It really must be hard to imagine a more melodic symphony than this full
of beguiling tunes that spin around in the head for days especially those
two sparkling dances that comprise the Allegretto grazioso third movement.
Handley's reading of these is ravishing. In fact this performance is, for
my money, as good as any you will hear. He introduces a much-needed sense
of dramatic intensity and mystery into the first movement thus pointing up
the contrast between the more sunny and joyful elements.
Handley even manages to make the weaker final Allegro ma non troppo with
its rather banal military figures sound interesting. There are currently
over sixty entries for this popular symphony in the R.E.D. catalogue. The
Gramophone 1999 Good CD Guide prefers: Mackerras, Järvi (again on Chandos,
recommending his readings of all the Dvorak symphonies - but beware the book
wrongly attributes these to Handley!); Masur, Abbado and Ancerl.
Handley also delights in the idyllic pastoral evocation, with its myriad
birdsong, that is the Overture: In Nature's Realm with its lovely
lilting main melody. He also rejoices, excitedly, in the hustle and bustle
of the country fair that is the subject of the Carnival Overture.
Yet he does not neglect the voluptuous or the darker more dangerous aspects
of this exciting overture. Finally, the elegant string playing of the London
Philharmonic Orchestra distinguishes Dvorak's lovely Nocturne for Strings
which was one of the composer's first works to captivate British audiences.
A confident recommendation