Composer: Gustav Theodore Holst
Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Number of Discs: 1 SACD-R
Bit Depth: 64(2.8 MHz/1 Bit)
Number of channels: 2.0
Label: Decca / Universal Japan
Size: 2.02 GB
Herbert von Karajan, Vienna Philharmonic
Holst – The Planets
01. Mars, The Bringer Of War 7:00
02. Venus, The Bringer Of Peace 8:18
03. Mercury, The Winged Messenger 3:55
04. Jupiter, The Bringer Of Jollity 7:35
05. Saturn, The Bringer Of Old Age 8:30
06. Uranus, The Magician 5:44
07. Neptune, The Mystic Wiener Staatsopernchor 7:36
Reviews from Amazon.com for the RBCD release:
By I. Giles:
These recordings, made in 1960 and 1961, show the combination of Karajan and the VPO off to their best. Both of these pieces were recorded with the BPO at a later date but it is these earlier recordings that at still most revered. Both recordings have been remastered using the latest 24 bit technology and the result on this disc is the expected increased ‘presence’ with added internal clarity and detail plus dynamic and frequency response compared to the original CD releases.
Turning to the performances themselves, the first thing to note is the high degree of spontaneity that Karajan manages to create in both pieces. In the opening Planets Suite, Mars has a real sense of menace and it is interesting to hear how Karajan is able to bring out different tonal effects from the middle brass to enhance this. The use of his Wagner tubas makes for an exciting tonal impact in this movement. Jupiter has nobility and sweep without the unsung words imposing themselves on the consciousness as is can do in some English performances.
Venus avoids sentimentality while still achieving the appropriate purity of line and Saturn has true grandeur – nothing feeble about this vision of old age. It is a reminder that the Romans revered their older population as having much to offer in terms of experience. Saturn, the God, represented these strong ideals for the Romans. The organ role in Uranus is effectively done without the exaggeration of balance to be found in the later digital version with the BPO. Neptune fades to perfection. Similar comments of further approval could be made throughout but suffice it to say that this has long been a recording of reference, often because of its impressive and effective independence of thought.Read more ›
By Dr Stephen Hall:
Karajan’s Vienna recording of ‘The Planets’ has the magic of revelation which the later Berlin one lacked. In my view the recording is also all the better for using the simpler Decca FFSS technique rather than the later DGG mix-at-record ethos. FFSS is like having the best seats in the house.
Apart from the odd Wagnerian sound of the tubular bells remarked by others, this recording shows Karajan in his best exploratory mood, even having the iron will to resist showing off the VPO strings.
Hilary Davan Wetton’s much later recording for Collins has a similar quality and Wetton was taught by Boult, whose three main recording are the benchmarks for British ears (especially the New Philharmonia one).
Karajan clearly shows the influences on Holst, notably Debussy, but takes the work as a musician without ‘side’such that the ‘hymn’ section of Jupiter is played without the associations other conductors fall into.
His ‘Mars’ uses the quick end that Holst himself used in his recording but the glory of this stunning recording lies in Karajan’s ability to be both detailed and have an overview of the suite in symphonic terms. This was not achieved on his later DGG recording.
The Strauss is well played and gives the Vienna strings of the early ’60s a chance to show their perfection.
Gustav Holst’s daughter, Imogen, said at the time that this was the best of all the numerous recordings of The Planets – and she should know ! She probably had it rammed down her throat for breakfast, lunch and dinner ! This is one of those numerous “Karajan Classics” from his “Golden Age” during the 1960’s and 1970’s and it doesn’t seem to matter much whether it is the Berlin Philharmonic or the Vienna Philharmonic (although they are very different orchestras): Karajan knows how to get the best out of both and to emphasize their different characteristics, thus reinforcing his reputation as a genius and orchestral magician.
But with The Planets, Vienna wins! As it often did at this time. This is a performance that comes from another world. And Karajan revels in the distinctive characteristics of the Vienna Philharmonic as opposed to “The Missus” back in Berlin ! In the Berlin remake, Karajan tries hard, perhaps too hard, and some passages are undoubtedly effective, especially the opening bars, which have even greater savagery and menace in Berlin. But there is just no getting away from the fact that it was just “one of those days” in Vienna and when Karajan, Culshaw and the Vienna Philharmonic are on top form, there is nobody can match them. Not even themselves! This is a classic ! And I am the world’s greatest admirer and lover of the Berlin Philharmonic, especially in the Karajan “Glory Days;” But the Vienna Philharmonic brass is, to my mind, better, especially the heavy brass. And some music needs it and this is one such piece.
But I do have one fierce complaint: I don’t know what Decca calls itself these days. It keeps changing. It was “Polygram” for a while (combining Decca, DG and Philips). What never changes, however, is their greed ! This company, whatever it is called, re-defines the word “rip-off.” O.K. Maybe there is no “cash-cow” like Karajan on the world stage these days but he has been dead 20 years and these recordings were made 30 or 40 years ago. And yet they still get pumped out at premium price. This company is greedy and repulsive and there would sell more records if they improved promotion and cut prices. These records all made their money back years ago and made Karajan and the record companies very rich. Many of my recordings of this era need replacing and many of Karajan’s “classics” may well never be equalled. But this company, whatever it calls itself these days, has a very nasty smell about it, aided and abetted by Frau von Karajan! You can’t even find a photograph of Karajan these days without paying royalties to the Herbert and Eliette von Karajan Foundation. It seems that both the good and the bad of Herbert von Karajan survives him. The good was very good and the bad was very bad, repulsive even. This “money-making machine” is highly distasteful