Gustav Holst – The Planets
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal
Charles Dutoit, conductor
Decca, 1978 (2008)
Charles Dutoit’s recording of The Planets with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal hands down to posterity one of the finest renditions of Holst’s masterpiece. Beginning with the spectacular, martial parade of Mars and ending with the soaring lyricism of Neptune, each of the seven movements of the Planets is superbly performed and reveals its own personality. The orchestral palette is remarkable for its distinctive resplendence and smoothness.
Mars begins with suspense, and the music is just caressed by the orchestra, as if it is approaching from afar. The sudden burst of metallic sounds is therefore unexpected, but it immediately overwhelms the listener with its thundering energy and its incessant clangs. The conduction is resolute and precise and rhythmically emphasizes the sound with painstaking precision.
Venus is a completely different world, where time seems to stop for the harmonious flowing of the music. This is the reign of strings and woodwinds and where Dutoit accentuates their softness to convey a true idea of peace, which is actually the sentiment that this performance inspire.
Mercury is quick, agile and light as you might expect, but more than ever here the orchestral colours makes it gracious. Jupiter is portrayed as a jolly fellow, with pleasantries which reminds of Bacchus, but also with majestic generosity in the middle section, where music reveals its good nature and in its glory.
Saturn, for its part, emanates an old-fashioned aura, quite in contrast with the previous relaxation. Here, a sort of severity counterbalances elegance, especially in the refined middle part of the movement.
Uranus is dynamic and sinister as a wizard worthy of its name and it is perhaps the most flamboyant among these Planets. For its part, Neptune is a smooth, quiet, reflective piece, deeply inspiring in its soft shades.