Customer Review

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some of Dvorak's best music played and recorded superbly, 7 Jun 2010
This review is from: Dvorák: Symphonic Poems (Audio CD)
This collection of Dvorak's late symphonic poems is the clear winner (by a nose!) in a field that has some very hot competition. Classic performances by Talich Dvorak The water goblin Vol7 and Kubelik Dvorák-Slavonic Dances Op. 46 & 72; Overtures; Symphonic Poems have been front-runners in their time (and they are still remarkably fine performances) but this "twofer", sold by Amazon as a superb bargain, presents a stunning recording of the Royal Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra in the finest and most natural of modern sound. Harnoncourt's interpretations are masterly.

Present day competition comes from a one-disc compilation on Superaphon of Sir Charles Mackerras' recordings over the past few years Dvorak - Symphonic Poems and Sir Simon Rattle's Berlin Philharmonic "twofer" on EMI Dvorák - Tone Poems. Both are also very well recorded, and Rattle's, at slightly slower speed than Mackerras but at broadly similar tempi to Harnoncourt, rich and rounded. But the Harnoncourt has a particular quality of absolute rightness throughout that is hard to fathom but is certainly there.

Take the end of "The Wood Dove". Where Rattle produces lovely quiet playing from the BPO and a melancholy that is almost sweet, Harnoncourt's sadness is that of exhaustion and emptiness, and this is produced by a slightly faster tempo and slightly less "sympathetic" phrasing in the strings. After all, this not the end of Mahler 9 where the grief of death is the common lot of humanity: no, here we have depiction of the just consequences of murder and deceit.

One can listen to these works as "pure music" but the programmatic element is vital - even as far as the shape of themes in "The Golden Spinning Wheel" matching the rhythms of Erben's original poem in Czech. The notes in this issue are helpful here.

If you do not know this music it is top-flight Dvorak. He took on what was the then very cutting-edge development of contemporary symphonic poems (see, for example the early works of Richard Strauss) and produced four triumphantly Czech folk epics. As, unaccountably, these works are hardly ever played in the concert hall, this superb Harnoncourt compilation is your best bet at getting to know them in very fine performances.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Feb 2013 14:09:00 GMT
Yi-Peng says:
Have you heard the Järvi Chandos twofer? I ask because these versions are fine too. It really helps that the Järvi set includes the Hero's Song as an extra. Most recordings of the tone poems only focus on the Erben quartet of orchestral ballads but Järvi includes that non-Erben poem in his set.
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Colin Fortune
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Location: Birmingham, UK

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