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?)