WORKS: The Planets; Egdon Heath
PERFORMER: BBC SO & Chorus/Andrew Davis
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-94541-2 DDD
With some 50 recordings of The Planets currently catalogued, surely the market must be saturated; yet still they come. With so many other admirable Holst works, why can’t more record companies lower their telescopes as far as, say, The Cloud Messenger? Having said that, there is much to admire in Andrew Davis’s new recording which approaches the best. His ‘Mars’ is a growling war machine with a menacing tread towards a tremendous climactic chord overlooking the most horrific abyss. ‘Venus’ shimmers in cool ethereal beauty; the well-known central ‘Jupiter’ tune has great nobility here and ‘Uranus’ is a magician really to be reckoned with. The BBC Symphony Orchestra plays enthusiastically and is sharply incisive. The sound is truly spectacular. The delivery and sound staging of the women’s chorus is excellent.
As ‘Neptune’ is remote, so too is the rather uncomfortable Egdon Heath, inspired by Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native. Davis makes you really feel its desolation and emptiness, relieved only, perhaps, by an occasional flight of birds, or wind and rain bending gorse and heather. Ian Lace