34. Sir Adrian Boult, London Philharmonic Orchestra, 1978

Holst - The Planets (Boult, London Philharmonic Orchestra, 1978)


This is Sir Adrian Boult’s fifth, and last, recording of The Planets. As has been said (and quite often), Gustav the Holst appeared to be awfully pleased with Sir Adrian’s interpretations of Those Planets. Young Gustav’s oft-quoted quote is that The Boultster “first caused the Planets to shine.” Well, we’ll see just how shiny Boulty Boy’s Planets are. Now that I’ve finally gotten around to listening to what is apparently the most popular of AB’s five recordings of TP, I’m pleased to say that I think it’s splendid. It’s not entirely perfect, though.

There’s a short phrase at 2:02 in “Mars” that I thought was a bit slack, and a violinst plays a sharp note at 2:19 in “Venus”, the ensemble playing in “Jupiter”‘s Jolly Tune from 1:05-1:17 is a bit messy, “Uranus” starts off limply (0:00-0:23) and a horn plays a dud note at 1:31 as well as a stray note at 2:12, and (still in “Uranus”) the ensemble playing is pretty rough from 4:01-4:14 – but I’m probably just being pointless picky. (However… If a Boult recording of The Planets is going to be held aloft as the supreme example of Planets excellence, I think it needs to be scrutinised from that lofty height.)

Overall, this version of The Planets is mighty good. I’d like to mention one last thing about this particular Planets recording. On the version I listened to (the 2002 release in EMI’s Great Recordings of the Century series), the dynamics have been squished. Not on, EMI. Not on.

Squishy dynamics aside, this is a Buy With Confidence Planets. It’s not spectacular, and it’s not a hi-fi showcase. It’s solid and dependable. It’s the Roast Beef Planets.

(I know I already said it’s the Buy With Confidence Planets, but it can be two things, can’t it?)


8 thoughts on “34. Sir Adrian Boult, London Philharmonic Orchestra, 1978

  1. Amateur Musician April 4, 2016 / 10:10 am

    Hi, Classic FM said this is the recording to have for The Planets. Would you agree? I’m looking to fill this musical void in my collection =)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter April 4, 2016 / 11:05 am

      Howdy, AM

      Would I agree? Nope.

      Buying that particular version of Planets depends on what you’re looking for in a Planets.

      If you’re looking for a sturdy, dependable, won’t-bother-anyone Planets, then Sir Adrian’s 1978 recording (i.e., the one we’re talking about) is a fine choice, especially if it’s nice ‘n’ cheap. The only thing going against it is precisely the thing going for it: It’s a safe reading. (And you can hear for yourself what it’s like, courtesy of Spotify.)

      However, if you want something that’s more lively, then you’ll want to look elsewhere (try any of the CDs in my top 10).

      If you’re looking for sound quality, then Dutoit (No. 1 on the list), Ozawa (No. 2), or Elder (No. 3) is your man are your men.

      Oh, and if “historically accurate” is your thing, then Adrian’s efforts, no matter how pleasing they were to Gustav, are a non-starter. The “historically accurate” prize goes to Roy Goodman’s electrifying 1996 recording with the New Queens Hall Orchestra.

      Happy hunting!


  2. wonderboy September 20, 2016 / 5:26 pm

    One of my absolute favorites, good sound and stunning performance !


  3. Wummi September 23, 2016 / 4:56 pm

    NO NO Peter this is underrated – great performance and sound


    • Peter September 23, 2016 / 5:32 pm

      I agree, but for me it was all so… comfortable.


  4. papadarkindy February 19, 2017 / 4:56 am

    I too have been looking for a definitive performance of The Planets. I’ve only listened to this particular recording once so far, but I’m a little puzzled by a couple of things. First of all, no one seems to mention the amazing dynamics – Mars in particular has a huge range between loud and soft, which makes the impact rather immense. It’s the first recording I’ve encountered that seems to follow Holst’s dynamic markings exactly. But to contrast with that, I’m hearing some regions in Mars and Jupiter where it sounds like the orchestra sections get out of time with each other. This doesn’t happen with the 3-4 other recordings I have, and I’m thinking either it’s something in the score which gets misread by the others, or… maybe there are some errors in this recording? It’s very noticeable to me anyway. Even the otherwise bland von Karajan / Berlin recording has impeccable timing, as does the Steinberg / BSO. I’m going to check out the recommended Dutoit recording next.

    Another thing is that some of the very busy parts in Mars, Jupiter and Mercury tend to get muddy; the individual instruments get lost in the mix. Again, not something I hear in my other recordings.


  5. Hans December 1, 2018 / 3:21 am

    For me Boults best recording. Absolut stunning in sound and Performance.


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