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Reviews: Holst: The Planets, Matthews: Pluto - Halle/Mark Elder

Reviews: 3

Review by Dinko September 14, 2003 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This is quickly becoming my favourite recording of The Planets, far ahead of Dutoit and other more acclaimed versions.

There are some interesting twists and turns in Elder's Planets. The type of twists I cannot recall from other versions.

The Hallé Orchestra is a personal favourite, so if I sound biased when I say that I love their playing, I'm sorry! but they are just splendid.

The disc features three programs:
- the CD version (with new finale and optional original finale at the end of the disc)
- a stereo SACD version with an extra movement ("Pluto" composed by Colin Matthews)
- a stereo SACD version of The Planets without the extra Pluto, but with Holst's Lyric movement for viola and small orchestra instead.

Mars is martial enough without being in too great a hurry to go to war. Jupiter is fairly swift but being 'the Bringer of Jolity' Elder's take suits Jupiter quite well. Saturn is a tad slow for my tastes, but Uranus and Neptune are fine. Venus is also rather quick, but I've always found Venus to drag, so Elder's version suits me fine.

Holst's Lyric movement for viola and small orchestra is a lovely piece which nicely rounds off the first SACD program before the Planets are repeated with the added Pluto movement. Matthews' Pluto is something I could easily have lived without.

Sonically, this is a very good achievement. Most instruments are very well defined. There is ample detail and breathing room around the orchestra. The sound stage is wide and deep. Upper and lower frequencies are strong without sounding hissy or boomy like a movie theatre soundtrack. Dynamic range is well utilized: louder parts can be quite loud, but there is no need to constantly adjust the volume level to hear the softer elements.

Would have been nicer to have a multichannel mix, but the stereo mix is good enough as it is.

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Review by mwagner1962 May 9, 2005 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Sorry, but this is a major disappointment. I have listened to this recording for more than 7 weeks and cannot get into it. There is little soundstage and is miked too close. What bothers me most is Mr. Elder's rendition of "Venus". Sorry, but the difference between Adagio and Andante is no way as radical as Mr. Elder gives us on this SACD. This gives this movement a feel that I have never heard from any recording, OR live performance. His attempts to make something different just flat bothers me.

I was excited to see Holst's "The Planets" on SACD because I was hoping to find something to replace my still benchmark redbook with Charles Dutoit and Montreal (Decca), which is still widely regarded as the definitive recording.

I cannot recommend this SACD to anyone for the fairly disappointing sound and even more disappointing performance from the usually unflappable Halle Orchestra

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Review by 2-channel February 15, 2006 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Tuning in at the end of an FM broadcast of this SACD, 'Pluto' by Colin Matthews was all that was heard of it. This was more than enough to want more, and the whole disc is a delight. Not that it is going to usurp the Dutoit version as 'king' of the Planets - both from a technical and musical standpoint - but it comes close.

Apart from some persistent and distracting grunting just left of centre (conductor?), the performance is excellent. The soundstage is wide, deep and highly detailed - although the SACD transfer sounds lazier than CD, which seems to have more drive - but not the ability to shock - which seems to be a hallmark of SACD.

'Pluto' the add-on to the Planets is alone worth the cost of the disc, and only available on the SACD layer. It complements the main work admirably and one can only wish it had been written when the Decca version was recorded.

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