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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, ‘From the New World’.
Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-93)
Fantasy Overture, ‘Romeo and Juliet’
New Philharmonia Orchestra, Philharmonia
Orchestra (Tchaikovsky)/Riccardo Muti.

Recorded in No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road in May 1976 and March 1977 (Tchaikovsky). [ADD]
EMI Encore CDE5 74961-2 [61.15] Superbudget

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These two works make a most attractive coupling. The playing of the Philharmonia Orchestra (‘New Philharmonia’, as it was called for the Dvorák) is of the highest standards, and at budget price it becomes highly recommendable. It certainly sounds as if a generous amount of rehearsal time was provided for preparation: Riccardo Muti’s interpretation of both works is remarkably thoroughly thought through.

Another contributory factor to the disc’s success is the recording quality, which demonstrates an inviting warmth missing from most more recent issues. It nevertheless also has the ability to capture the ferocity of the string’s bite at the opening of the last movement, does not obscure detail and demonstrates an admirable sense of perspective. There are many moments of beauty throughout the performance: the marvellous phrasing of the second subject of the first movement by the solo flute; the creamy balance of the chords which open the slow movement; the sense of space breathed by this same movement; the sprightly rhythms of the Scherzo. Only the Trio is slightly laboured and a little literal, but that is not enough to withdraw any part of the recommendation. Over and over again passages which can sound routine in other hands are revealed as gripping here. This performance would make an ideal partner to the much more recent and just as musical account by the Budapest Festival Orchestra under Iván Fischer on Philips 464 640-2. review

Can there ever be a surfeit of recordings of Romeo and Juliet? Certainly the catalogue has never been short of them. Gaetano Delogu’s live account with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra on Supraphon SU3256-2, coupled with Tchaikovsky’s cruelly underrated First Symphony is tremendously exciting, while Sian Edwards provides a reading which is resilient to multiple playings with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (EMI Eminence CD-EMX2152).

Muti brings an Italianate passion to this fiery music. The real pianissimo and beautiful voicing of the opening leads to sweeping string articulation and moments of real tragedy as well as eroticism. Muti follows the ebb and flow of the musical narrative perfectly. If the ‘heartbeat’ of the timpani near the end of the piece could be clearer, the final chord has a real drama and finality about it which seems to sum up the intensity of the reading overall.

Overall this disc represents a marvellous bargain. Buy it before EMI delete it.

Colin Clarke

 


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