I admit to having a soft spot for Karajan's unusual take on The Planets, but compared to Boult there really is no competition. In fact, as far as I know, no one has really come close to realizing the urgency, vitality and shimmering beauties of this score in manners to rival his (apart from himself in earlier recordings of the work). And it's obvious from the very beginning - Mars is simply blood-curdling; sinister and minatory and mercilessly violent. In comparison, Venus is as stirringly serene and beautiful as they come - it's hard to pinpoint exactly what Boult does that no one else to my knowledge manage to do, apart from the wonderful sounds he draws from the Londoners, but the music seems to acquire a depth and a range of almost otherworldly atmospheres (obviously rather fitting) that you never quite hear elsewhere. It is as if all other performances end up sounding earth-bound and mundane in comparison.
Mercury is utterly magical (though for once the playing might just sound a tad untidy, but mostly, I guess, as a consequence of Boult's - convincing - breakneck speed) and Jupiter displays unmatched muscularity and dynamism and breadth; utterly magnificent, and shaped like one long arch culminating in a thrilling close (and the stirring big tune is a part of that big accumulation of magnificence rather than the culmination itself). Saturn is stirring and smoldering, and the climax tremendously powerful, making the mysterious tranquility of the ending all the more effective. And the success of this performance continues with a marvelous Uranus of swagger, glitter, orchestral wizardry and earth-rattling power, and culminates in a Neptune whose icy, otherworldly mysticism cannot possibly have been surpassed, ever. The sound quality is vivid, detailed and well-balanced. A benchmark recording if there ever was one.