Holst: The Planets

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Holst
LABELS: LPO
WORKS: The Planets
PERFORMER: London Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
CATALOGUE NO: LPO-0047

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With so many recordings of Holst’s Planets, it can be all too easy for both orchestras and their audiences to take this colourful suite for granted.

Not least the London Philharmonic Orchestra, who has made several classic recordings with The Planets’s first conductor, Adrian Boult, of which his last, released to celebrate his 90th birthday in 1979, is regularly recommended as the benchmark version: not that it is especially polished – there’s the odd fluff such as the split horn note in one of the tuttis in ‘Jupiter’ – but its character, and its superb sound, both detailed and well-balanced, are as impressive and involving as ever.

So here’s the same orchestra, at least one generation later but clearly with the music not only well within the players’ grasp but played with polish and accuracy all the more astonishing at the fleet speeds favoured by Vladimir Jurowski.

Alas, this is Planets as showpiece rather than of drama and character. You will marvel at the pin-point precision of all the playing, most notably in ‘Mercury’, but there is little or no sense of characterisation, let alone affection here, which is disappointing from a conductor who has distinguished himself in Brahms and Mahler.

‘Mars’ lacks any sense of edge or menace, there is no sense of relish in ‘Jupiter’s big tune, and Jurowski’s interpretation blithely skates over the implications of such titles as ‘Neptune, the Mystic’. What he offers is purely an efficient delineation of orchestral colour utterly devoid of atmosphere.

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For a more complete experience, Boult’s ’79 recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra unquestionably remains the preferable alternative. Daniel Jaffé