This was one of my favourite classical pieces as a child and consequently I have a large number of versions in my collection. So what makes this one so special?
It is a dazzling performance - and live too. All credit to the production team, as well, of course, to the performers. Feeling that I know this work inside out, I was amazed at the clarity of the sound: I did hear things that I had not heard so clearly before. Rattle seems to have adopted an upfront approach, giving the instruments more of a soloistic freedom than other interpretations. And yet the sound is not crowded. One result is that the climaxes are more startlingly real and full of power. I have heard 'Mars' countless times, but Rattle's approach brought out the hairs on the back of my neck. I do not begrudge the inclusion of Matthews's 'Pluto': it is a very good work and fits perfectly.
The downside of the wall of sound approach is that the recording lacks subtelty, and that is more important in this work than in many others. Whereas Karajan, for instance, would let the strings at the close of 'Saturn' fade out into tranquil nirvana, Rattle lets them appear to stop dead.
This criticism aside, Rattle earns top points for several instances in the piece where his emphasis is quite radical. I've noticed this before with him - whether it is the jazz influence or something else - he has a forgiveable habit of syncopating the big punch: it seems to come at a point where you did not expect it, and yet it all fits together.
All in all, this is marvellously disciplined interpretation, full of life and vigour and it will not disappoint, which alas is more than one can say about the second disc's contents of 'asteroids'. These are all freshly comissioned so there is in essence no anticipation to be disappointed. The playing is again crisp and clear, but only Turnage's 'Ceres' and Dean's 'Komarov's Fall' elicited from me more than a dull response.