ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Gustav Holst - The Planets


GUSTAV HOLST - The Planets - Vladimir Jurowski (Conductor) - London Philharmonic Orchestra - 854990001475 - Released: October 2010 - LPO LPO-0047

Set your clocks to run faster from now on because conductor Vladimir Jurowski has propelled the planetary system to orbit the sun at a swifter pace. This new "live" recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir is almost 3 minutes shorter than the old William Steinberg, Boston Symphony recording which I felt was fast at the time. Jupiter alone is almost a full minute quicker. But hey, I'm not complaining! Combined with the nervous energy of a live performance, this makes for an exciting fly-by of these celestial bodies.

At this tempo, Mars, the Bringer of War is, like a brutal army, relentless in its march forward. The wood of the bows tapping the strings at the onset is very well done and captured here. The energy created by the forward momentum does not let up until the very last sound. Mercury, the Winged Messenger would put Fedex to shame. The velocity of this small planet's trajectory as it orbits around its huge parent, especially the way it fades and disappears behind the sun at the end is well portrayed in this recording. And for a big fat planet, Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity can really dance and sparkle in this performance. Even the noble and ceremonial tune at the centre of it all has less gravitational pull than usual. Another great instance in this live concert is that magic moment in Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age where Gustav Holst wonderfully combines the rising up of the soul in the afterlife with the vision of a massive planet effortlessly floating in deep space. The rippling harp notes and bells create a surreal effect that will send shivers down your spine.

I've heard more sonically impressive accounts of this marvel of orchestration, but for energy and forward momentum this one is tops. And despite the live take in Royal Festival Hall, the engineers have managed to capture even the finest instrumental details in the score. It was an Editor's Choice in the November 2010 issue of the Gramophone magazine.

Jean-Yves Duperron - December 2010