One of the best performances in excellent sound: Previn/LSO on EMI. The Mehta/LAPO on Decca/London is often cited as excellent sonically; the Previn is a better performance, imo.
Buy the Boult/LPO on EMI--I've heard dozens, and it's my fave. EVERYTHING is JUST right. Previn's is crude and idiosyncratic IMO, and Previn's is the one BAD recording that the two Christophers--Bishop and Parker--ever did. It's highly multi-mono-miced and knob-twiddled. I just bought my 3rd copy of Boult's--EMI CD #7243 5 67749 2 6. Mid-price, too. Boult's soundstage is about 50' deep and 100' wide on my system. The percussion instruments do NOT jump around the way they do in Previn's--in Boult's they're always WAY back there. It's just glorious.
I must chime in, because I find Boult's Planets highly overrated. It has a stiffness and stodginess to it. A very pedestrian and boring reading. Plus I don't find the sound competitive with quality, digital era recordings. Rather upfront, grainy & in your face EMI sound.
The Dutoit on London has very good sound, but is more of a French reading that has much beauty & style-ization, but is not an idiomatic reading.
Steinberg is highly thought of, as is Previn, although I have not heard any of these. I believe one of the Karajan's (EMI?) is supposed to be a great reading.
Sonically the Mehta/LAPO on Decca is generally thought to be one of the best, particularly on vinyl--it's been on the TAS list for years. I think it's good, not great interpretively. I like the Previn, but could live without the Susskind (that's the new MSFL SACD mentioned earlier, not the best they could have chosen). The Dutoit is also very good, though a little too restrained for me. Come to think of it, I still haven't heard one that I really think stands out as the best or exceptional, though I will note that this piece seems well-suited for Decca's recording techniques, as the best sounding ones I've heard seem to be Deccas (Mehta, Dutoit, Solti's UHQR on MFSL label). I'll be following this thread for other recommendations.
This has always been a question on my mind for a number of years. I have the original Previn on EMI ASD 3002, and the Decca and London Mehta. I purchased the EMI because I love the music and TAS gave it such a great review. Then a few years later TAS (HP) raved about the London (then the Decca) version with Zubin Mehta and so I was curious about the performance and sound and purchased both. Well, I agree with Rushton.....but I will be more emphatic: the EMI is the ONE!!!! The EMI Previn is better then the Mehta (I have not heard the others recently) by a good degree. Yes the Metha is very good, but the Previn has the sound (great bass and breath) and a wonderful performance.
Years ago on public radio / on Sat.am / they would select a composition-- they would start out with 5 or so versions. They would play say 3-4 mins. of the first movement by each conductor; drop one version off and explain the differences for each. Then move on to the next movement and do likewise. It was the best of times back then and I miss that show. Guess who always lost out for going to slow for the slow movement and to fast for the fast movements?? (Lenny and Herbie.) Lenny was always good for Mahler esp. w/ the NY PO.
RWD: I agree with you, the Previn is the performance of this music I keep coming back to, and I far prefer it to Mehta, Boult or Susskind. I've not heard the Dutoit.
Jeffreybehr: the Previn is multi-miked, as were all the "two Christophers" recordings. And while I vastly prefer the early Decca engineering, I find the Previn such a superior performance that I'll tolerate the multi-miking, which in any event I don't find nearly as severe you describe. Some of the late recordings of Solti/CSO by J. Kenneth Wilkinson for Decca were far more eggregiously multi-miked (and Wilkie is one of my heroes). In any event, the capture of instrumental timbre and inner detail on the Previn EMI recording is superb.
Ditto Texasdave, I saw MSO perform this piece when lived in Montreal for a couple or wonderful years and this particular recording captures all the energy, sonics and excellent musicianship of this fine and often overlooked orchestra and performance. The bass from the organ pedals on Uranus will snuff out a candle at 3 ft. Charles Dutoit and MSO IMHO are only second to BSO (my home town).
My .02 goes to Dutoit and OSM too. Tremendous bass pedal on Saturn. Shakes the room.
The chorus at the end is among the best finales of this piece. And it should be not be rushed, after all the planets take their time; the ponderous tempo of this version emphasizes the mass and mystery of these objects.
Dutoit's version sounds like space, as Holst intended.
I'm not knowledgeable enough about classical to have my opinion taken as anything more than that, but I'll throw in here that my favorite among the versions I own, for both sound and performance, is Boult with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Vienna Academy Chorus on Westminster Natural Balance stereo LP [WST 14067], though I don't know what year this was recorded, seems like probably early 60's.
I should mention that I have two pressings of the Boult/Vienna, which don't sound equivalent. Both are black labels, but on the one I prefer has "Westminster" in an ellipse above "Stereo" within a blue bar and "Subsidiary of Am-Par Record Co." at the bottom. The one that sounds inferior to me has the Westminster "Big Ben" logo at the top, "Natural Balance" on the sides and "Stereo" in a red field at the bottom with no Am-Par mention. I don't know for sure which pressing is earlier, but the one I don't like as well does have a date in the dead wax: 7/17/59. (It also has the rear panel of the jacket glued on upside-down, though the jackets are otherwise identical.) Could this be a case of a later pressing sounding better? Photos of the labels can be seen on this page, in the ninth and eleventh positions down (don't bother enlisting Google to translate this from Korean unless you have the time to be amused by the resulting gibberish). DG rereleased this recording on CD in their Westminster series, but it's already OOP. Maybe that could sound best of all, because neither of these records seem like they're top-quality pressings or vinyl, though I very much enjoy the sound of the 'blue-bar' version. At least it's cheap if you find it.