HOLST: The Planets, Op. 32. The Mystic Trumpeter, Op. 18.
Claire Rutter, soprano; Ladies of the RSNO Chorus; Royal Scottish National Orch/David Lloyd-Jones, cond.
NAXOS 5.110004 TT: 68:37 (5.1 channel)
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ELGAR: Symphony No. 3 (Sketches by Elgar elaborated by Anthony Payne)
Bournemouth Symphony Orch/Paul Daniel, cond.
NAXOS 5.110003 TT: 54:59 (5.1 channel)
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Two more DVD Audio disks from Naxos, and welcome they are indeed - particularly as the price is very reasonable (about $12), performances are first-rate, recorded sound state-of-the-art.. Both of these have been reviewed by Roger Dettmer on this site in their regular CD issues (HOLST) (ELGAR). R.D. approved of these performances, although he didn't approve of Colin Matthews' "completion" of Planets by adding Pluto (the planet hadn't been discovered when Holst wrote his symphonic suite 1914-1916). Matthews' pistache includes snippets from other movements of Holst's suite, has minor interest, but it is unlikely Pluto will be performed except as an oddity. The movement was premiered in May 2000 and was also recorded by Mark Elder with the Hallé Orchestra for Hyperion, also reviewed by R.D. On the original Naxos CD Pluto also was present, but it is not on the DVDA issue. Perhaps copyright expenses would have increased the cost of this disk. Pluto really is not missed; R.D. dismissed it as an "erratum," not an "addendum" to Planets. The Naxos disk does have an attractive bonus, Holst's "scena" for soprano and orchestra, The Mystic Trumpeter, a setting of Walt Whitman poems, beautifully sung by Claire Rutter.

Elgar's reconstructed "symphony" is an oddity, just as is Pluto. While it is somewhat intriguing to hear what Elgar generally had in mind for his third symphony, and there are traces of the "Elgarian sound", I found little here I'd wish to hear often.

Both of these surround sound DVD audio disks have superb sonics, with the orchestra in front, ambient sound from the rear. The bass drum played softly is heard often in the Elgar and beautifully captured by Naxos' engineering team (producer Andrew Walton, sound engineer Tony Faulkner), with scintillating high percussion as well. It surprises me the quiet, wordless womens' chorus in the final movement of Planets isn't heard from the rear - a missed golden opportunity for surround sound. But then none of the other surround sound recordings of Planets do this either. On SACD we have the Chesky version with Dennis Russell Davies conducting, and on Sony we have Leonard Bernstein); the other is a DVDA with André Previn on EMI.

R.E.B. (June 2003)