HOLST The Planets
From those of its recordings which I have heard, I judge that the Montreal Symphony Orchestra has become a world-class orchestra under Charles Dutoit's conductorship. It certainly sounds like one in this superlative recording of The Planets, which now seems to me to be the best available on both LP and CD, displacing Karajan's on DG. No one who enjoys the work should be without a Boult Planets for obvious reasons (PRT GSGC2060, 6/54 or EMI ESD7135, 4/82 or EMI ASD3649, 4/79—all LPs), but with it, and if you can afford it, you should try to acquire this stunning performance, recorded as finely as it is played. The LP easily absorbs the ferocious power of ''Mars'' without any distortion, but the end is even more impressive and conveys the full dynamic range of a most remarkable interpretation.
Recorded in St Eustache, Montreal, the acoustic lends just enough extra resonance and brilliance to the string tone. But the accuracy and understanding of the playing are outstanding in themselves—the surge of organ-tone in ''Mars'' and the strings' swirling crescendo at fig. 11 in the same movement, the exquisitely placed final note of ''Venus'' and the secure playing by the solo horn and oboe, the brilliant fleet-footedness of ''Mercury'' and the agile woodwind in ''Jupiter'', where the big tune flows broadly and unselfconsciously. In ''Saturn'', the best movement, the atmospheric start is chilling and continues throughout Holst's vision of old age in all its creaking terror. Last and emphatically not least, after a gloriously lively ''Uranus'', the problematical ''Neptune'' is played with Gallic refinement, the distant voices are perfectly balanced and maintain pitch as they fade from our hearing. Women's voices, too, I am glad to say, not children's, as in the rival Andrew Davis version on EMI from Toronto.'