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The Music Room => Great Recordings and Reviews => Topic started by: Greta on July 27, 2007, 02:28:33 PM

Title: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Greta on July 27, 2007, 02:28:33 PM
Here is a fun one to fill in the gap while others are on vacation. Below are clips of "Jupiter" (~8 min.)  from Gustav Holst's orchestral suite "The Planets".

Luckily this score is available online, and can be found here at IMSLP (http://imslp.org/wiki/The_Planets:_Suite_for_Large_Orchestra_%28Holst%2C_Gustav%29).

It begins at page 75 of the PDF and goes to page 114.

Some things to look out for are how the separate sections in this piece are treated, the boisterous opening, the middle "hymn" section (Andante maestoso), the transition out of it (Maestoso) and the subsequent return to the merrymaking.

As usual, if you know without a doubt who the performers are, don't spoil it for everyone and PM if you wish. Enjoy!

Clip A (http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=DA1360CA61279E54&key=66ef7a705a5f8f654cdf645b861c5746e3bc6fe2)

Clip B (http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=4D6BC0850477AA78&key=07f2d3b151f0f735bc5a8f5c22b32471529320ac)

Clip C (http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=7E758F3F39EC7561&key=aeaf98dcefe61663efb34cf1710834d94523282b)

Clip D (http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=FB5E32D6470E4513&key=56be28c9a14de608bc1a4f5e03fd3f6fb60a5cb0)

Clip E (http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=5AB6368E18D50D89&key=46bcc1998da334346b65123a2a28389cbea0bfb2)
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: PerfectWagnerite on July 27, 2007, 05:13:39 PM
This ought to be fun. Not a piece I know well, in fact I only have one recording of The Planets - Dutoit/Montreal/DECCA. Monday I'll get around to the listening.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Sean on July 29, 2007, 01:07:22 AM
Hi Greta, brief ideas on these and not expecting to score anything. I got to know the piece from the old Loughran/ Halle O, much of which is rather dull and not particularly well recorded.

Clip A- The ensemble and some of the brass not so good but with individual touches and a suitably jolly percussion contribution. Boston SO/ Steinberg ?

Clip B- Measured, assured, warm, trumpets again not entirely convincing; a newer recording I think. LSO/ Davis ?

Clip C- Faster and without the same focus, a slightly glib and happy affair, a little square. LPO/ Boult ??

Clip D- Perhaps another later recording with some space and light around it; great finish on the woodwinds and a good grip on the piece. VPO/ Karajan?

Clip E- Bounces along in an English Hyde Park brass band kind of way. SNO/ Gibson ?
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Greta on July 29, 2007, 03:37:03 AM
Hey Sean! Interesting comments. :) Obviously I can't say much at this point, but I think you'll be quite interested to discover who's who!

Would you say you had a favorite or two here?

I was also curious if you had heard any of Sir Boult's Holst, as you mentioned that clip was "a little square". ;) Maybe you could elucidate how you came to the guess?
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Sean on July 29, 2007, 04:17:14 AM
Boult is in the time-beating, attention-to-the-score school that occasionally finds a kind of stoic magic: his VW's symphonies for instance are really good. Seriously if I had endless time I'd love to go to town on a thread like this and think of everything I could to try and narrow down things, but I'll keep an eye on things here anyway.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Greta on July 29, 2007, 04:36:43 AM
Quote
Boult is in the time-beating, attention-to-the-score school that occasionally finds a kind of stoic magic:

You know, I agree with that. Which may not be relevant to our clips, or maybe it is....  >:D

But C, the "glib happy affair"...seemed to be at odds with stoic....   ;)
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Greta on July 30, 2007, 04:00:55 AM
Maybe everyone is on vacation... ;D

I see a few more downloads so far though, anyone else had a chance to give a listen?
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: karlhenning on July 30, 2007, 04:23:58 AM
Hang on, Greta  8)
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: rubio on July 31, 2007, 12:09:57 PM
I'm not so fond of this work (at least yet), but here are my impressions (since I downloaded them :)):

Clip A: To me this first clip feels a bit heavy-handed and maybe not jolly enough. There are some details I like in the other clips I miss a bit here, e.g. it is hard to hear the woodwind clearly in the interplay with the brass from 6:00-6:20.

Clip B: When you don't know the piece too much it's always interesting to hear a recording where the details are so clear. Here I really hear the tambourine and the woodwind, and the recording is also full and warm sounding. Still I would like to have a bit more excitement. It could be Colin Davis/LSO.

Clip C: This one is a bit swifter, and it even feels a bit hurried compared to the first clips. It seems that I prefer a slower pace but also more thrust/excitement/jolliness nevertheless. I'm not sure which one I prefer of clip B and C; probably it's B due to the extra clarity.

Clip D: I feel this one is a bit square, and maybe lack some flow compared to the other clips. But I think the playing sounds quite nice.

Clip E: I like this Hyde Park brass band the most :). I like the thrusy brass in the opening, and I generally find this clip a bit more exciting. Sometimes it can maybe seem it's not so well-played like some of the other recordings, but as long as it holds my attention... I like the more positive-sounding slow part of this clip (even if it almost makes me think of some English film like Brave Heart or something  ;D).

The Planets are one of the few famous orchestral works I still don't have in my collection, and I don't run to the shop yet. But some recording related to clip E interpretation-wise could maybe be interesting.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Don on July 31, 2007, 12:37:58 PM
I favor Clip C - quicker and more exciting than the other clips.  Could be Gardiner.  Yes, I'm going with Gardiner.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Greta on July 31, 2007, 12:59:51 PM
Ever perceptive, rubio. ;)

Don - Did you have any opinion on the performances of the other clips, besides C?
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Don on July 31, 2007, 01:36:13 PM
Don - Did you have any opinion on the performances of the other clips, besides C?

Didn't care much for B - a very light foundation, and I feel that Jupiter works best at a fast clip and with full textures.

Overall, I was focusing on which version gave me the most reward - that's C.  Is it Gardiner or an understudy?
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Greta on July 31, 2007, 11:30:22 PM
Can't say just yet, until a few more get a chance to d/l and listen... ;D I'll leave this open a while since many people seem to be gone.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Don on August 02, 2007, 11:36:18 AM
Can't say just yet, until a few more get a chance to d/l and listen... ;D I'll leave this open a while since many people seem to be gone.

Come on Greta.  This thread is getting very cold by now.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: M forever on August 02, 2007, 04:03:36 PM
I can't participate at this time since I am traveling and I forgot my good headphones  :'(

But I will be back home tomorrow night and since I am on serious music withdrawal (2 weeks without good music, basically), I will listen to the clips then and post my impressions.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Greta on August 04, 2007, 01:00:55 AM
I will wait for the M. ;)

For fun, here are two live bonuses:

Bonus 1 (http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=AAFEF7C302EA5A7A&key=6679759e93304dfa2cbd572444ebcdc784ab6549)

Bonus 2 (http://www.yousendit.com/transfer.php?action=check_download&ufid=B74EE2C308CBA04F&key=821d595aeb154068fe681224327264005a758337&bid=ZUczc0wzT2J3TGcwTVE9PQ)

Last call for downloading and those who did, to post comments! Will reveal on Sunday. :)

Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Greta on August 05, 2007, 12:05:59 PM
Alright...a few hints since we're getting closer.

Two are American orchestras.
A well-known British band is represented twice.
Including the bonuses, an American conductor appears twice.

Thoughts?  ;)
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Don on August 05, 2007, 12:26:32 PM
Alright...a few hints since we're getting closer.

Two are American orchestras.
A well-known British band is represented twice.
Including the bonuses, an American conductor appears twice.

