I have been looking long and hard for this recording, Previn's first of this most popular work of Gustav Holst. On listening to it on the radio I have always preferred this version to Previn's later account on the Telarc label with the Royal Philharmonic. That was not a bad performance, and the RPO is just fine, but Previn seems to have mellowed during the intervening years with the result that this version is more beautiful sounding than dramatic, and this approach costs in the powerful movements such as Mars and Jupiter to mention just a couple of examples.
No such problem with the present EMI recording, which Previn made with the London Symphony Orchestra at the height of both their
powers. The LSO plays with its customary breathtaking virtuosity, and Previn judges the the tempo and atmosphere of each movement
well-nigh perfectly. For example, Mars comes off as a truly menacing and foreboding harbinger of war, and not the rush job that
it is often done as. Jupiter, the most popular movement is wonderfully exuberant without overdoing the tempo, and the slow trio
section has just the right pacing and phrasing so as not to drag. The other sections are equally superb, especially the slow
movements with their mysterious atmosphere and faultless playing, and the Ambrosian Singers sound approprialely eerie in the final movement, fading into nothingness as if implying What Now - where do we go from here?
I have other favorite recordings of the Planets - Karajan/Berlin with an even more exuberant Jupiter but a very ponderous Mars
(the slow movements) fine, Gardiner/Philharmonia (maybe too energetic for some) and Dutoit/Montreal which is almost the equal of
the Previn LSO save for some occasional lapses in the orchestra.
In closing, I have always thought that Previn is a highly underrated conductor, and when he is at his best as here, the results
should speak for themselves. If you find this recording, snap it up!