Supraphon must be among the most constant of labels in sustaining recordings
in their catalogue. In this respect they can be compared with Hyperion and
Dvorák in Three Choirs mode can be difficult to take these
days. About his writing can hang a Victorian fustiness. However Stabat
Mater fends off this weakness most of the time. The reason for this
is, no doubt, the tragedy that prompted its writing: the death of his daughter
Josefa in 1875. The Symphonies rarely if ever track into tragic pastures.
This work is as close as Dvorak gets to tragedy although Othello is
not far distant. The singers are a very strong team with muscular tone production
and dignified expression. Only Krasova lapses from this high standard in
the Inflammatus. Talich marches with the prevailing winds which can
be Verdian (as in Eja Mater), Beethovenian (Fac me vere) and
Schubertian (Fac ut portem). His hand is confident and attentive.
To Suk's Asrael. This work is certainly relevant and
strikes home with fresh strength across the ages. It is scorched with two
deaths: that of Dvorák (his father-in-law) and Dvorák's daughter,
Otilie, Suk's wife, who died 14 months after Dvorák. The amplitude
of Suk's language is broad and deep. The reach of the music is epic; the
language steeped in a late romanticism shared with Korngold and Strauss but
staunched by a dignified restraint. That restraint makes the tragedy of
expression even more poignant. Even in the alert woodwind as in 7.55 the
perkiness is melded with rasping brass and affirmative horsepower from Talich.
Talich brings out surprising parallels e.g. the great funereal tread of the
andante foreshadows Shostakovich (02.03). The leering capering spirits
of the Vivace are a charnel equivalent of Mendelssohn's Midsummer
Night's Dream. The great Adagio avoids sollipsistic self-pity
but embraces emotion head on along the way taking in pre-echoes of Bax, Holst
and Griffes, The brass bray in the Adagio e maestoso reflecting most
powerfully the tragedy that rises like a fog from this music. Love, anger
and bereavement meet, boil, strike, flense and probe through the pages of
this great symphony which is confidently of the twentieth century.
This is a great performance Mahlerian in its emotive updraft. Talich feeds
the glowing brands with pure oxygen. Of his successors only Kubelik (Panton)
and Behlolavek (Chandos) have stood unflinchingly at the same furnace door
or discovered comfort among the louring clouds of an epilogue worthy of those
in Bax's Third and Sixth Symphonies.
The set has classic status compromised because, by the side of the Suk, the
Dvorak work stands in the shallows. To this extent the only weakness is unequal
partnership. Talich's Asrael would stand happily alone. There are
few works that can match its darkly inclined ardour and few interpretations
that can even approach Talich.