MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around   2022
 57,903 reviews
   and more ... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here
Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

holst planets stokowski HDTT8874

Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
The Planets
Women's Voices of the Roger Wagner Chorale
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra/Leopold Stokowski
rec. 1956
Reviewed as download

Older collectors will remember the release of this first stereo recording of The Planets on the old “Music for Pleasure” label. HDTT gives its recording date as 1958, but I think that was the date of its initial release; the website tells us that, “The Holst was recorded on Stage Seven of the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, Hollywood, California, September 2-3, 1956.”

Time and again I am encountering recordings by Stokowski which, rather than endorse his reputation for being an inveterate fiddler with scores, instead indicate his fidelity to them. OK; he introduces a tam-tam crescendo at the end of “Mars”, adds some winds towards the end of “Jupiter” and alters the brass dynamics in “Saturn” but otherwise this is as faithful – or, at least, as effective - an interpretation as you could wish. It is the speediest account, too; anything from some four to seven minutes faster than celebrated versions by such as Boult, Dutoit and Mehta (with the same orchestra). There is no sense of undue haste, however, about the serene “Venus” movement wit its sweet violin solo and “Mercury” is as light as thistledown, while the impact of the rollicking in “Jupiter” is stupendous. If anything is lacking, it is perhaps that sense of “English nobility and restraint” – but the Big Tune is so grand and we can’t have it both ways. “Saturn” is at times chilly, haunting and frightening, bringing to mind Goya’s horrendous depiction of the Titan devouring his son, even though Holst made it clear that the astrological characteristics of the planets and not the Greek gods were his inspiration. However, I think Stokowski's basic pulse here is too fast; I prefer Boult's more measured, mysterious tread. The sprightliness of “Uranus, the Magician” here makes Holst’s hommage to Dukas all the more apparent. “Neptune” features that innovative device so prominent in that era, notably employed by Debussy and Ravel: the wordless female chorus intoning mysteriously in the background. The placement and delicacy of the chorale here are impeccable.

Stokowski was closely involved in the engineering of the disc, making suggestions such as the addition of more echo in "Uranus" and "Neptune" but it was originally still a bit lacking in depth. Here, in HDTT’s transfer, that is remedied; hiss is minimal, the timpani and lower strings are nicely present and the slight imbalance whereby the strings dominated the brass is no longer apparent. No details are lost - the celeste in “Venus” and “Neptune”, the glockenspiel in “Mercury” and the tubular bells in “Saturn”, for example, are all – well, as clear as a bell - and the thrill of Stokowski’s rendition underlines what a loss to film music were Holst’s early death and his being born just that bit to early; his influence over John Williams et al is palpable.

Ralph Moore

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount