is natural but not unique. Koch International Classics released
it on 37018-2, though without the little Holst filler. Pearl
has released the 1926 Planets on GEMM CD9417. Dutton has done
the honours for the VW-conducted Fourth on CDBP 9731, where
itís coupled with Barbirolliís first recording of VWís Fifth.
Both the Planets and the VW Four are linked through the advocacy
of Adrian Boult who famously premiered them both. And so now
at budget price comes this new Naxos.
Most people who
have an objective view on the subject and who have listened
to the two performances either on 78 (preferable) or on a
number of transfers over the years come down firmly on the
side of Holstís earlier, acoustic 1923 recording of the Planets.
Its rhythmic profile is that much more persuasive and Holst
was nothing if not implacable in his promotion of rhythm in
his performances. Despite the limitations of the late acoustic
set-up Iíve also much preferred it as a major statement from
a relatively inexperienced composer-conductor on his own work.
The later early electric is not at all poor but is subject
to some of the kind of exaggerations in tempo and balance
that are not present three years earlier, certainly not to
the same extent.† Over a decade ago Pearl issued all Holstís
acoustic recordings so the Holst devotee should without fail
seek out that earlier disc and contrast it with the 1926 electric.
performance of the Fourth Symphony is deservedly famous and
no amount of revisionist thinking alters its implacable importance
in the scheme of things. Itís one of the few recordings of
him as conductor. There are some acoustic Vocalions of the
Wasps and Old King Cole ballet, now quite hard to pick up
in their original form, and in 1929 he recorded some trifling
folk pieces for Columbia Ė one was broadcast on Radio 3 not
so long ago. His St Matthew Passion, in English, has
miraculously survived and has been issued by Pearl. But the
Symphony is his legacy as a composer-conductor. The BBC orchestra
copes manfully with VWís exceptionally fast tempi, though
even Paul Beard and his string playing colleagues canít quite
keep up and ensemble does come adrift at times.
Iím not very happy
with these transfers. Iím not sure whether itís the fault
of the American Columbias used for the Holst but the transfer
sounds dead. Itís transferred at a higher level than A.C.
Griffithís EMI work and has somewhat less surface noise as
well, which is fine. But itís more constricted than the EMI.
Iím aware that at least one previous transfer has used artificial
reverb to attempt to compensate for the Petty France studioís
lack of bloom but there seems to be too here much lost in
higher frequencies.† I also canít believe that the US Victor
Golds used for the VW were so dull. Past EMI work on this
has veered from good-ish to downright peculiar, with a torrid
swishy quality to the original, which was, itís true, not
the last word (perhaps appropriately) in finesse. Here this
Naxos VW transfer sounds computerised half to death. Disappointing.