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Discussion: Holst: The Planets - Ozawa

Posts: 13
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Post by Kveld-Úlfr November 4, 2015 (1 of 13)
To Rembrandt (alias Analogue) :

Many thanks for your review, which I really appreciated as I was looking for a version of the Planets other than the Gustav Holst: The Planets, John Williams: Star Wars Suite that I already have (SHM SA-CD as well), rarely confining myself to one interpretation of a work, even though the one I have is trully stellar.

You convinced me to buy this Ozawa one (which was not hard for I love Ozawa as much a Mehta) and I look forward to hearing it.

Since at the end of your review you open the subject of grandiose versions of the Planets, may I humbly suggest, in return of the advice your review has been to me, that you try the one I mentioned above, which has been so far my own favorite. I am no classical music expert but I can't say I'm a beginner either, and Zubin Mehta is one of the conductors that struck me the most. I have to say, trying to remain impartial, that his interpretation of the piece has much sensitivity -- the Mars opener has the dramatic thunder quality that I really like to find in classical music, which is a terrific foretaste of what is to come.

The Star Wars suite following it can look like a filler, depending on the listener's appreciation. Being a space opera and Star Wars fan myself, I saw no problem in that, despite a pacing perhaps a little bit too hasty for me.

Hoping I have given you a good advice,

Anthony

P.S. to answer your astonishment : given its reference number, this Ozawa Planets is packed in the first generation digipack because it is from the first generation batch ;-)

Post by analogue November 5, 2015 (2 of 13)
I thank you for your kind words and I will take a chance and purchase the version you mentioned. It is on my potential purchase list but I had doubts. I will now buy it based on your comments as you have both versions and I do not.

Thanks for the advice...much appreciated.

Cheers,
Analogue

Post by cupboy November 9, 2015 (3 of 13)
I have both and certainly don't think of Star Wars as filler. The Ozawa album cover is pretty.

Post by analogue November 10, 2015 (4 of 13)
Howdy.
Would either of you fine gentlemen wish to offer a quick comparison review of both Shm Sacds???

I'm crazy for the Ozawa sacd and will purchase the other recording soon enough.

Cheers,
Analogue

Post by Kveld-Úlfr November 12, 2015 (5 of 13)
Good day Rembrandt,

I am still impatiently awaiting the Ozawa's arrival. I will give it a spin (or more) as soon as pick it in my mailbox.

Certainly Frank (Cupboy) will give you a comparison before I do since he already has both discs. In any case I will give you my impression.

Post by Kveld-Úlfr November 17, 2015 (6 of 13)
Dear Rembrandt,

I have received this Ozawa SHM SA-CD last Friday and I listened to it a dozen times this week-end, trying to forget the attacks not so far away from my place.

And it soothed me.

First of all I thank you once again for your review, which proved being a good advice to me. I really love this Ozawa version and, as I will explain hereafter, I will never miss it before or after the Mehta one, for these two really complete each other.

To begin with : the volume. I played this newly discovered Ozawa version just as loud as the Mehta one. It was important to me to set these two on equal terms of listening if I was to compare them, and they are both transferred by the same team on the same format, furthermore recorded not so differently (respectively released in 1977 and 1979) so I was confident I would get approximately similar levels.

Sound wise, both are equally thrilling. They sound pretty much alike, except some audible tape hiss on the Ozawa, deeper low frequencies on the Mehta (timpani rumbling and bass tuba). Please forgive the shortcut, but since you already know the Ozawa one, you already have an idea of how good the Mehta sounds.

- The Mars movement is an easy one to give a smash with, that is obvious. Holst wrote that one to be a terrific opener, and under Ozawa’s baton it shows as much as in the Mehta version, though differently. This Ozawa Mars starts more audible with a lot more presence in the “col legno”, giving a sense of aggression, whereas the Mehta one starts almost inaudible and fades in crescendo to very loud, as something terrible quickly approaching from far away to right here : both have their way of showing declamatory menace. However I have a preference for the Mehta version on the powerful climatic hit in the middle of the movement : this is a mere orchestral hit with Ozawa, and though I was moved by its grandly fatalistic interpretation, I preferred the overwhelming, thundery, godly hammer hit of the timpani (maybe bass drum, not sure) + bass tuba in the Mehta one. Very impressive, devastating.

- The Venus and Mercury movements, I shall say, are not so different from one version to the other. The Ozawa is slightly more moving, only by an inch, as I find Mehta not to be so at ease when it comes to soft passages. But, this calm in the Mehta version also gives these two movements dynamics in regards to the stormy first one, where Ozawa continues with his more dramatic (albeit reserved, maybe too polite) approach.

- Now, the Jupiter movement : that was a jewel to my ears, and here the Mehta version, despite being very moving, cannot better the Ozawa, only by a margin. Both have a glorious, splendid and radiant introduction. The syncopation parts by Mehta are more puckish, but his use of the triangle and glockenspiel is more a punctuation, whereas Ozawa’s a real underlining, which is just as enchanting and exquisite as fairy-ballet music. Lovely ! And then, the rituneto of the “Jupiter Hymn” comes in, showing how Ozawa can master lyricism. Clearly, he wins that one. I could not listen to these beautifully woven silks of strings without a wet eye. Originally I discovered this Holst musical part as a teenager listening to a cover by the Swedish black-metal band Bathory and I instantly fell in love with this melody, so I was eagerly awaiting Ozawa here.