Thoughts?  ;)


None concerning the above.  I just want the answers that you've been reluctant to divulge.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: M forever on August 05, 2007, 07:10:17 PM
A: Timing and sound point to an American orchestra for me, nice reading, good playing, not much to criticize here and quite enjoyable. It doesn't bring as much jollity to me as some other readings, but the middle section is rather nice, very noble and with a kind of outlook into wide open spaces which makes it sound a little more like music accompanying a trail west in a Western movie than an English hymn (or whatever that middle section is supposed to be). Pity just that they have to bang out that last chord of the section which leads into the next section (5'13). That spoils it a little for me (and since O Mensch is apparently on vacation, I think I can also say it ounds rather CSOesque to me  ;) ).

B didn't interest me much, really slow and clumsy in places, and neither orchestra nor conductor fill that extra space with much that interested me musically. The middle section isn't particularly. Basically OK playing, though, but nothing "spectacular". It sounds like the orchestra isn't too familiar with the piece which could point to a middle European orchestra (it is very rarely played in Germany), fairly bass heavy, too, which again points in that direction, although the bright brass playing doesn't necessarily. I had pointed out before that that mixture of elements can be found in some German orchestras though, like the SWR, and I know there is a recording with Norrington. The interpretation doesn't sound "interesting" enough for me to be Norrington, whatever he comes up with is usually "interesting" in some way, but this here isn't (or maybe it is in ways which I don't see). But I scored own goals before by speculating about interpretations I hadn't actually heard, based on my ideas what this or that could sound like with this or that interpreter. So I am not going to do this this time and just stick with my guess based on what I hear (which is after all the point of these threads, isn't it?).

C is very nice, I really think that tempo and attitude works just better for the piece. The playing is highly virtuoso, very brilliant and confident, and there is plenty of fine musical detail. I agree this could be the Philharmonia with Gardiner, a recording I like a lot but haven't listened to in many moons. I am not going to pull it out to cheat now, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if that is what it turns out to be. In any case, very enjoyable. I think this really works best with this zippy basic tempo and the orchestra should just have fun plying it, not march through the piece.

D is pretty nice, too, could be the BP or an orchestra on a similar level. Could even be the Philharmonia again. It is really hard to tell them apart in this repertoire. But it certainly has that bright but deep sonority both these and ome other really orchestras have. Actually the horns point more towards the Philharmonia. The interpretation doesn't really get off the ground either, but at least there is plenty of fine detail. Enjoyable but not really that much jollity. Nice middle section and some rather "humorous" (rather then outrightly "jolly") playing but also some decisions which I don't like so much, like
at 6'08 when the new tempo is at first rather slow, then picks up pretty quickly. That doesn't sound very natural.

E is very good, highly culticated orchestral playing of the kind in which the orchestra really plays the music, shapes the music as it goes along, instead of just executing the notes. This reminds me of Steinberg abd the BSO, a recording which I hold in extremely high esteem, like the great Zarathustra it usually comes coupled with. Whatever it is, it is really very nice and great fun to listen to even though it is not "perfect" in all details, but that doesn't matter, what counts is the lively and organic nature of the music making, like chamber music.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Greta on August 05, 2007, 08:39:06 PM
Thanks for those interesting comments, M! I wish I had that Norrington recording, I actually bought another this week and was on the fence between a couple, but decided I couldn't pass up Svetlanov this time. :)

I'm pretty tied up tonite so I'll post the details tomorrow when I can write something more about them. Yes, A is American, and B too. And since Don wanted to know, C is of course Gardiner, his Jupiter in particular is closest in tempo to Holst's own, and captures the Philharmonia in some absolutely stunning playing, even just in the opening, with a very focused and lean sound, scintillating in nature. I see not only the planets in his recording but every star. :D He really eschews emotional excess, but is very effective for that, letting the music speak for itself.

D certainly is "humorous", and enjoyable in very good sound, though I'm not fond of the conductor's peculiar portamentos, such as at 1:19. Highly unusual, even more prominent in his bonus clip, Bonus 2, which compared to D is absolute hilarity, a real ride.  ;D


Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Greta on August 07, 2007, 12:43:03 AM
The Mystery recordings were:

(http://www.gustavholst.info/recordings/images/1953.jpg)

A
Leonard Bernstein
New York Philharmonic
1973, CBS (now on SACD)

A recording that has held up well against the test of time, despite a few minor characteristic imperfections, such as the brass intonation. This one was my first Planets recording, and nearly 50 later, it is still one of my favorites. Good ole Lenny brings an irresistible swagger mixed with a graceful inward-looking hymn that is part of a solid and affecting performance. His middle hymn section is one of the slower around, and has the unique feature of pulling down the 2nd go-round of the hymn so that the harps are almost the most prominent instrument. There is no dynamic change written in the score there, but it really works, testament to his trademark creative insights. He does well all around, with poignant latter movements and a rather fast and bold, but never brash, Mars.

