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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the very best in a hotly competitive market, 19 May 2013
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dvorak : Symphony No.9 & The Water Goblin (Audio CD)
This disc, very well recorded in 1999, enters a hotly competitive market where any new entry will have to be very special indeed to even get a mention. This disc undoubtedly succeeds on every level.

The recording itself is very good with good internal balances within a natural acoustic. Nothing is unduly highlighted and the stage depth is convincing. The performance of the symphony includes the important first movement repeat so the balance of the symphony is established correctly.

Harnoncourt manages to achieve a number of frequently contradictory results. The performance has clearly been carefully thought through and in a way that is typical of Harnoncourt. Every detail is made to have impact. This level of preparation could lead to a perfect but dull performance. Not so here. This performance has all the excitement and thrill of a top quality and vibrant 'live' performance and thus achieves the best of both worlds - considered but spontaneous performance.

The Water Goblin is one of the dark tales that Dvorak, towards the end of his career, set in his series of tone poems. These are founded on Czech folk tales, all of which contain stories centred around gruesome events. In this tale the Water Goblin abducts a girl and takes her to the watery depths to be his wife. The girl eventually returns to her mother but this story, typically, does not have a happy ending. To find out more you will need to buy a recording! These tales presumably appealed to Dvorak as they gave him so many opportunities to explore imaginative orchestral effects which he clearly relished. Harnoncourt makes the most of them too.

I would suggest that this disc deserves to be considered as a clear front runner and can be compared with the very best of either the symphony or the Water Goblin. There can never be a 'best buy' in such a strong field but this is one of the best.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A towering performance..., 24 Aug. 2005
John David Charles Hilton "Creative spark...." (Redcliffe, Bristol United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I had high hopes for this recordings. The main work is one of my favourite symphonies and Harnonocourt is one of the most respected conductors in the world, and is here conducting one of the finest orchestras.
Upon hearing it, it became clear that it easily lives up to my expectations. This much recorded masterpiece sounds fresh in his hands. This is the work of a conductor who has thought deeply about the score and he brings it to wonderful life. He has the measure of the whole thing and all four movements are just spot on, in particular he has the measure of the finale in all its moods. And the cor anglais solo in the largo is most affecting. It is a live recording, but the audience are thankfully unobtrusive throughout.
And The Water Goblin is no mere makeweight. Once again it is a searching performance that brings new light onto the work. It is a studio recording.
The sound quality of this DVD is impeccible. The surround sound adding punch and presence to the music in a way that stereo never could.
The only extra is a short historical timeline. It doesn't add much.
This is a disc I would recommend to all music lovers. For Dvorak fans it is almost worth buying a DVD Audio surround system just to hear this recording in all its surround sound glory.
Good quality, classical DVD Audio discs are still a bit thin on the ground, but hopefully that situation will change as more are released.
All in all an excellent release that goes someway towards justifying the new format.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting new recording of a repertoire favourite, 19 Jun. 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Dvorak : Symphony No.9 & The Water Goblin (Audio CD)
This new CD has been attracting rave reviews elsewhere, and having now heard it for myself I can understand why.
Nikolaus Harnoncourt brings a freshness and depth to this well-performed work, giving it a beautiful, juicy, rich texture full of excitement.
Dvorak's "The Water Goblin" also receives the Harnoncourt treatment, which, again, sounds so full of vitality.
This is one CD I have enjoyed listening to several times, and, I'm sure, will continue to do so for a long time to come.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harnoncourt achieves the impossible, idiomatically combining Bohemian humor with bittersweet nostalgia, 3 Nov. 2011
Andrew R. Barnard (Leola, Pa United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dvorak : Symphony No.9 & The Water Goblin (Audio CD)
It takes a skilled conductor to make Dvorak nostalgic and thoughtful while still being fun, but Harnoncourt meets the challenge head on. This is a beautiful reading, one that never ceases to amaze with its insight. And what orchestra could be more suited for the music than the Concertgebouw? Harnoncourt connects wonderfully with the orchestra; rarely has a conductor fit so perfectly with the Concertgebouw. In the end, as with Harnoncourt's Schubert with the same orchestra, I get the idea that Harnoncourt deserves the most credit for the success of the music, but only an orchestra of the highest rank could capture his vision. The Concertgebouw does so effortlessly.

The "New World" Symphony is so familiar that it can easily pass by without moving us. It won't be here. Harnoncourt is able to add new meaning on virtually every page. In his hands, the music sounds unburdened and imaginative. After listening to this account, I feel moved, but it's more than the fun that's moving me. It's intensely personal, maybe even private, revealing that Dvorak is about more than humor. There's a depth that is moves me to the core. I wouldn't have thought of Dvorak as a composer to move me to tears, but Harnoncourt has changed all of that.

That's not to say that this performance is all seriousness. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard this symphony sound so gloriously free. The Concertgebouw is the lightest and fleetest of orchestras, and they can maneuver through all the tosses and turns in the symphony without a trace of struggle. Harnoncourt pulls out the most miniscule of details and takes every chance he gets to treat our ears with Bohemian fun. What I think is responsible for making this recording such a winner is the combination of fun and nostalgia. I've heard conductors who have no problem revealing one of these two aspects, but the way Harnoncourt reveals both of them is staggering, surpassing my highest expectations.

The Water Goblin is anything but an afterthought. It sounds every bit as fresh as the "New World". Honestly, why don't we hear the late Dvorak tone poems more often? They sound just as interesting as the symphonies to me--in fact, they're far more dramatic and riveting. Harnoncourt displays character throughout The Water Goblin, and it's a joy to take in such an idiomatic thriller. While Harnoncourt knows how to deliver power and passion where needed, there's an intimacy that, as in his "New World", fills one with bittersweet memories.

In closing, I don't think I could ask for anything more in Dvorak. Harnoncourt has done something wonderful, and I'm going to be regularly turning back to this disc, as it has rejuvenated my love for Dvorak.
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Dvorak : Symphony No.9 & The Water Goblin
Dvorak : Symphony No.9 & The Water Goblin by Antonin Dvorak (Audio CD - 2006)
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