3. Mark Elder, The Hallé Orchestra, 2001

Holst - The Planets (Elder, Hallé Orchestra, 2001)

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“Mars” takes a while to get going, but once it does it only becomes semi-menacing. It’s not especially gripping. But the last 40 seconds of “Mars” (from 7:06 onwards) are exceptionally good (the wind playing is excellent, and the band lurches to the end of the movement magnificently). Overall, “Mars” is enjoyable-ish. “Venus” is lovely (can I say “luminescent”?). “Jupiter”‘s Big Tune is gorgeous. I’d call it something I’d never call any other version: thoughtful. As for the rest of these Planets: they’re fabulous. “Saturn” is positively arthritic (and the last two minutes are magical – when the low organ notes come in, the orchestra floats). The orchestral unanimity in “Uranus” is superb (everyone’s excellent – and the winds are even more excellent). And “Neptune” has bags of mystery (it sounds astral, which may be how Holst wanted it to sound).

How much did I end up enjoying this version? This is how much I enjoyed it: The moment it finished, I went back to track 1, pressed “Play”, and listened to the whole thing again. And after I heard Elder’s Planets the second time, I heard it a third time. And then I wanted to play it again. But I have other Planets to listen to, so I didn’t. All up, another top 5 contender. Maybe top 3. Oh, and the image on the album cover is perfect for the interpretation of the music.

Update: I’ve now listened to this disc a heap o’ times. I don’t know what it is, whether it’s the interpretation, or the sound quality, or the combination of both, but Mark Elder’s vision of The Planets has something indefinable about it, an aura surrounding it, a “vibe”, that I find totally enchanting. It holds a spell over me.

I can’t quite express it in words (well, not in any intelligible way) how I feel about Mark The Younger Elder’s Planets. In the absence of anything illuminating, all I can say is: I’ve got it bad for this disc.

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7 thoughts on “3. Mark Elder, The Hallé Orchestra, 2001

  1. wonderboy September 20, 2016 / 4:57 pm

    very good in all movements, the sound is also very good. maybe the performance is a little to polished for me, but anyway: this is a winner.

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  2. Craig Rogers November 17, 2016 / 4:20 am

    Just bought this on your recommendation and agree with pretty much everything you said. Mars most certainly takes awhile for them to get into their groove on, but by half way though I think they were hitting their stride. Saturn is amazing.

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    • Peter November 21, 2016 / 10:48 am

      Howdy, Craig. I’m glad you responded positively to Elder’s Planets. It casts an indefinable spell over me, and I don’t know why. I still haven’t figured out exactly what it does to hypnotise me.

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  3. James Beard October 12, 2018 / 10:08 am

    Interestingly, I just acquired the Elder/Hyperion release of The Planets today. I’m only a few movements in and I may have to stop, as it’s become almost unlistenable.

    It sounds to me (listening on headphones admittedly) that they have a radio lapel mic on Mark Elder, as you can hear what sounds like male grunting and groaning all throughout Venus and Mercury, even in the quiet passages. Obviously they didn’t mic him up for the recording, but the noises he’s making (I suppose it could be an orchestra member) are unforgivable in the recording of delicate passages in a work such as this.

    Which is a shame, as the playing is great, but the gruntiness is so present in the recording I may not even make it to the end of a complete listen. Given how forensic the attention you’ve given in your great reviews of the various versions of The Planets, I’m quite surprised that you didn’t pick up on the noises off, or that you weren’t distracted by them! I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts on the matter.

    The experience for me was much similar to a trip to the cinema which is spoiled by sitting behind some talking all the way through …

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    • Peter October 12, 2018 / 10:51 am

      Howdy, James

      I have a feeling your sound system is much better than mine because I don’t remember hearing any grunting at all. (I do remember being hypnotized by that recording.)

      I might have to have another listen to Elder’s Planets, and this time try not to be hypnotized and pay more attention to what I’m hearing.

      By the way…

      Way back in the mists of time, when I was looking at the possibility of doing another survey on a different piece of music, I thought about comparing the recordings of Debussy’s La Mer.

      The recording that prompted me to think about doing La Mer was the one by… Sir Mark Elder.

      In a subsequently abandoned review I said this:

      Sir Mark Elder, Hallé Orchestra, 2007

      Wow. In the third movement, from 7:13 onwards, you can hear Sir Mark grunting away, doing some James Brown impersonations. (“Hnnh!”)

      Far from it being distracting, I thought it was fun. (Or, putting it another way: “Look, Mummy, there’s a man up there making noises!”)

      La Mer, Third Movement
      Sir Mark Elder’s Noise Log:

      0:00-7:13 Nothing (i.e., no noises from The Mark)
      7:13 Grunt
      7:14 Grunt
      7:16-7:18 Indistinct instructions to the orchestra
      7:19-8:29 Nothing
      8:29-8:41 Absolutely nothing – mainly because the music finished at 8:29, and there’s complete silence for 12 seconds until the track ends at 8:41. That’s a lot of silence.

      Apart from the “Hi, I’m Mark Elder, and I’ll be grunting a few times” moments in the third movement, making it sound more like a rehearsal than a proper take*, this is a magnificent La Mer. I love it.

      (*Why did the producer and engineer leave Marky Mark’s extra-curricular noises on the track?)

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  4. Hans December 1, 2018 / 3:38 am

    Overrated.

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    • Peter December 1, 2018 / 11:15 am

      À chacun son goût, baby.

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