(http://store.acousticsounds.com/images/as201JPG/CMOB-4005SA.jpg)

B
Walter Susskind
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra
1975, Mobile Fidelity (SACD)

Czech-born Brit Walter Susskind didn’t leave behind a whole lot of recordings, and wasn’t so well-known, despite a very successful tenure in St. Louis of which this is an excellent document. There is an incredible amount of detail here, with rich, finely-honed playing from the orchestra and a lyrical, poised interpretation. Vividly captured on SACD from Mobile Fidelity, this is one that has grown on me a lot. Hearty thanks to the friend who turned me on to it, because it seems to be relatively unknown and is just a joy to listen to. For those turned off by the slow opening, it’s misleading as he gradually picks up speed as he goes, and still keeps the hymn moving along, so the difference in the slow and fast is not that great, in direct contrast, to say, Bernstein. It took me a long time to fully appreciate this one, but it has been, along with Boult, one of the most rewarding. No part of the score escapes Susskind’s scrutiny, and he shows that there is a lot of wisdom in backing off and letting the music speak for itself. He has an awesome Mars, not for its power, but for how much it actually has to say. The lyrical movements are truly otherworldly. Put it on and dream away. Gorgeous performance.

(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/51GM1CRA9CL._AA240_.jpg)

C
John Eliot Gardiner
Philharmonia Orchestra
1994, Deutsche Grammophon (SACD)

This blazing performance is indeed the Gardiner, one of the most stunning Planets recordings out there, with simply a-ma-zing playing by the Philharmonia. Coupled with a brilliant rendition of Grainger’s lavish imaginary ballet The Warriors. A very intelligent, analytical interpretation with a properly stiff upper lip but also a great deal of sensitivity and stylishness to the phrasing. It’s full of sparkle but also a certain wistfulness, for example in the soloists in Mercury and Venus. His Jupiter is the only one (except for Solti) that comes even within striking distance of Holst’s own insanely quick timings. The fleet tempos (save Gardiner’s Mars) and clipped, exact nature of the playing look toward Holst’s recordings on Naxos, which really eschew legato and oversentimentality, and it seems like he tried to strike a balance between this and his own ideas. Gardiner gets a very special and elegant sound from the Philharmonia, laser-sharp, focused and full but slightly bass-light, balanced by a soft haze on the recording from DG, makes for great detail and beautiful colors. As his great uncle, Henry Balfour Gardiner, gave the first performance of The Planets as a gift to the composer, it is fitting that his son would turn in this highly distinguished recording.

(http://g-ec2.images-amazon.com/images/I/41JSK4V40TL._AA240_.jpg)

D
Leonard Slatkin
Philharmonia Orchestra
1996, BMG

Yep, the Philharmonia again, just 2 years later, under the baton of Leonard Slatkin (for whom Susskind was a major mentor). The strings in the opening, the glowing golden brass point to Philharmonia, although they sound quite different in style here. The recorded sound is especially good from BMG with a lot of presence, and paired with an awesome Varese Arcana. Slatkin has spent much time with the Englishmen of this era and definitely knows this piece, but is a little grounded in this movement. A tad predictable, with an attempt at humor by uniquely adding slurs (ex. 1:09, 1:19, also see Bonus 2) to emphasize the jolly “laughing” theme. Grand, beautiful hymn though. He actually does surprisingly well on the latter movements, especially Saturn, and overall its a solid recording, helped by superb playing again from the Philharmonia. Actually, the Philharmonia recorded this piece 5 times, second only to the LSO, under Gardiner, Slatkin, Rattle, Boult (as NPO), and Svetlanov (which I’m really looking forward to hearing).

