Frank Admission Time: I’m a fan of John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Baroque repertoire (love his Rameau), but I have no idea what he’s like in anything else (such as 20th-century music like, oh I don’t know, Gustav Holst’s The Planets). I’m about to find out.
This Planets starts off with a “Mars” that’s admirably slow. I like a “Mars” that’s slow and menacing. Unfortunately, this isn’t menacing. At least it has bags of clarity (i.e., it’s very well recorded). The first big orchestral Bang! in “Mars” (at 3:31) sounds Amazing. (I had to capitalise that “amazing”, because it does sound A-MAZE-ING.) I so want this to be a high-voltage reading of “Mars”, but it’s resolutely low-voltage. Grrr. (It sounds good, though.) Overly Pedantic Note: I think the snare drum hit at the end of the drum roll (6:53) is way too loud. The bit at the end of “Mars”, where the orchestra stutters as if it’s in a death throe (starting from 7:27) just drags. What a disappointing end to what I hoped was going to be A Great Mars Conducted By A Conductor I Like A Lot. Ah well. And now moving on to the rest of these here planets.
“Venus” is very peaceful.
“Mercury” is fairly frisky, with the orchestra scurrying about (albeit in a very civilised manner).
“Jupiter” is fairly ordinary.
Actually, that’s the feeling I’m getting about this Planets the more I listen to it: ordinary. I’m not feeling anything special whilst listening to any of the movements. “But it’s John Eliot Gardiner!” I say to myself. “You like him!” I also say to myself. None of that is doing me any good. I’ve got a case of the “ordinaries”, and it’s not going away. Grrr. I want this to be much, much better.
“Saturn” is OK (i.e., not stupendous).
“Uranus” is OK (i.e., not tremendous).
“Neptune” is OK (i.e., not splendiferous).
It’s all OK.
Did I tell you I really like Gardiner conducting Rameau?