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Antonín DVORÁK (1841 - 1904)
Requiem Op.89 [92.34]
Symhony No 9 in E Minor op95 "From the New World" [42.33]
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
Westminster Symphonic Choir (Joseph Flummerfelt -Choral Director)
Oskana Krovytska (sop); Wendy Hoffman (mezzo)
John Aler (tenor); Gustav Belácek (bass)
Zdenek Macal (Conductor)
Recorded October 1999 New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark. N.J. DDD
DELOS DE 3260 2 CDs[135.18]
Amazon USA

Recordings from the American label Delos are new to me as a reviewer, but from this initial hearing I am reasonably impressed. A generously filled 'twofer' with two major works coupled cannot be bad. Add to that performances that are in the perfectly acceptable to good bracket along with a splendidly clear recording and you have a package that deserves to sell well and probably will.

The performances of the two works will undoubtedly please all but the most critical. If you accept that the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra is not the New York Philharmonic and that the entire programme is from a State or provincial level then any potential listener would be happy to buy. After all, much of the success of Naxos in recent years has been built on similar lines.

The chief pleasure from the CD is undoubtedly the choir and its magnificent singing in the Requiem. I read in the supplied notes that the Westminster Symphonic Choir is composed of students from a Choir College in New Jersey so the Choral Director, Joseph Flummerfelt clearly has good basic material to work with. Vigorous, clearly enthusiastic as one would expect from young voices, there is much refinement and subtlety here and the blend of the whole body is delightfully unified. The Latin texts are clearly heard and in the testing Dies Irae there is no sense of strain. The soloists blend well though some over wide vibrati jarred at times. The Requiem as a whole is splendid. Zdenek Macal chooses his tempi with care and nowhere are they extreme. His orchestra gives splendid support with some fine playing in a well rounded performance that smacks of affection and thorough preparation on all sides.

The New World Symphony that completes the second disc is one that Macal has recorded before at least once. On this occasion he opts for a straightforward, unidiosyncratic reading that succeeds. The opening is brisk and incisive and the Largo comes with a minimum of sentimental baggage (just a hint of lingering). The scherzo showed an excellent woodwind section in the ranks, the strings lacking that final degree of bounce. The Finale - thoroughly invigorating - ending a performance that it would be hard to find unappealing.

A word about the recording. Delos says that their CD's, including this one, can be heard in surround sound through the correct equipment. Not having such facilities I cannot comment on that aspect. Listening conventionally I was aware though that the channels were reversed with violins on the right and some 'compartmentalising' of sound leaving a hole in the middle that at times lessened the appeal of this otherwise very rich, very clear and full-bodied recording.

A double disc that I liked a lot. There are minor reservations but any future buyer should be well satisfied with his purchase.


Harry Downey

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