(http://g-ec2.images-amazon.com/images/I/41YMKF2ZE2L._AA240_.jpg)

E
Sir Adrian Boult
London Philharmonic Orchestra
1978, EMI

This was Boult’s last of five (!) recordings of this piece, made when he was nearly 90 years old. There is imperfect ensemble and a boomy nature of the playing, but boy, he knew this piece like the back of his hand. Take note: if you’re interested in how the score states this piece is supposed to go, this is your man. His hymn is in marked contrast to many of the interpretations out there as more of a noble walking tune, but with a great, weighty last time through to give it proper distinction. Impeccably English, always with clear, sensible direction, and singing, shaped phrasing throughout. The best example of his adherence to the score is the transition out of the hymn, the section beginning at 5:11, through the run up the orchestra at around 5:20. Seems slow compared to most, but this is actually marked Maestoso in the score (at XI), and he plays this *exactly* as Maestoso should be, “stately”, and not too fast, and he keeps the 16th note run from bottom to top strictly in time without speeding up at all. Often (see Bernstein, also Mackerras, etc), this section is already almost at Tempo I, and the 16th note run is sped through as a springboard into the last return to jollity. It works both ways, but it is great to hear it as written. All of his recordings have much to say, and I will profess a fondness for the Vienna State Opera Orchestra on Westminster where he struggles with the orchestra a lot yet gives an intimate, personal reading, especially of Venus, though this last recording is my favorite. Boult brought to his final recording the wisdom that comes with a lifetime of knowing and performing this piece, and a sense of being in safe hands who always knew where they were in the piece as a whole, which makes this recording quite special.

Is anyone still here? ;D Probably no one listened to the Bonuses, but they were:

Bonus 1
Andrew Litton
EuropaChorAkademie Sinfonieorchester
Live, January 2007

Considering this is a student orchestra, this is really very good. Technically fine indeed, showing the high level of young players these days. Confident, pretty playing and an interesting interpretation from Litton. His hymn was a reason I included this, because I was intrigued by what he did with it. Perhaps influenced by Bernstein, he also pulls down the 2nd time through of the hymn (3:47), and then slows down (4:48) when the repeated last half of the phrase comes along. He gives a huge Meno mosso at 6:07 and then bounces attractively right along through the end. Not everything he does works, but clearly he tried to do some different and tasteful things, and in a piece as often played as this, I appreciate that.

Bonus 2
Leonard Slatkin
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Live, April 2006

Well, at least they were having fun. :D Pittsburgh plays technically well, but the brass are way overly excited, and the interpretation is humorous to say the least. Not sure what Slatkin was getting at here. Really exaggerated slurs/portamentos (1:05, 1:15, 6:08) and legato playing in the brass, strange tempo fluctuations. The hymn is hugely inflated, especially near the end, and check out the Meno mosso at 5:58, really comical, it nearly stops altogether. Totally over the top. Both of the bonuses came from Operashare.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Sean on August 07, 2007, 01:16:28 AM
Well done Greta.

It is indeed a remarkable piece, the quality of invention throughout is almost unique and I'd certainly argue that exploring other Holst works only confirms he never really wrote anything in the same class.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: rubio on August 07, 2007, 01:21:09 AM
I have had high expectations for Boult's interpretation of the Planets, and since I definately liked this version the most in this blind test I will make it my first acquisition of this work. Nice coincidence :).
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: M forever on August 07, 2007, 12:48:42 PM
Is anyone still here? ;D

I think we are all still here, but there is simply not much left to be said which isn't already covered in your short, but highly concentrated reviews of the individual recordings. IMO, these are ideal examples for what musical criticism should be like, a well balanced mixture of reflected personal impressions and opinions backed up by extensive knowledge of the piece, its performing traditions and the scope of interpretations covered by the examples, an awareness of what the composer actually wrote and how it all fits together, but at the same time a "tolerance" for unusual ideas and openness to what additional angles they might open.
So these mini-reviews both evaluate and appreciate the performances in a fair, but not uninvolved way, and at the same time point out to the reader/listener what makes them interesting to listen to and serve as a guide for his/her deeper appreciation. It certainly did help me to appreciate, for instance, clip B more than I originally did. When I listened to it, I saw less than there was actually to see, so obviously, I don't have anything to add.

