With its lush orchestration, wide dynamics, and powerful climaxes, Gustav Holst’s The Planets is a natural audiophile favorite. Zubin Mehta’s 1971 version with the L.A. Philharmonic [Decca/London] has long been on TAS founder Harry Pearson’s “Super Disc” list, and now comes a new contender from Paavo Järvi and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Järvi’s reading is red-blooded during the opening “Mars” movement, lacy and mysterious in “Venus” and “Neptune,” furrow-browed during “Saturn,” and lightly dancing with “Mercury.” He and his Cincinnati players create a fine sense of tension throughout, making for an exciting performance.
Recorded by Telarc, it’s no surprise this is a sonic stunner. Timbre is rich and golden, with excellent soundstaging and a vivid sense of hall ambience. There’s plenty of air around individual and grouped instruments, too—massed strings are simply ravishing in the “Jupiter” movement. Dynamic swings are likewise a knockout, though they sound natural, not exaggerated. The bass is powerful, so take it easy at first with the volume.
Britten’s Young Person’s Guide rounds things out, but The Planets is the star of this release.