How To Buy Holst's The Planets

The classical universe is vast but you have to start your CD collection somewhere. Let Classic FM guide you to the definitive version of Gustav Holst's The Planets.

This musical tapestry weaves its way from Mars, a prelude to the catastrophic First World War, through to some fun and games with Jupiter and ending with the impressionistic Neptune. A work of contrasting moods and tempi with some memorable tunes, it has all the ingredients of a great piece of music, which is precisely what it is.

The Queen’s Hall Orchestra under Adrian Boult gave the first performance in September 1918. It was a private affair hosted by Balfour Gardiner, the great-uncle of one of today’s great conductors, John Eliot Gardiner.

Since then, many artists have recorded The Planets suite. The first of our five great recordings is John Eliot and The Philharmonia, whose very rhythmic performance conveys plenty of detail in superb sound.

This also goes for Adrian Boult’s 1978 recording with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, but there’s more depth and understanding.

Just as powerful are Charles Dutoit and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in demonstration-quality sound, but perhaps a little too brash at times.

Less effective is The Hallé, under Mark Elder, which delivers a decent enough performance, albeit a careful one that lacks some of the fire of David Lloyd-Jones and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. On the latter recording, Mars is truly menacing, although some of the others sound at times more rigid than in other interpretations.

As to the star turn, well, for the most honest, dramatic and masterly performance, the LPO’s recording, under the very first conductor of this work, Adrian Boult, is the one to have.