This is the newest Planets I’ve heard (so far). It’s from 2009. According to Wikipedia’s “The Planets discography” page, there are four other recordings after that (three in 2010 and one in 2011). I don’t know if I’m going to hear those newer ones, so for the time being I’ll say “Here’s the latest Planets.”
Here’s the latest Planets.
If you’re looking primarily for recording quality, then Järvi’s Planets would want to be at the top of your Planets shopping list. As for interpretation, well that’s another matter.
“Mars” isn’t menacing at all. I don’t quite know why it doesn’t frighten me in the slightest, but it cheerfully trots along, dum-dum-dum-dee-dum, tra-la-la etc. This wins the award for Least Scary Mars Ever.
“Venus”, on the other hand, suits Järvi more. It’s lovely. The reading might be just a little on the prosaic side (it could be just a smidge more ethereal), but it sounds gorgeous. And it reminds me that “Venus” is a fabulous piece of music. I’m not really a thumbs-up kind of guy, but… thumbs up for Järvi’s “Venus”.
“Mercury” is splendid too. It skips along (the first minute is wonderful in how lightly it skips), and the last half a minute (from 3:28 onwards) is amazingly well played. (I think that last half a minute is stunning.) So Järvi’s fine in the lighter movements. “How about the heavy stuff?”, I hear you ask. Well…
“Jupiter” starts off very jolly indeed, but it doesn’t make me go “Wow!”. I think it’s good, but not great. However, the orchestral interplay in some sections is marvellous, such as the 2:43-3:03 bit before the Big Broad Tune. I must say that this Planets does an awfully good job of letting you know just how good Holst’s orchestral writing was. And speaking of awfully good jobs, I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever about Järvi’s handling of the Big Broad Tune (3:04-5:02). It’s… well, I’ve already used the word “gorgeous”, so how about I say it’s a big warm hug that makes you feel all gooey inside? (On second thoughts, I won’t say that.) This “Jupiter” might not be the last word in How To Play Jupiter, but I enjoyed it. Mostly.
“Saturn” is mostly good, too. (The long slow build-up from 4:44-5:51 is nothing to write home about, and the organ in the last couple of minutes might as well not be there.)
Now that I’ve heard all of Järvi’s Planets, I can say that I think it’s a good Planets, but not a great Planets. And I’ll try not to keep saying word Planets over and over again.
Update: The more I listen to Paavo’s recording, the more I think of it as an exceptionally well-mannered account of
The Planets this work. I picture it in a dinner jacket and slicked-back hair, looking very dapper, and preparing to go out for the evening to a swank restaurant.
Update 2: I’ve now heard the other 2009 recording of The Piece Of Music That Must Not Be Named. It’s by Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and the review’s here.