83. Bernard Herrmann, London Philharmonic Orchestra, 1970

Holst - The Planets (Herrmann, London Philharmonica Orchestra, 1970)

Amazon.com

Spotify doesn’t have the entire Bernard Herrmann Planets (or I just couldn’t find it), so if you want to hear it you’ll have to make do with that YouTube video. Unfortunately, only the first four movements were posted.

I was able to find the complete album and listen to it, but until I can find a way to post the album here without upsetting the copyright police, I guess you’ll have to do with those four movements. Hopefully that’ll give you a decent idea of how Herrmann’s Hermits Planets sound.

Now to these Planets

“Mars” is lumbering (and the orchestral balance is all wrong). A horn plays a strangulated note at 1:31. (No, that’s not an Alfred Hitchcock-related joke – the note actually does sound like it’s being strangled.) The orchestral playing doesn’t quite pass muster (dig those lazy horns from 1:51-1:59). The playing from 2:00-2:16 is flabby (and with a tenor tuba mistake at 2:03). And that pause at 5:12: What the what? There are so many other problems with this “Mars” (although the ending, from 8:05 onwards, is OK) that I don’t want to go into any more detail because it’d take way too long to mention, and there are the other movements to talk about.

“Venus” doesn’t sound all that peaceful to me. It starts off sounding strained (8:42-9:04 in the YouTube video), and just moves along, being what it is (i.e., not that great).

“Mercury” is slow and sloppy.

“Jupiter” is moderately horrible (the Big Tune, from 26:12-28:25, is a mess). I’d be happy not to hear that “Jupiter” again. Ever.

“Uranus” is slightly better than “Jupiter”, but that’s a relative statement – we’re dealing in degrees of awfulness here.

As for “Neptune”, I’d rather not talk about it.

After hearing what I heard, I have just one question:

Why was this released?

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3 thoughts on “83. Bernard Herrmann, London Philharmonic Orchestra, 1970

  1. John R. Lewis III March 2, 2015 / 3:16 pm

    As a big fan of Herrmann’s film music, I got this in the vinyl era. I completely agree with your review; this one’s at the bottom of the barrel. I enjoy John Williams’ film music as well, but his planets isn’t worth a second listening either. I expected enthusiastic conducting, but was disappointed.

    Like

    • Peter March 2, 2015 / 11:21 pm

      What I heard from Big Bernie was confused conducting. And an orchestra struggling to realise his conception of the work – whatever that was.

      Like

    • Peter March 2, 2015 / 11:33 pm

      “I enjoy John Williams’ film music as well, but his planets isn’t worth a second listening either.”

      I’m with you there, John. The vibe I got from John The Williams was: “Isn’t this music fun!”.

      Like

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