This compilation disc is being offered at a budget price and includes many of Dvorák's most famous works, or at least excerpts from them. All of them derive from the back-catalog of the Naxos label and although some of the performances are by artists or groups not necessarily world-famous, there is not a weak performance to be found here.
I particularly liked, on CD1, the Vlach Quartet's playing of the third movement of Dvorák's 'American' String Quartet, the lilting third movement of his Symphony No. 8 played by Stephen Gunzenhauser and the Slovak Philharmonic, and the third movement of the 'Dumky' Piano Trio. I melted at Jana Valaskova's performance of 'O Silver Moon' from Dvorak's opera, 'Rusalka.'
On CD2, highlights include Maria Kliegel playing the second movement from the Cello Concerto, the first movement of the Wind Serenade (played by members of the Oslo Philharmonic), the finale of the Piano Quintet with a vastly underrated pianist, Ivan Klánský, and the Vlach Quartet. The Largo from the 'New World' Symphony (the 'Going Home' movement) is given a radiant reading.
Given the budget pricing and the never less than excellent performances, this is a true winner, particularly for those who want to familiarized themselves with the broad range of Dvorák's music.
This Naxos double CD is effectively a reworking of the original single CD release `The Best of Dvorak', expanded to include more of the composer's music then attractively packaged with new artwork and a card slip-case cover showing an amusing caricature of the composer.
As with any `Best Of' compilation much of the composer's work will inevitably be omitted - Dvorak incidentally wrote around 189 works so the 24 pieces on these CDs represent only a small proportion of his lifetime works. There are however over 2 and a half hours of music here to be enjoyed and it's a good cross-section of Dvorak's music.
The sleeve notes are helpful for those wanting a little more than these highlights, for they provide recommended further listening (all Naxos label CD's of course!). For those who do not wish to delve any deeper and are content with these types of collections there are a number of other Naxos `Very Best Of' releases featuring other composers, which can form the basis of a very respectable and comprehensive classical music CD library.
But it really is difficult to do justice to Dvorak's masterpieces such as the symphony No. 9 `From the New World', when only a 12 minute excerpt (largo, the `Hovis advert' music) is represented on the CD. I recommend this `Very Best Of' on the basis that I think it will encourage the newcomer to venture further into the world of Dvorak.
In summary, an informative and attractively presented mid-priced CD.
(The complete Naxos `Very best Of' series features Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Dvorak, Elgar, Grieg, Handel, Mozart, Puccini, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Satie, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Strauss (Johann) II, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Vivaldi).