9. Sir Charles Groves, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, 1987

Holst - The Planets (Groves, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, 1987)


“Mars” starts off ominously. That’s a good start. And it gets better. This is a powerful “Mars”. (The snare drummer is really pounding that drum.) The big orchestral bang at 6:36 is cataclysmic. Excellent.

“Venus” is wonderful. There’s a moment for me that really stood from all that excellence: from 3:53-3:58, the cellos rise up from the orchestra and ascend towards the heavens. It’s glorious. Unfortunately, when a cello plays a couple of solos a bit later on (4:26-4:36 and 5:27-5:38) the intonation’s a bit spotty – but it’s not enough to stop me from going “This is a great ‘Venus’.”

“Mercury” is just as wonderful.

“Jupiter” is full of brio (it’s brioful), and features a super-enthusastic cymbal crash at 0:20. It’s possibly the loudest thing on the entire CD. Everything else is magnificent though. Sidenote: I’m fairly (i.e, not entirely) certain a horn or a tuba plays a wrong note at 1:68. I may be wrong, because it’s very busy there and hard to tell. If I am wrong, I heartily apologise to the horn or tuba player in question. There’s a tiny and really-not-worth-mentioning bit of horn flatness at 4:47. (It’s really, really tiny.) There’s also a flat piccolo note at 5:11, but in The Grand Scheme Of Things it’s nothin’. Now that “Jupiter” has finished I can say, with ringing in my ears, the loudest thing on the CD wasn’t that cymbal crash at 0:20. It was the cymbal crash at 8:03.

“Saturn” is mighty, even with the ever-so-slightly late trumpeter at 4:18. (I noticed it, but it didn’t bother me. Hopefully it doesn’t bother you.)

“Uranus” has a couple of slip-ups here and there. In the “here” category there’s a glaringly wrong horn note at 1:01 (I figured out the horn player inadvertently – and loudly – plays the note it was supposed to play four bars later, at 1:07). And in the “there” department a trumpet note goes haywire at 1:40. But those wrong’uns count for nought as far as I’m concerned. I mentioned them only because they’re: a) so noticeable; and b) so out of step with the overall excellence of everything else on display. “Uranus” is excellent. The orchestra makes a great racket here – they’re noisy in the best possible way. There’s a wee trumpet slip-up at 1:40, but you don’t have to pay attention to that. At 5:06 there is what sounds like an edit – but that’s fine by me, because it happens at the moment the orchestra and the organ crash and clash (ah, the old crash’n’clash), and the edit enhances that moment.

“Neptune” starts off slower than usual, and I love it. The slower speed makes it sound so languid, and it casts a spell. Unfortunately, that spell was broken (just a little) by some not-great intonation from the wind instruments at 0:40. And (Warning: Ultra-Nitpicking Alert:) the harp speeds up a little from 1:27-1:31 before settling back down again. I can imagine Charlie G. looking at the harpist disapprovingly at that moment in the recording session. Also (Warning: Ultra-Nitpicking Alert 2), something is very slightly out of tune from 2:13-2:15. But “Neptune” is splendid. The low organ note from 3:58-4:14 is… I can’t think of the exact word to decribe it, but it’s fabulous. (Note to self: “fabulous” will have to do. Reminder to self: Increase your vocabulary, Peter.)

By the way, you can safely ignore pretty much everything I’ve typed about Sir Charge’s Planets (especially all that pointless nitpickery).

Come to think of it, I didn’t actually need to type an awful lot about Cha-Cha-Charles’s Planets, but I typed more than I thought I was going to. (I thought I was just going to say “This is excellent!”)

Just focus on the word “excellent”. It’s all excellent – even with the aforementioned occasional waywardness. All of the movements are excellent. The recording’s excellent. (The acoustics are perfect for the music.)

This is the kind of performance that feels like you’re in a concert hall listening to a great performance of The Planets. And I think that’s a great way to listen to Los Planetas.


2 thoughts on “9. Sir Charles Groves, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, 1987

  1. wonderboy September 20, 2016 / 5:06 pm

    this is great, one of my favorits. YES


  2. Hans December 1, 2018 / 3:15 am



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