Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dvořák · Tone Poems

The Berlin Philharmonic play like angels throughout these colourful works but they truly come alive in 'The Golden Spinning Wheel' which is executed with fabulous imagination. Here, I also retain affection for Beecham's unique interpretation (available on Dutton) with the RPO but Rattle's conducting is truly marvellous. The same goes for 'The Wood Dove' which is also magnificent although Chalabala is still an important benchmark here. The woodwind is fabulously clear in 'The Water Goblin' which is also pretty masterful. -- Classical net

Dvorák’s late symphonic poems have had mixed fortunes. Janácek considered them Dvorák’s most thoroughly Czech compositions, his enthusiasm in part impelled by the elder composer’s technique of deriving many of the melodies in these works from setting lines of the poetry on which they were based. Beecham showed an interest in them in the early 20th century, but later audiences warmed more to Dvorák’s abstract orchestral music, perhaps finding the somewhat gruesome subject matter – murder and dismemberment are a mainspring of the stories – off-putting.

This is a pity, since Dvorák’s musical narration of these pungent fairy-tale ballads is almost always convincing and his ear for orchestral effects unparalleled in his output before the opera Rusalka: the cooing of the wood dove, to cite but one example, is truly spine-chilling. In recent years conductors of the calibre of Harnoncourt and Belohlávek have turned their attention to these neglected works to impressive effect.

Rattle’s readings, however, set a new standard. He turns them into miniature orchestral operas with an unfailing attention to dynamic detail and orchestral balance which allows Dvoák’s inspired scoring to speak eloquently for itself. He is also alive to the abundant emotion and sentiment that makes The Golden Spinning Wheel, for all its rambling nature, such a compelling work. Recorded with vibrancy and a wide dynamic range, these performances unquestionably lead the field. -- BBC Music Magazine

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