HOLST The Planets – Jurowski
The first quality of this performance that strikes one is its liveness, as revealed in the warmth of the rubato that Jurowski draws from the orchestra of which he is now principal conductor. This is the opposite of a cold, clinical account, and like others it puts paid to the idea that British conductors are needed if British works are to be handled idiomatically.
The second strong point is the clarity of the recording, suggesting that the engineers have cracked the longstanding problems of recording in the Royal Festival Hall, for quite apart from the clean separation there is a pleasant aura around the sound, which is far from dry. It is to Jurowski’s credit, too, that he brings out much detail in Holst’s dazzling orchestration that can easily get obscured. The only sound query is the usual complaint that the dynamic range is excessive for most domestic listening, with fortissimo climaxes insufferably loud if the pianissimos are to be heard clearly. That is particularly so in the opening movement, “Mars”, with its long, powerful crescendo depicting the god of war.
Each of the other movements is strongly characterised, with Holst’s effective sequence firmly established. Another quality of Jurowski’s performance is the energy of the syncopated passages as, for example, in “Jupiter”, with the timpani prominent in the orchestral balance. When it comes to the big tune, Jurowski gives it the most natural expressiveness in his use of phrasing and rubato. The repeated chords of “Saturn” are hypnotic, with another big crescendo, while “Uranus” skips along over each section with its “magic chord” in the long coda leading direct into the final “Neptune”, where the balance of the LPO Choir is ideally distant, fading away evocatively at the end. All told, an excellent version, even if many will regret the short measure of 43 minutes.