The definitive Holst's "The Planets" recording

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Stefan A, Jun 3, 2002.

  1. Stefan A

    Stefan A Second Unit

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    Well, I figured I would start a new thread since I was the one that suggested individual threads. This topic seems like one of the major ones.
    How do you know which recording of a particular piece of music to get? There are several ways to decide - some better then others.
    My least favorite way is going by the label. I realize that this is a HT forum first and foremost and that many people are very concerned with the recording quality and the sound quality. Although this is certainly a plus, I would place it far down my list of attributes of a good recording.
    Considering that we are talking about "The Planets", which is an English piece, perhaps looking into recordings with English orchestras would be a good place to start. Certainly, the English know how to play their music.
    Another thing to consider is the conductor and the orchestra. You have to decide if you are going to focus on the interpretation of the music, or the quality of the playing. Many times, you can have both. If you are into the interpretation of the piece, you should look into which conductors will present the piece the way the composer intended. Or, in this case, which ones are the best at English music. If you are a conductor, then this is probably what you will be concerned with.
    On the other hand, you may simply want a competant interpretation with a superior orchestra. Maybe you are listening for a certain instrumental section - or even a certain instrument. Maybe you know the the musicians in a particular orchestra are known for their high standard of performance. Maybe you just want loud brass, or dark strings, or energetic percussion, or bright brass and woodwind.
    Maybe you might want to support your local symphony orchestra just because you live in the same city. I have bought several CD's of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra just because they are "my" orchestra. In my case, music I never would have otherwise purchased.
    Another deciding point may be what else is on the disc. The length of "The Planets" is such that there would be room for more music. Maybe you are trying to learn the classical repertoire and you just want more music. It's like getting a free piece of music. You just may like it and be interested in investigating more music by that composer.
    A definitive recording of "The Planets"? Impossible to say. Everyone listens for different things. We can give recommendations, but we must say why. This is one of the great things about classical music. There are probably 100 different recordings of "The Planets", and I bet every one of them sounds different. So my question to you is - Which recordings do you recommend of "The Planets", and why?
    I like James Levine with the Chicago Symphony because the brass section plays so dark and loud. Although not out of balance, but musical. The strings are dark and I think Levine interpretation is good - maybe not the best, but good. I also like Zubin Mehta with the LA Philharmonic. The euphonium player sounds very "english." Almost English brass band style. Overall, it's a very different sound from Chicago - much brighter. There are a couple trombone tuba parts that really sound good. The recording quality of LA is not as good as Chicago, but then again it was recorded in 1971. On the other hand, the LA recording has Star Wars and Close Encounters suite on it. Chicago has nothing extra. LA is $7.99 where I got it, Chicago was full price. Lots of pros and cons, but that the fun of it.
     
  2. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Levine's is competent, but Mehta doesn't have a knack for this composer.

    As you saw in the other thread, I have two clearcut preferences: Sir Adrian Boult's reading with the New Philharmonia on Angel/EMI, and William Steinberg's with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on DGG. No one knew this material better than Sir Boult--he knew the composer and studied under him. His is, in fact, the definitive interpretation.
     
  3. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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  4. Paul.S

    Paul.S Producer

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    Stefan A et al.:
    It is indeed a vexing prospect to select (a) recording(s) to purchase of such a popular work. Although I'm hardly familiar with much of the discography out there, I continue to enjoy a (seemingly now out-of-print?) reading by Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra released on London Records in 1987. The catalog number is 417 553-2, but I am not finding it at the two places I quickly tried--TowerRecords.com and CDUniverse.com--in hopes of providing a link to it.
    In addition to the terrific engineering (usually by John Dunkerley) and nice acoustic that is the St. Eustache Cathedral in Montreal where the Dutoit/MSO recordings are done, I like Dutoit's sense of tempi. For instance, his slowing down of the conclusion to "Mars, the Bringer of War" makes it the most terrifying reading of the piece I've ever heard.
    Any comment on Telarc's DTS release by Yoel Levi and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (http://www.telarc.com/dts/title.asp?...05AFURQNHG1UG7)?
    Cheers,
    Paul
     
  5. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Yes: It sounds superb. But the deftness necessary to bring out the various nuances and other subtleties of this work--yes, they exist--is not there. As a sonic spectacular, of course, Telarc brings home the bacon.
     
  6. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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  7. Jan H

    Jan H Cinematographer

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    I second the Dutoit nomination. Great performance and recording. Have owned it for years, and I never felt the need to own another version.
     
