Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Antonin DVORAK
Legends 1 - 10, op. 59
Notturno in B major, op. 40.
Miniatures, op. 75a
Prague Waltzes

Budapest Festival Orchestra - Ivan Fischer
Philips 464 647-2 [61.52] recorded in the Italian Institute, Budapest - March and May 1999.

Recorded last year in Budapest here is a disc which has not been languishing in the record company's vaults like many other current issues. It is another in the series being recorded by Philips in Budapest of one of Europe's most exciting orchestral ensembles. The Company started with a small number of Bartok recordings which were award winners, and rightly so, given the life that this ensemble breathes into the music. This is the third time I have heard Fischer and his players in Dvorak - the other two examples were recordings of Dvorak's Eighth Symphony and a very lively recording of the Cello Concerto both on Hungarian labels.

The current release features repertoire that is somewhat unusual. Still, at the moment, this is the kind of music which sells, as not many people want yet another version of the "New World". So what is this music like - is it something that you would enjoy. The answer to this is emphatically yes.

The 10 Legends are like a gentle set of the Slavonic Dances. They were written immediately after the Slavonic Dances for piano duet. Simrock, Dvorak's publisher wanted to repeat the success of the Slavonic Dances and asked the composer to orchestrate some of them. Dvorak complied by orchestrating them all. They were heard by Brahms, who asked Dvorak's publisher "to give my regards to Dvorak and tell him what pleasure his Legends continue to give me".

There appears to be no specific story attached to any of the Legends although Dvorak's silence on this topic may be due to the musical atmosphere of the time around the composer where the subject of "pure music" was being expounded. Not being one to rock the boat, we can perhaps understand why no specific programmes have come down to us. They are sheer delight from start to finish, played with deep love and affection by Fischer and his colleagues.

I say colleagues rather than players as this is the type of atmosphere that this orchestra displays. If any of you saw or heard the Promenade concerts given by this orchestra, you will know about the sheer enjoyment they seem to get simply by playing music together. In this modern day, the playing of this orchestra is something to be cherished and enjoyed.

The other works on the disc are no less enjoyable. The Notturno started life in 1870 as the slow movement of an early now discarded string quartet. It then became part of his String Quintet in G Major. Finally it surfaced in its current form (for string orchestra) in 1883.

The Miniatures were first written as chamber pieces and were produced for Dvorak and his friends to play together. They were re-discovered in 1938 when the original manuscript subsequently arranged for small orchestra.

The Prague Waltzes were written for the National Club in Prague for their thirtieth anniversary ball. There are five waltzes with an exhilarating coda added for good measure - wonderful.

John Phillips

Reviews from previous months

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