I actually listened to some of the clips again after reading the reviews, this time with the score in front of me, and while I found that I still like the style of playing in E because of its flexible, chamber music like nature, and that Boult does indeed follow the instructions in the score rather closely, looking at the score at the same time as listening, I also found that there is a lower level of detail attention and insight that I would have expected from someone who obviously knows the score extremely well. A lot of that is just functional, there is no "magic" happening apart from the nice playing itself. But context and connections between elements often do not happen beyond the level of tempo and formal control. E.g., the section beginning at the double bar line 13 bars before XI "Maestoso". The embellishment like gesture in the third bar of that section (the 16th G#AF#G#A) which Holst uses again in bars 7 and 8 of that section and then "dissolves" into the flurry of the woodwind which builds up from p and then leads to the next tutti, all that doesn't really "happen" here. The woodwinds just play their entries one after the other, then they somehow start playing the slurred 16th notes, OK, but it doesn't "happen" as one organic passage in which the transition from repeating that figure in bars 7 and 8 to where it becomes an ostinato in itself happens naturally, out of itself, as a result of the repetition and development of that gesture. This is the kind of detail insight I would look for and which would make it a "really special" interpretation for me. Or at XIII, are the horns really "molto pesante"? They don't seem to me to be here. What does "pesante" mean in this place? Hard to say, but I would imagine a not louder, but, well, more "heavy handed" way of playing, each note with a lot of weight, kind of sitting on every note, even a little "clumsy", like a Falstaffian, red cheeked and big bellied figure with a huge mug of ale in his hand,  and interestingly, while I thought about that and imagined what I would like this to sound like, I scrolled down and saw that Holst had written "non legato" for the strings, probably indicating a similar idea. But such kind of characterization appears to me to lack here in general, as nice as it all really is.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Greta on August 07, 2007, 04:15:19 PM
Thanks, M. :) Somehow I started collecting on this one, and never did stop, and I realized once I got into studying it how fun comparing performance practices can be. Richard Greene's Cambridge Handbook on this piece (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php?action=post;topic=2387.20;num_replies=23) is a huge recommendation for delving into the theory and history behind the work, which is fairly involved and quite interesting. The review at High Fidelity (http://www.highfidelityreview.com/reviews/review.asp?reviewnumber=16592626) for the Susskind performance is also a fascinating read, where the reviewer Mark Jordan did a ton of research and a comprehensive overview of the major recordings out there.

As far as guys who stick to the score, I prefer Susskind a little more than Boult, because it has more detail to me, though Boult represents a direct link to the composer which makes his recordings important academically if anything else. His earlier recordings suffer sound and ensemble wise, but in the last one it comes together the most. Boult actually conducted the public premiere (though partial) of the piece under Holst's guidance waay back in 1918, and Holst was extremely happy with his interpretation.

I saw where an error escaped me which I fixed above - Henry Balfour Gardiner was of course a (great) uncle, not the father, of Sir John Eliot, and as far as "gave" the first performance, he didn't conduct it, but fronted the money to make it possible because he liked the work, and Holst specifically asked Boult to conduct, at rather short notice, in fact it was given with only an hour of rehearsal, on Sept. 29, 1918. It was private, by invitation, but the first complete performance. Public partial performances were then given, but the actual full suite public world premiere was given by not Boult, but Albert Coates and the LSO in Nov. 1920, and the press was wild about it, so it's a shame we don't also have a document of him.

Another very interesting fact is that Holst played with the order of the movements, and the early partial performances always ended with Jupiter, so the strength and attractiveness of that movement were realized even then. The idea of a "double symphony" is also one author Richard Greene explores, with Jupiter serving as the ending of the first and the beginning of the second half. Early performances were in a very symphonic grouping of often Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter or Mars, Saturn, Uranus, Jupiter - Neptune was hardly played before the 1920 world premiere.

