a bit sloppy (try 1:25-1:43), but at least there are no mistakes. Woohoo!

So, in the end this ol’ Planets is not what I’d call a great Planets, or even a good Planets. This is a Planets for putting near the bottom of the list.


4 thoughts on “74. Sir Adrian Boult, Vienna State Opera Orchestra, 1960

    • Peter January 5, 2016 / 4:43 pm

      Yowser, Matthew

      Thanks for the correction. I’ve added the cover and tidied up the post a bit.

      Onward and upward!


  1. Tad Beld January 30, 2019 / 6:48 pm

    It’s worth noting that this recording of The Planets was Boult’s favorite. He recorded the piece I believe 5 different times through-out his career. He premiered the work at Holst’s request back in the 1930’s. I’m going to have to trust Sir Adrian on this one….


    • Peter February 1, 2019 / 10:02 am

      Howdy, Tad.

      I’m mighty surprised that this is apparently Ado’s own favourite Planets recording.

      (Sorry, Sir Adrian, for calling you “Ado” just then.)

      In a few places, it’s a complete mess (see review), which makes me wonder why on Earth this particular recording would be his favourite. Maybe he enjoyed the recording process and the people he was with at the time, rather than the end result (i.e., what we hear). It could be like Alfred Hitchcock when he declared his own favourite movie was Shadow Of A Doubt. It was his favourite because he thoroughly enjoyed the time he had making it. (Shadow Of A Doubt was filmed in a town that was ultra-friendly, and helped Hitchcock with everything during the shoot.)

      Boulty Baby did record The Planets five times. He holds the record (pun definitely intended). The most that other conductors can manage is two, but not The Big B.

      Here are my reviews of his five Planets recordings:

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

      And the good news about those recordings is the variety – they’re not all the same interpretation. Thanks for the variety, AB.


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