Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Antonín DVORAK (1841-1904) Serenade in E, B52.
Hugo WOLF (
1860-1903) Italian Serenade.
(1881-1945) Divertimento, Sz113.
Saito Kinen Orchestra/Seiji Ozawa.
Philips 462 594-2 [DDD] [61'20]
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The Saito Kinen Orchestra is clearly a good, well-drilled ensemble that has these works fully within its grasp - but without, unfortunately, that extra dash of character that would make this delightful trio of works a mood-uplifting experience.

This is, indeed, a lovely programme. Dvorák has his collar unbuttoned for his Serenade, B52 of May 1875. As far as this performance is concerned, the opening maestoso exemplifies the Japanese problem. It is very exact and very correct but needs more elegance and charm. Both the second and fourth movements (Tempo di valse and Larghetto respectively) are allowed to breathe more, but transportation to the Bohemian pastures remains a partially-completed journey. Even the ending is on the harsh and perfunctory side. All very well-drilled, but not the heart-felt experience it should be.

Wolf's Italian Serenade acts as a jolly enough interlude (the sun is metaphorically beginning to break through the clouds) before Bartók's Divertimento emerges as the best of the disc. The contrast between solo and tutti sections is felt well, the Molto adagio is appropriately ghostly and the finale is sprightly and full of life (and possessed of real weight when necessary).

The recording is more than acceptable, but despite the enjoyable account of the Bartók and the intelligent programming, it is difficult to justify the full-price cost for this disc.

Colin Clarke

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