I will also confess to loving a fast, exciting Jupiter, there are tons and tons of good recordings out there, but generally the ones above are my favorites, minus Slatkin and add Mackerras and Dutoit. Those two plus Bernstein, Top 3 for me. After that many are tied, though I am enjoying the older ones recently because they have some quite individual things to say, as opposed to a general accepted interpretation that is more in favor now. Onward and upward, maybe someday I will hear them all! ;)
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: hornteacher on August 07, 2007, 05:03:33 PM
This is a fantastic analysis on The Planets, Holst's life, and his interest in Astrology and how it relates to each movement.


http://www.amazon.com/Holst-Planets-Cambridge-Music-Handbooks/dp/0521456339/ref=sr_1_1/105-4924212-6205218?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1186538453&sr=1-1
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: M forever on August 07, 2007, 08:46:42 PM
The review at High Fidelity (http://www.highfidelityreview.com/reviews/review.asp?reviewnumber=16592626) for the Susskind performance is also a fascinating read, where the reviewer Mark Jordan did a ton of research and a comprehensive overview of the major recordings out there.

That is indeed quite interesting to read, although I find that Jordan decides too much to know what is "right" and what is "wrong" and he assumes a bit too much stuff like what is "idiomatic" and what not and what has a "continental" accent and other stuff like that (and I also find it funny that he writes about Holst's acoustic and his "electronic" recording...), but apart from stuff like that, it is quite readable.

However, you should not just link to a text like this without a "health warning", if our mutual friend O Mensch and some other estimated individuals read this section, they might have a serious fit  ;D:
1990 saw the release of a pops-concert Planets from James Levine and the Chicago Symphony on Deutsche Grammophon. I remember hearing the concert broadcast that preceded this recording, and I remember being shocked to hear Levine say in the intermission interview that music like ‘The Planets’ was worth performing, even if it wasn’t profound. This statement demonstrated Levine’s complete ignorance of what this music is about, but then again, his performance proves it all by itself. All is played for effect, with nary a sign of any real commitment. The sound is very crassly in-your-face, although it does show off the vaunted athleticism of the Chicago brass section. Of course, it also favors the brass so much, the strings could have stayed home for the loud movements.
Ohhhhhhhhh.... :o :) :P :-X :D ;D

I also listened a little to Goodman's New Queens Hall Orchestra recording "on period instruments" although there isn't much "periody" stuff in there - the strings don't even sound like they actually play on gut strings - except for to remind us a little that English orchestral playing in general around 1920 was still heavily influenced by the French school of orchestral playing. That reminds me that apart from Dutoit's dazzling and colorful OSM reading, one of my own favorite versions of this piece is the one with Maazel and the Orchestre National de France, be the interpretation "right" or "wrong", I don't know, I just love the sound of the French woodwind, the slender but luminously sonorous brass, and the silky strings, in general and in this work in particular, and it appears to me that this sound comes fairly close to what Holst may have had in mind.

I wonder how Ozawa's recording with the BSO is? He sometimes has a really good hand for music with complex textures, as some of his Prokofieff recordings made in Berlin and Boston evidence, so somehow I think it might be interesting to hear his recording. Or maybe not.

