Gustav Holst's The Planets
has been recorded dozens of times over the decades and might never have been recorded again but for the fact that in 2000 composer Colin Matthews wrote a movement for Pluto, which was undiscovered during the First World War when Holst composed the suite. "Pluto the Renewer" is the title Matthews gave to our furthest orb, which takes 248 years to circle the Sun and for 20 of those years flies within Neptune's orbit. Thus Matthews cunningly requires his tribute to emerge from within the petering female chorus of "Neptune"'s tail as if it were an eclipsing moon.
Its appearance is at first deceptively quiet. The celeste sprinkles specks of stardust onto this eerie, uninhabited sound-world before scurrying strings suggest a turbulent surface and the first of two sudden awesomely violent storms engulf the whole. At the end Holst's choral coda re-appears. The effect is magical. The Renewer renovates a faded brocade. The orchestra is in excellent shape and gives no sense of complacency with this most famous, almost hackneyed work. Indeed, the RSNO has a long association with it as its 1980 recording under Sir Alexander Gibson is still arguably the finest in the catalogue. This Naxos disc gives it a run for its money, however, especially as it also includes a splendid account of Holst's rarely performed solo cantata The Mystic Trumpeter with soprano Claire Rutter. She sings Walt Whitman's words with gripping clarity. --Rick Jones
Gustav Holst : Les Planètes - The Mystic Trumpeter, Op. 18 - Colin Matthews : Pluto / Claire Rutter, soprano - Orchestre National Royal d'Écosse - Dir. David Lloyd-Jones