Dvorak's three concertos were
written in 1876 (piano), 1883 (violin) and 1894 (cello). Like Gerald Finzi,
another transcendental national lyric composer, Dvořák's last orchestral
work was a cello concerto.
Both works are given the customary weight by the Philadelphian
strings. In fact Ormandy encourages a strong symphonic approach to these
two works. This is the orchestral equivalent of a sleek Bentley. The
Cello Concerto emerges best of the two works. However first to the Violin
Concerto. This is a work I have always felt affectionate towards. My
reference set is the Supraphon recording with Josef Suk. The Sony has
Stern in place of Suk. Stern's touch of schmaltz and flashiness sometimes
jars in such a cleanly rustic nationalist work. However there is much
to take pleasure in too. At 10.12 in the first movement no-one, not
even Suk, achieves that moment of pulse-stilling calm. Another example
is the needle-fragile crystal glass dance Stern evokes at the start
of the Allegro giocoso. This is a good interpretation but the
age of the recording tells against it marginally but noticeably.
Leonard Rose is ripe, noble, brilliant, edgy, resinous
of tone and exciting and he brings all the strengths that we know from
his Sony recording of the Brahms Double Concerto. The
sound quality is a notch or two above that for the other Dvořák
work on this disc but still grainy in texture.
Decent notes (regrettably minus any details of when
and where these were recorded) and bargain price complete the picture
of a coupling whose greatest strength lies with the Cello Concerto.