I can see how this can easily become a little obsession, especially once you start looking at the score and realize just how much detail there is there which apparently few performances manage to get into place. For instance, I listened to Rattle's BP recording a little bit and noticed that he lets the trumpets play the Cs at 9 after XVI an octave higher than written - which makes a whole lot of musical sense. Then I checked Boult's clip to see if he does that, too (which might mean it is "sanctioned" by the composer), but it is really hard to tell. It sounds like he does, but it's hard to tell, the trumpets sound very subdued on that note and are otherwise almost drowned out by the trombones which OTOH are hardly audible enough in Rattle. And I think both of them somehow "fail" to bring out the interesting way in which Holst first adds the tenor tuba, then the two trombones to the strings' theme in the bars just before that. There is really a lot of very interesting detail like that in the score.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: MishaK on August 09, 2007, 09:13:18 AM
However, you should not just link to a text like this without a "health warning", if our mutual friend O Mensch and some other estimated individuals read this section, they might have a serious fit  ;D:
1990 saw the release of a pops-concert Planets from James Levine and the Chicago Symphony on Deutsche Grammophon. I remember hearing the concert broadcast that preceded this recording, and I remember being shocked to hear Levine say in the intermission interview that music like ‘The Planets’ was worth performing, even if it wasn’t profound. This statement demonstrated Levine’s complete ignorance of what this music is about, but then again, his performance proves it all by itself. All is played for effect, with nary a sign of any real commitment. The sound is very crassly in-your-face, although it does show off the vaunted athleticism of the Chicago brass section. Of course, it also favors the brass so much, the strings could have stayed home for the loud movements.
Ohhhhhhhhh.... :o :) :P :-X :D ;D

I was never particularly fond of any of Levine's efforts with the CSO. I'm not too surprised by that review. His performance of Symphonie fantastique a year and a half ago with the BSO could have been described with the exact same words.

Greta, sorry for not participating. have been traveling and will remain unavailable for the next week. The Bernstein and Boult are very fine choices indeed. I will have to look into getting that Gardiner performance.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: M forever on August 09, 2007, 10:45:38 AM
That said, in the meantime I pulled out Levine's recording and listened to it for the first time in many years, and I have to say that, with or without health warning, I find Jordan's review grossly unfair, in fact, so unfair that I am prepared to more or less completely dismiss his entire article because it is very obviously based on his preconceived, maybe rather narrow-minded idea of what the piece should be played like. I find the notion of an "idiomatic" performance rather problematic when we are talking about a piece that basically stands on its own, even in the composer's output and which is not really part of any specific musical tradition. There may be a few typically English elements (whatever that may mean) in some of the themes, but on the whole, Holst derived a lot of his material from completely "outside" sources with not much of a relationship to whatever the English "idiom" may or may not be.

Seen by itself, Levine's performance appears to me to be rather faithful to the score on the whole. He brings out a lot of fine detail and colors which some other interpreters miss, and the playing of the CSO here is indeed on an extremely high technical and musical level. There is some extremely demanding writing for all the sections in the piece, and while I am generally not a big fan of the CSO brass ego trips, they really pull that off, their playing here is highly impressive and adequately virtuoso and I don't find that that happens at the expense of the strings or woodwinds at all which also have a lot of great (and audible) moments in this performance. There is some very lyrical and athmospheric playing in Venus and Saturn, and the way Levine illuminates the shifting colors and fine textures in Neptune actually has something rather mystical to it, despite, or maybe exactly because of the high degree of clarity he achieves here. This sounds like I would Boulez imagine to conduct this piece (I wonder if he ever did?).

I don't care if Levine said the piece is "not profound", I myself don't know if it is or not, I don't think in these categories, but his performance of the piece with the CSO strikes me as one which takes it very "seriously" anyway, as shown by the high degree of detail attention and technical and musical expertise which obviously went into this performance. If a "pops performance" is meant to imply one which only relies on superficial effect at the expense of musical detail and quality, then this is certainly not a "pops performance", but a very "serious" reading of the piece, however "right" or "wrong" it may be in certain details.

Here is Jupiter from Levine's Planets with the CSO:
http://preview.tinyurl.com/2cdra6
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: M forever on August 12, 2007, 08:02:53 PM
Just saw that no one has downloaded that Levine clip, so I thought I just bump up the thread so that whoever might be interested in that gets a chance to listen to it before the link expires.
Title: Re: Mystery Comparison - Jupiter (The Planets)
Post by: Peter Power Pop on October 26, 2016, 04:17:39 PM
Just saw that no one has downloaded that Levine clip, so I thought I just bump up the thread so that whoever might be interested in that gets a chance to listen to it before the link expires.

http://www.youtube.com/v/1N5ZgKvtwMo