Universe Of Sound

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Holst; Talbot
LABELS: Signum Vision
ALBUM TITLE: Universe Of Sound
WORKS: Holst: The Planets; Talbot: Worlds, Stars, Systems, Infinity
PERFORMER: Philharmonia Orchestra/Esa-Pekka Salonen


This is a curious off-shoot from a project exhibited last year at the Science Museum in London, which, through Holst’s The Planets, offered visitors an interactive experience of a symphony orchestra. For this multimedia presentation, the Philharmonia players were seated in an unusual arrangement, each section (flutes, oboes, clarinets etc.) screened from another with black curtains as they were individually filmed. Edited from these multiple videos, the DVD’s main feature works effectively enough when there are instrumental solos to focus on, but as the videos were not made with a single feature in mind, the visual ‘framing’ of players is sometimes less than ideal. Given the circumstances of its filming, the actual performance conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen is effective, if not particularly individual.

Purists may object to ‘Neptune’ not fading out but seguing into a very Hollywood-esque addition by Joby Talbot. There’s ample compensation, though, in the extras, including a ‘making of’ documentary and a ‘Commentary with Principal Players’, in which five Philharmonia musicians discuss the practicalities of playing The Planets while a multi-screen presentation shows them in action during the work’s performance. We learn, for instance, that the principle horn player has her colleagues cover (‘buffer’) for her in the physically demanding passagework of ‘Mars’ before her crucial horn solo in ‘Venus’. The commentary also highlights how orchestral players usually rely on visual cues from one another, as much as from the conductor, which makes this performance, screened off as they were, all the more remarkable.


Daniel Jaffé