Holst: The Planets; St Paul’s Suite

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: The Planets; St Paul’s Suite
PERFORMER: RPO/Vernon Handley
This is one of the first releases in a new series of popular works all performed by the RPO. They are new recordings using state of the art digital technology – and they sell at just £3.99 on CD (£2.99 on cassette). The very bright sound shows all the subtleties of the scoring; you can visualise every speck of stardust at Mercury’s heels for instance. But sometimes this brightness diminishes a mood or atmosphere. ‘Neptune’, for example, loses some of its mysticism. A rather too closely recorded orchestra here does not help: Karajan has been much more successful in conveying a sense of floating mystery and remoteness. Another minor quibble: I would like to have heard a bit more attack from the trumpets in the middle of ‘Mars’. But there are strengths too. Handley is a wizard with ‘Uranus’, ‘Jupiter’ is very jolly and ‘Venus’ beautiful and serene.


The vivacious St Paul’s Suite is a bonus with its delightful ‘Intermezzo’ showing exotic Indian influences. This is an appealing introduction to Holst and hopefully the unusual marketing of this series will widen the audience for classical music. Ian Lace