One must remember that it was the stereo LP that finally catapulted Holst’s “The Planets” into international orbit in the 1950s and '60s because recordings could accommodate its crunching cataclysms and quiet, cool mysticism with equal ease and difficult balance problems could be solved with the turn of a dial. The Los Angeles Philharmonic participated in two recordings that helped sell the piece -- one a highly idiosyncratic version with Leopold Stokowski, and the other a famous Zubin Mehta sonic spectacular whose jackets bore the sticker “The Ultimate Trip.”
Yet those who love “The Planets” ought to hear it in a really good acoustical space like Walt Disney Concert Hall, where Russian conductor Vassily Sinaisky and the Philharmonic went at it Thursday night (continuing through Saturday).
The extroverted movements fared best. “Mars” had just the right deliberate tempo and a menacing momentum that was overwhelming, even spine-chilling, in this hall. “Jupiter” was not too fast, heavy in weight, but free of chest-thumping pomposity; “Uranus” had a good galumphing rhythm and plenty of razzmatazz.
On the other hand, I missed some of the celestial sensuality in “Venus” -- and “Neptune,” despite a wealth of revealed detail, seemed a bit too immediate, not cold and remote enough. Also, the women of the Pacific Chorale were cut off abruptly at the close of “Neptune” instead of continuing the long fade into silence (admittedly a tricky task outside the recording studio).