The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

18 November 2006

Bring on the Bringers

Trini and I were talking about Gustav Holst's infamous suite The Planets yesterday — apparently she'd played about three-sevenths of it in band, back in the day — and last night, rummaging through a box of tapes, I found a Deutsche Grammophon cassette, circa 1981, with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic.

And it was perfectly dreadful: Karajan's tempi struck me as either too fast or too slow, the orchestra sounded disconnected, and DG's recording, though identified as "digital," was below par. For a moment, I wondered if maybe I'd overestimated this piece all these years.

So today I went back to my record rack, where I turned up a 1967 LP by Sir Adrian Boult (Angel S 36420, for those keeping score) with the New Philharmonia, and I remembered why I'd been so fond of The Planets when first I'd heard it in the early Seventies. Boult recorded the suite five times, if I remember correctly, and this was his fourth; in the 1990s, when I looked for it on CD, what I usually found was his 1978 recording (when Sir Adrian was 90 years old), which had slightly better sonics but ultimately less impact.

It occurs to me that this would be a nice workout for Gwendolyn's vaunted Bose stereo, which does seem to be more impressive with classical music than with pop-rock stuff, so I'm wondering if there might be even better recordings of The Planets out there. I am not considering any post-2000 recording which incorporates Colin Matthews' add-on eighth movement ("Pluto: The Renewer"), not because of any particular animus toward Pluto, which I think got screwed out of its planetary status, but because I think Holst's original "Neptune" ending, with the instruments fading and the choir diminuendo, is just about perfect as is.

Of course, should EMI choose to reissue the 1967 Boult, the decision is made. (And yes, I could rip my original LP, and it would sound fairly decent, occasional crackles notwithstanding, but given the amount of time it takes me to do a really good vinyl rip, even a full-price CD starts to look pretty darn inexpensive.)

Posted at 3:54 PM to Tongue and Groove


the '95 DG Philharmonia/John Eliot Gardiner is worth a listen

Posted by: anon at 9:57 PM on 18 November 2006

Also on DG, as it happens, is the excellent Steinberg/Boston, generously coupled with Also sprach Zarathustra.

Posted by: Sporkadelic at 10:49 PM on 18 November 2006