“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.