Subdued Suite, But Jumpin' Jupiter! Pluto? Ptooey!
Moldyoldie | Motown, USA | 01/29/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The only genuine attraction for me here was to hear Colin Matthews' Pluto appendage. I suppose the musical planetoid has its peculiar modernist charms, but as has been pontificated ad nauseam elsewhere, it doesn't belong in the same solar system as Holst's classic suite (nor as science would now have it, in anyone's set of planets!). Matthews' Pluto is of an idiom far removed from Holst's veddy English brand of dramatic romanticism. In my opinion, it's best listened to in isolation...if at all. The convenience here is that Pluto can either be heard as such or as a seamless segue from Neptune's wordless choir. Likewise, if one wishes to go to the trouble, the CD can be programmed so that the suite ends in the traditional manner.
This is one of the most generally subdued and understated performances of The Planets I've heard, abetted by Hyperion's spacious soundstage. Mars builds and culminates broodily instead of menacingly; Venus and Mercury are featherlight filaments in this celestial firmament; Saturn grudgingly packs and imparts its "old age"; Neptune waxes eerie instead of ethereal. I will, however, give big thumbs up to both Jupiter and Uranus -- Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra are well-measured here delivering a suitable punch and brio, along with a splash of vinegar; though the recording's wide dynamic range renders Uranus' pianissimo barely audible. Those expecting the usual sonic blunderbuss will be surprised by the generally well-considered understatement here...or else sorely disappointed by it.
Holst's Lyric Movement for Viola and Orchestra from 1933 is a very beautiful, but very, very plaintive sounding number to round out the program...perhaps somewhat in concordance with Elder's general approach to the main attraction."