Gustav HOLST (1874–1934) The Planets Op. 32 [54:12]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844–1908) Mlada – Suite (I. Introduction; II. Redowa; III. Lithuanian Dance; IV. Indian Dance; V.Cortège) [19:10]
Women's Voices of The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
The Philharmonia/Yevgeny Svetlanov
rec. Blackheath Concert Halls, London, November 1991
First issued August 1992 as Collins Classics 13482.
Svetlanov cast far and wide in his repertoire coverage. Some of this was influenced by to his associations with orchestras. An example is his dalliance with two of the Alfvén symphonies surely tied in with his years with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Beyond that he espoused Bruckner (8), Mahler (all the symphonies) and Elgar; the latter with something much more than competence.
His Holst Planets is not the whirlpool or furnace you might have predicted. Instead it has a steady deliberate pulse and a weightiness of delivery instantly announced by Mars. The recording, for all its ten year vintage, is richly detailed and deeply founded. It is the handiwork of Andrew Keener and Mike Hatch. In Mars the wooden clatter of the col legno violins, left and right, registers with ear-tickling delight. Venus takes on an even more seductive feel at this pace. Mercury and Jupiter reveal more of their shimmering detail at this speed however Jupiter loses something in euphoric exhilaration. By contrast Saturn's remorselessly slow tolling gains in effect and the march at 2:25 recalls, even more vividly, its Keatsian processional sister in Holst's A Choral Symphony. Svetlanov relishes its symphonic funereal gait but the dreadful pell-mell of the bells at 5:23 is diluted and misses the panic captured in more kinetic performances such as those by Handley (review), Previn (review) and George Hurst (Contour LP - reissue still awaited). Uranus has less of the fairy-wing urgency we might have expected instead benefiting from greater structural and detailed clarity. The movement that gains most in splendour is Neptune and this is accentuated again by the recording quality which has top-to-bottom and front-to-back depth and reports a wealth of rapturous detail. The choir's ah-ahs are however rather terse and mechanical but the dynamic layering and distancing is handled miraculously well. The fade to niente is masterfully done.
The five movement Mlada suite takes us back to heartland for Svetlanov. He had already recorded with this same orchestra for Hyperion the Rimsky Antar. After the dreamy Introduction with its swooning violin climax come three dances - a perky gurgling Redowa, a hunting-call chivalric Lithuanian Dance with a Tchaikovskian redolence and a gentle Indian Dance which echoes Scheherazade with mellifluous clarinet and janissary percussion. The final Cortege is brilliant, brassily confident and innocently carefree.
The useful note is by Eric Roseberry.
This disc will be favoured by those who prefer an iconoclastically expansive Planets which allows for analytical clarity and invites careful study. An alternative approach but do not expect Svetlanov to loose the whirlwind.
Rob Barnett
An iconoclastically expansive Planets which allows for analytical clarity and invites careful study.