HOLST:  The Planets, Op. 32.  ELGAR:  Serenade for Strings, Op. 20.
Frauenstimmen Staatsopernchor Stuttgart; SWR Radio Symphony Orch/Roger Norrington, cond.
HANSSLER CD 93.043 (F) (DDD) TT:  62:10
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ENGLISH STRING MINIATURES (Volume 4)
HOPE:  Momentum Suite (Dance, Intermezzo, Momentum).  BRIDGE:  Two Pieces (arr. P. Hindmarsh) (Valse - Intermezzo; Scherzo Phantastick).  CARSE:  Two Sketches (A Northern Song; A Northern Dance).  TOMLINSON:  Graceful Dance.  HOLST:  A Moorside Suite (Scherzo; Nocturne; March).  DELIUS:  Two Aquarelles.  LEWIS:  English Suite (March; Meditation; Jig; Jaunt).
Northern Sinfonia/David Lloyd-Jones, cond.
NAXOS 8.555070 (B) (DDD) TT:  62:14
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The final issue of Schwann/Opus (Vol. 12, published 2001) listed 29 recordings of The Planets (not counting non-orchestral versions). A decade ago I authored a Basic Library for Stereophile covering 35 recordings which included many fine performances since deleted (Colin Davis/BPO, Haitini/LPO, Ozawa/BSO, Steinberg/BSO and Svetlanov/Philharmonia, to mention just a few).  There have been many since then, some of which have already disappeared - and now we have this new version, recorded live in Stuttgart's Liederhalle in June 2001. It is not a serious contender in the Planets discography.  Norrington is surprisingly unimaginative - and the important organ part is virtually inaudible.  Those low pedal notes are important, particularly at the climax of Uranus (the organ glissando in the same movement can't be heard), and to set the mood in the final movement, Neptune. Elgar's Serenade brings the total playing time of this full-priced CD up to 62 minutes.

Naxos' CD, the fourth in their English String Miniatures series, is an absolute delight.  Many of these captivating pieces here receive their premiere recordings.  David Lloyd-Jones (whose Naxos recording of Planets [see REVIEW] is quite superior to Norrington's), leads the virtuoso Northern Sinfonia in superlative performances of these enchanting pieces - nothing earth-shaking here, but constant listening pleasure - and at budget price.  Try out the third movement, Momentum, from Hope's Momentum Suite, Graceful Dance by Tomlinson, or Jig and Jaunt  from Lewis' English Suite, and you'll be hooked.  Superb sonics, too.

R.E.B.  (July 2002)