Holst: The Planets

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Chandos Collect
WORKS: The Planets
PERFORMER: Royal Scottish National Orchestra & Chorus/Alexander Gibson
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 6633 Reissue (1980)
Alexander Gibson’s 1979 Planets has its sterling qualities: it’s obvious he takes the music seriously, and there are passages – like the dragging, effortful build-up to the climax in ‘Saturn’ – where Holst’s imaginative power is freshly revealed. On the whole, though, it’s hard to see why this was thought worthy of release in an overstocked market. The insight is sporadic; more often the music seems underpowered and not quite perfectly together. Rhythms could be tauter, more muscular, and edges can be just a little blurred, as at the entry of the voices in ‘Neptune’ – it’s not bad, it just needs to be a bit more sharply focused. Seen through Gibson’s telescope, the solar system is neither particularly awe-inspiring nor mysterious, more like a cosy English landscape magnified. The recording is good enough, though it also points up how much Chandos have learned over the last two decades. Stephen Johnson