- Saturn : Ozawa builds the rising tension towards inevitability with an almost perverse accuracy and intelligence. Gripping ! I only found it too bad that Ozawa did not choose to punctuate the climatic point tolling tubular bells or chimes as Mehta did, for this use of percussions ingeniously gives depth to it and emphasizes its fatidic character. And his bass tuba support, very impressive in the crescendo, makes the difference. However, Ozawa has more than a trick in his sleeve and restrains himself : he keeps the bell for the end of the movement and has it ringing distantly (it must have been played off-stage), giving a sense of grim departure from life, of force leaving the body, before closing the movement with a divine, celestial-like conclusion.

- Uranus : Ozawa has a measured pace at the beginning of that one. Magic is tangible, its mischievous aspect is beautifully rendered by Ozawa. I was immersed in this magic, and believed it. Mehta just as well understood and honored this obvious part of the movement, for it has no double-meaning. Both conductors have the final march greatly paced by the timpani, however Ozawa’s looks less impressive than Mehta’s, the latter completely walking over the listener.

- Neptune : Ozawa renders it as enigmatic as it should ; misty, mysterious. Both versions have their convincing way on that one, though I have a preference for Ozawa’s divine feminine choir at the conclusion.

My advice in regards to the Mehta counterpart : grab it.

In essence, the Ozawa version has a dramatic flavor. It is very poetic, full of passion, delicately controlled with respect and decency towards the work, and might I say, the conductor has instilled a lot of Japanese sensitivity and elegance in it (personal opinion of course). The Planets is some cinematic work for me and if the Ozawa can be compared to a Ozu masterpiece, retained and subtly blooming, certainly the Mehta looks like a Kurosawa one, with a refinement tending more towards dynamics, impulsion and grandiloquence. Retained is the Ozawa, but don’t get me wrong, it is nothing like Holst: The Planets - Akiyama, rather a correction of it.

Drama vs. action ? No. I would rather say drama WITH action, for I now consider these two versions inseparable, intertwined, intrinsically linked. I do not know whether these two styles, drama and action, can be found together in a single version of the Planets. Besides these two I do not know the Boult one for it has been long OOP, but I do know the Holst: The Planets - Albrecht which is quite original and interesting and well-played.

But one thing is sure as far as I’m concerned : I will now listen to both Ozawa and Mehta one after another, whatever the order.

Post by Ubertrout November 17, 2015 (7 of 13)
I learned The Planets through the Philips release of this performance from 1992. Great stuff. I have to confess I'm not interesting in paying $40 for the SHM version, although I might pay $25 for the AP SACD of the Mehta recording (especially with the fillers).

Is there a consensus on the go-to for the Planets in modern sound, though? A lot of people point to Holst: Orchestral Works Vol. 2 - Andrew Davis, and it seems to be the only in-print modern recording of the piece. The main competition seems to be Holst: The Planets, Grainger: The Warriors - Gardiner, which is out of print and goes for a premium.

Post by akiralx November 17, 2015 (8 of 13)
If by modern sound you can accept RBCD then I would recommend the superbly recorded version by Dutoit in Montreal in Decca - perhaps the best performance the work has received.

Post by Kveld-Úlfr November 18, 2015 (9 of 13)
Ubertrout said:

I learned The Planets through the Philips release of this performance from 1992. Great stuff. I have to confess I'm not interesting in paying $40 for the SHM version, although I might pay $25 for the AP SACD of the Mehta recording (especially with the fillers).

Is there a consensus on the go-to for the Planets in modern sound, though? A lot of people point to Holst: Orchestral Works Vol. 2 - Andrew Davis, and it seems to be the only in-print modern recording of the piece. The main competition seems to be Holst: The Planets, Grainger: The Warriors - Gardiner, which is out of print and goes for a premium.

Hi Ubertrout,

The Holst: The Planets, Grainger: The Warriors - Gardiner edition is OOP indeed, but a BD-A version is about to be released - that was recently postponed, but hopefully not for long.

I understand your reluctance in regards to the SHM SA-CD price. This is not given away for sure, but my opinion is the quality is up to the price. Currently I own 82 of these and I know I'll keep buying them. Analogue has the same penchant for these flat-transfer SHM editions so I know he will not be disappointed by the Mehta. Of course, the AP edition is cheaper and AP has the advantage of remastering. So if you get the Mehta edition with refreshed sound, I say go for it, don't hesitate :-)

Post by Kveld-Úlfr November 18, 2015 (10 of 13)
akiralx said:

If by modern sound you can accept RBCD then I would recommend the superbly recorded version by Dutoit in Montreal in Decca - perhaps the best performance the work has received.

Hi Alex,

Thanks for the advice, which I have followed : I have bought this one and will give it a try.

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