03_HolstHolst - The Planets; Beni Mora; Japanese Suite
Manchester Chamber Choir; BBC Philharmonic; Sir Andrew Davis
Chandos CHSA 5086

This is Davis’ third recording of The Planets, Holst’s best known work. The first was for EMI in 1986 with the TSO during his tenure here. His second, for Teldec, was in 1993 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra during his tenure there.

There is no paucity of recorded versions interpreted by a who’s who of eminently suitable conductors and some quite unsuitable. I have heard just about all of them and some are outstanding, such as Boult’s 1966 version with the New Philharmonia (EMI) but Davis’s new version, all things considered, is the one some of us have been waiting for.

From the very first bars of Mars, The Bringer of War, it is clear that Davis has re-thought the music with striking results. There is a fresh clarity and transparency achieved primarily by adjusting the balances between instruments and through subtle and not so subtle adjustments to the tempi and phrasing.

Beni Mora is a delicately scored, attractive little ballet with an oriental flavour. The Japanese Suite is another dance piece, alternately stimulating and reposeful. It is new to me but I’ve listened a few times and regard both beautifully scored little works as undeservedly obscure gems that live in the shadow of The Planets.

Davis acknowledges an affinity for Holst and there are more recordings to come from these forces.

The wide range of sonorities together with scrupulous regard for dynamic gradations from juggernaut tuttis to the gossamer pianissimos in The Planets are captured to absolute perfection by CHANDOS. This disc is a must have, particularly for the most demanding audiophile. A hybrid disc, the outstanding sound in stereo is enhanced with astonishing reality in surround sound on SACD players.

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