This disc, very well recorded in 2001, delivers two fine performances with the contrasting character of each symphony clearly differentiated with the eighth being more Slavonic in character than the more internationally nuanced ninth. The playing of the Fischer's regular orchestra is well up to the usual standard. This is the SACD version of the previously released stereo only disc.
The disc starts with the ninth symphony. Right away there is a clear sense of urgency at a fast basic tempo. This takes us away from the Slavonic to the New World with less emphasis on Slavonic rhythmic underpinning. Although the music does not lose its lyrical sub plot, there is no doubt from the outset that this performance will be aiming for an exciting and dramatic conclusion. The first movement repeat is observed which underlines the scale of the piece. The largo gives the required respite and is essentially pastoral in general flavour but led with a firm hand. The scherzo is nice and tightly pointed and the finale matches the first movement by adopting fast tempo and building to an exciting conclusion.
The eighth symphony is taken at a more leisurely pace with, correctly, far more emphasis on the Slavonic mood. The sensation of dance is present for much of this performance in contrast with the ninth. Fischer takes the bars following on from both the first movement's climax and also the first climax in the last movement without any slackening of pace, exactly as Dvorak wrote. This, importantly, maintains the climatic tension previously built into the music and carries the musical argument forward correctly. On the other hand Fischer includes some chromatic runs for the trumpets and other instruments in the last movement which is not an advantage and not what was written either.
Despite that quibble this disc is clearly a quality product in terms of performance and recording. There are far too many fine performances available of this repertoire to label any one as definitive, but this is certainly one of the best and there are plenty to choose from. From older generations, Reiner is fine especially in its SACD remastering and so is Szell, also now remastered in 24 bits. The Kertesz recording is available with the same coupling and also in 24 bit remastered sound. In more recent times there are excellent performances by Jarvi, Chung and Ashkenazy to consider. On DVD/Bluray there is a particularly satisfying version by Abbado with a terrific Brahms violin concerto from Shaham as well as a Verdi overture.
I would therefore suggest that this disc is well worth considering as an 'only' buy or as a comparative purchase for collectors who will also wish to own at least some of the above mentioned alternatives. The coupling is also both generous and useful.This is a very competitive field but this disc can be added to the best available.