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Monday, June 19, 2017

Gustav Holst; Edward Elgar - The Planets; Enigma Variations (Adrian Boult)


Composer: Gustav Holst; Edward Elgar
  • (01-15) Elgar - Variations on an Original Theme "Enigma", Op. 36
  • (16) Holst - The Planets, Op. 32: I. Mars, the Bringer of War
  • (17) Holst - The Planets, Op. 32: II. Venus, the Bringer of Peace
  • (18) Holst - The Planets, Op. 32: III. Mercury, the Winged Messenger
  • (19) Holst - The Planets, Op. 32: IV. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
  • (20) Holst - The Planets, Op. 32: V. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
  • (21) Holst - The Planets, Op. 32: VI. Uranus, the Magician
  • (22) Holst - The Planets, Op. 32: VII. Neptune, the Mystic

London Symphony Orchestra (1-15)
London Philharmonic Orchestra (16-22)
Adrian Boult, conductor

Date: 1970 (1-15), 1978 (16-22)
Label: EMI




This is the last of Adrian Boult’s umpteen recordings of The Planets, and while it isn’t the most disciplined (“Mars” in particular is not always together), it’s certainly the best recorded and a very powerful interpretation. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature is the extremely fast tempo for “Neptune”–a couple of minutes shorter than Boult’s previous go-round, and it works wonderfully. In fact, the swift tempos in evidence generally (“Mercury” really flies) demonstrate conclusively that not all conductors slow down as they age, and also show that Boult remained in full control of his faculties until the very end. This highly regarded performance of the “Enigma” Variations also holds up well, a touch stodgy perhaps in the finale, but with an eloquently flowing “Nimrod” and a beautifully wistful “Romanza”. Nor does Boult miss the bluff humor of “G.R.S.” The vintage EMI recordings have been well restored, but the differences between this and previous issues are not huge. [5/14/2002]

-- David HurwitzClassicsToday

More reviews:


Gustav Holst (21 September 1874 – 25 May 1934) was an English composer, arranger and teacher. Best known for his orchestral suite The Planets, he composed a large number of other works across a range of genres, although none achieved comparable success. Apart from The Planets and a handful of other works, his music was generally neglected until the 1980s, since when recordings of much of his output have been available. His distinctive compositional style was the product of many influences, including Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, English folk songs and modern composers such as Maurice Ravel.


Edward Elgar (2 June 1857 – 23 February 1934) was an English composer. Among his best-known compositions are orchestral works including the Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, concertos for violin and cello, and two symphonies. He also composed choral works, including The Dream of Gerontius, chamber music and songs. Elgar has been described as the first composer to take the gramophone seriously. Between 1914 and 1925, he conducted a series of acoustic recordings of his works.


Adrian Boult (8 April 1889 – 22 February 1983) was an English conductor. Boult was known for his championing of British music. He gave the first performance of Gustav Holst's The Planets, and introduced new works by, among others, Bliss, Britten, Delius, Tippett, Vaughan Williams and Walton. In his BBC years he introduced works by foreign composers, including Bartók, Berg, Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Webern. As well as a series of extensive recordings that have remained in the catalogue for decades, Boult's legacy includes his influence on prominent conductors of later generations, including Colin Davis and Vernon Handley.


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  2. Thanks, you've got some real treasures here. For years I've heard this is the recording to have for The Planets. I always thought the DG digital recording with Karajan which I own suffers from unrealistic volume levels, specifically with Mars.

    1. I think this is a typical recording of EMI in their analog years. The volume level is highly suitable for home listening.

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