15. Leopold Stokowski, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, 1956

Holst - The Planets (Stokowski, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, 1956)


This is a weird one. “Mars” is menacing, but it’s also very smooth. (I don’t know how that’s possible, but Stoki made it possible.) There are cracked notes galore from the horn player (1:05-1:09). The horn player has such a bad time of it here that I wouldn’t have been surprised during the recording session if he or she piped up and said, “Excuse me, Maestro, but could we do that again?” And then somebody misses a note at 1:20. And there are some missing trumpet notes from 4:05-4:10. However, I’d like to point out that the non-mistake parts of “Mars” are exceedingly well played. And the orchestral death throes at the end (6:13-6:30) are fabulous – even with Stokowski’s thoroughly unauthorised (but rather effective) addition of a tam-tam (a miniature gong). This is a powerful “Mars”.

“Venus” is excellent.

“Mercury” is even better. Now, I don’t know if it’s the day I’m listening to it (Wednesday), or if I’m precisely on Leo’s wavelength, or something, but I’m diggin’ this version of The Planets in a huge way.

“Jupiter” is marvellous, despite an accidentally blaring trumpet at 0:50 and a wrong trumpet note at 6:48 – not to mention a pretty big liberty being taken (removing a bar of silence at 1:01) (Note to self: But you did mention it, Peter, didn’t you…). The Jolly Tune in “Jupiter” (1:01-1:25) is one of the best I’ve ever heard. And so is the Noble Tune (2:57-4:42). I’m definitely on Leo’s wavelength.

“Saturn” starts off good, and ends up great. (Sorry about the poor grammar there. And for all the other poor grammar you’ve had to endure in this list.)

“Uranus” and “Neptune” are both excellent.

Summary for the Busy Reader: A Planets that makes me want to shout “C’est magnifique!” – if I spoke French.


4 thoughts on “15. Leopold Stokowski, Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, 1956

  1. John R. Lewis III March 7, 2015 / 8:02 am

    I read somewhere that this was the first-ever Stereo recording of the Planets. Despite the dated sound, it has always been one of my favorite versions because of its energy and distinctive personality. Richly orchestrated large-scale scores were Stoki’s natural medium and he reveled in them, as he did with this.


  2. Noah Yitzkev October 30, 2015 / 4:34 am

    How do you mean the tinkering of orchestration? the link goes to a weird page that doesn’t explain anything


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