SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

HOLST: The Planets


Published on May 17, 2005

HOLST: The Planets
HOLST: The Planets – Los Angeles Philharmonic/Zubin Mehta – Decca/JVC xrcd 24 JVCXR-228-2, 49:26 ***:

In this new trio of xrcds JVC has finally dispensed with the Japanese
notes and given us sections covering details of the music itself,
credits on the recording and xrcd credits, the usual explanation of the
xrcd process, and in this case a summary of the history of Decca, the
famous Decca “tree” mic setup and of these three recording projects
specifically. The reproduction of the back-of-jacket notes continues,
but as before at only about 4 inches square it is impossible to read.
This was a l971 recording made in UCLA’s Royce Hall and is regarded as
one of the more spectacular Planets on record.

A chestnut such as this demands some comparisons, but I had to scour my
hi-res collection before finally finding one other interpretation -
Leonard Bernstein’s on Sony Classical, made about the same time – 1973.
(I guess I was protecting myself from Planets overexposure.) So I
thought this would be a fair comparison. Well, fidelity-wise I must say
JVC did a commendable job – or perhaps Sony did a poor job converting
the Bernstein tapes to SACD. There was no clear winner in sonics though
both are extremely wide range in both dynamics and frequency response.
The JVC run thru ProLogic II sounded just about as effective in
surround as did the Sony which was mixed for multichannel. In fact in
the final Neptune the Mystic movement with the women’s choral voices,
the two-channel xrcd held sway with a more mystical and surrounding
effect. However, overall Bernstein clearly had the edge over Mehta in
bringing out the most energy and drama from the
music. Plus you get one of the most exciting versions of the most
exciting orchestral music of Benjamin Britten – his Four Sea Interludes
from Peter Grimes.

- John Sunier




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