Between 1989 and 1997 the three arch rivals of the podium, Bernstein, Karajan, and Solti, all passed away, but in the boom times of LPs and early CDs, they vied for sales in the millions. Less considered was their artistic rivalry, and I won't venture to rank them, but in the case of Holst's The Planets, Bernstein had no interest and turned in a reading with the NY Phil. that was energetic but uninvolved. That left Karajan and Solti to duke it out. Decca already had Karajan's phenomenal reading with the vienna Phil, but it was analog and showing its sonic age when Solti came out with this recording in 1979. It features the London Phil., surprisingly, rather tan the blockbuster Chicago Sym. But Solti loved this orchestra, and between him and the Decca engineers, they sound crushing and crunching enough to suit anyone.
Both of Karajan's versions, the second one coming from Berlin in the digital era on DG, are more naturally musical and more virtuosically stunning than Solti's account, but he is actually less pompous, more alert and lively. to the English, there needs to be a dash of native charm, which neither Karajan nor Solti imparts. Even so, Solti is determined to make an exciting impression, and he succeeds. If you don't mind that he strains at the leash in Mars, and that there are few moments of relaxation, much less mystery, this bumptious performance is full of high spirits and no condescension whatever -- I was agreeably surprised.
Decca mixes and matches recordings for their Solti Collection series, and here they've tossed in three of Elgar's Pomp and Circustance marches (does any modern person know what "circumstance" means in this context?), which Solti rips through with starched seams in military trousers. This music could use more heart and imperial dignity, however.