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AntonŪn DVOŘŃK (1841-1904)
Symphony No.9 From the New World Op.95 (1893) [39.17]
Carnival Overture Op.92 (1891) [8.53]
Bedřich SMETANA (1824-1884)

The Bartered Bride Ė Overture (1866) [6.32]
Jaromír WEINBERGER (1896-1967)

Schwanda the Bagpiper Ė Polka and Fugue (1927) [9.18]
Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Fritz Reiner
Recorded at Orchestra Hall, 1955-57

Thereís still an inevitable sliver of tape hiss but Reinerís New World still sounds splendid. Itís every bit as vibrant and self assured as one would expect but without any sense of excessively hard-driven tension. He draws particularly expressive playing from wind principals and from the ravishing Chicago string choirs (try the ecclesiastical piety of the melody line of the slow movement) and spices this with youthful playfulness. His Scherzo is ebullient and powerful and the finale sweeping but not overdone - and with tremendous inner rhythm. If, in the last resort, this isnít quite as verdant a reading as the almost contemporaneous Paray it lacks for nothing in individuality and excellence of execution. Itís unfortunately the only commercial recording of a DvořŠk symphony that he ever recorded.

Coupled with it on this all-Czech disc is a driving and ebullient, though super-subtle Carnival and a good Bartered Bride overture; not as fizzy as some but with no false theatrics about it. The Polka and Fugue from Schwanda the Bagpiper is more than a mere postscript though one may have wanted more meat from the programme. Itís worth noting however that these were three composers with whose works Reiner was certainly familiar. Itís often overlooked that he shared the conducting duties at the Slovenian opera house in Laibach with Talich, a near contemporary, and one he greatly admired, though their New World recordings retain independence. Both revered Nikisch and both followed in Mahlerís footsteps; heíd conducted there about thirty years before. Itís not hard to trace the seed of Reinerís enthusiasm for Czech music to these early days around 1910 when he was known as Friderik Reiner and engaged on important operatic work in the Municipal Theatre. He led Dalibor there, his only performance of that opera, though itís true that his Smetana repertoire was limited. Itís a pity however that we have no Fall or Weiner from his Hungarian heritage; he was a strong advocate of the latterís music and examples of, say, the Serenade for Small orchestra, the Divertimento after Old Hungarian Dances and the Pastorale, Fantasy and Fugue certainly showed up often in his concert programmes; and he did record the Divertimento in 1945 on 78, though never on LP.

That said the total timing of this disc is perfectly acceptable. This is a SACD to which Iíve been able to listen only on an ordinary set up.

Jonathan Woolf

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