Holst, The Planets suite

Music Review

7 Apr 2014
Berlin Philharmonic, Sir Simon Rattle
Holst, The Planets suite
Warner Classics
Formats also available: 24/96 download
24/96 download

Back in 1982, Herbert von Karajan recorded the Planets with the Berlin Philharmonic for DG – a massive seller in its day; both on LP and CD. By co-incidence, the young Simon Rattle also recorded the work for EMI with the Philharmonia around the same time. His 2006 remake with the Berlin Philharmonic is slightly broader than the Philharmonia account in one or two movements, but overall the feel is richer and more deliberate. The playing is very beautiful, but on balance the performance hangs fire slightly – it’s neither a brilliant virtuoso account, nor a quintessentially British one. The Berliners produce a very sumptuous and refined sound, aided by a smooth recording that sounds mellow and integrated rather than forward and detailed. Increasing the volume a notch or two helps, then one can savour the impressive dynamic range, deep bass, and subtle instrumental detail -  all captured without obvious microphone spotlighting. The old Karajan recording sounded brighter, and a lot more immediate, while Rattle’s Philharmonia account was quite distantly balanced – the orchestra set well back in a spacious acoustic. Here, the acoustic is rich and fairly spacious, but not too reverberant. Like most recorded performances of the last dozen or so years, Colin Matthews’ Pluto the Renewer is included after Holst’s Uranus. And there’s a bonus CD containing Asteroids - four short Space related pieces by four composers, including Mark Anthony Turnage. 

Jimmy Hughes