  8. Justin Doring

    Justin Doring Screenwriter

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    I don't like the Mehta recording at all, but many think it is among the best.

    Charles Dutoit with the Montreal Symphony on Decca/London is an excellent version to have, as it's a great performance with good sonics.

    I also enjoy the Bernstein interpretation with the New York Philharmonic on Sony. Sonics aren't the best due to the age of the recording, but Bernstein really gets the music right. Mars is particularly ferocious.

    For a very different and very special The Planets, try John Elliot Gardiner's interpretation with the Philharmonia on DG. Gardiner brings rare depth and introspection to this popular piece, revealing qualities in Holst’s music that other recordings fail to capture. Because of the fact that Gardiner’s The Planets is so different from any version I have heard, I was initially put off by it. After listening to it a third time and reading the liner notes, however, I now understand. Gardiner's The Planets is also paired with Percy Grainger's best work entitled The Warriors. The Warriors is a lot of fun and is in sharp contrast to how Gardiner handles Holst's work. Sonics are excellent, despite DG's usual meddling, overprocessing, and overmiking.
     
  9. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Has anyone heard the DAD of The Planets w/ Pictures at an Exhibition?

    NP: Tenacious D
     
  10. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    As I mentioned in the general classical music thread, the recording of "The Planets" that I own was lacking in performance quality, IMO. This recording was my only real exposure to this work, and I never pursued another performance. I guess I thought that the piece itself wasn't to my liking.

    Anyway, the recording I am referring to is on EMI by Andrew Davis and the Toronto Symphony. Does anyone else own this version, and if so, what are your thoughts?
     
  11. Paul.S

    Paul.S Producer

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    Jack, Zen et al.:
    Nice to hear others enjoy the Dutoit/MSO. I edited my post above to include its catalog number. It would appear as though PolyGram-acquirer Universal Music Group has perhaps re-released this recording under its Penguin Classics line (http://www.iclassics.com/iclassics/a...electionId=364)?
    Jack, regarding the Levi/Atlanta/Telarc DTS, you wrote:
     
  12. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    that's 3 NP's , at the hand of these current threads.
     
  13. RogerB

    RogerB Second Unit

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    Simon Rattle / Philharmonia Orchestra on EMI. I have the LP and have never seen the CD available until today - at Amazon UK.
     
  14. Stefan A

    Stefan A Second Unit

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    Of my 3 recordings - Levine CSO, Mehta LPO, Steinberg BSO - I definitely like the CSO the best. Interpretively, it is difficulat to decide who is best to me. There are qualities about each performance that I like and dislike. I certainly would not go as far as to say that any one of these conductors don't have a "knack" for The Planets. If I were going to conduct it, I don't see why I wouldn't listen to all of these.

    Performance is a different story. There is no question in my mind that the CSO plays it the best. The musicians are just of a higher caliber. Not to say that the others are poor - just not as refined musically, tonally, technically.

    Just a couple things that stick out in my mind. Steinberg's Mars is way to aggresssive rather than dark. I guess Mars can be interpreted either way (or both), but Chicago is so dark that it actually sounds scary. Mehta's and Steinberg's Jupiter is way to fast for me - especially the conclusion. Steinberg's Uranus is my favorite interpretively, but CSO still plays it to a higher standard. There are a lot more but that is what first came to mind.

    I really do want to hear that Boult recording that Jack recommends. Also, one of the posts reminded me that I think my wife has the John Elliot Gardner recording. I remember when we were out looking for a recording for her, the Gardner was set up in a listening booth. I remember thinking that it was quite different from anything I had heard. Maybe it's at her mother's house.

    BTW, I notice that there are several recordings with Boult conducting - not just the New Philharmonia. Also I saw a recording with Holst conducting the London Symphony. I have argued with one of my colleagues (who conducts a local community orchestra), that a recording with the composer comducting is the absolute definitive interpretation. Further, I have argued that if such a recording exists, then another conductor really has no right further interpreting what has already been definitively interpreted. He says I am wrong. He says that although a composer may have in their mind how they want it performed, they are not always able to convey that through their conducting or words. What do you think of that?
     
  15. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Roger: I have the vinyl version of the Rattle Planets, as well. Good reading. Check out the Boult if ever you get the chance. JB
     
  16. Jan H

    Jan H Cinematographer

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    Going back to Stefan's initial post, The Penguin Guide to Classical Music is an invaluable resource for choosing which recording of an individual work to purchase. The writing is superb and they usually publish every 3 or 4 years. Also, try Gramophone, both the magazine and website. In-depth (often exhaustive) reviews of current recordings. JH
     

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