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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor From the New World, B178 Op.95 (1893) [42'34"]
Serenade in E for String Orchestra, B52 Op.22 (1875) [28'06"]
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Rafael Kubelik
Recorded at a public concert in the Herkulessaal of the Munich Residenz on 25 May 1977 (Op.22) and 20 June 1980 (Op.95)
ORFEO C596 031B [70'49"]


Eighteen years part these two works of Dvořák, the first relatively early in his career, the last that of a master craftsman. Although the Serenade is no stranger to the concert hall, it is somewhat of a Cinderella piece. At this time the family were awaiting the birth of their second child, and following some recent successes the future looked hopeful. Dvořák was obviously in good spirits as the work was completed in only eleven days and this in a year which produced three major chamber works, and the Fifth Symphony, as well as some songs and the opera Vanda. The usual concert performance nowadays is of a revised edition from the original autographed copy and 34 bars in the Scherzo (including the viola solo) and 79 bars in the Finale are omitted. There are other small changes from the original, which are restored in Hogwood's version with the LPO (Decca 448 981-2DEC).

The New World symphony is really too well known to need comment; suffice it to say that this music was bread and butter to Kubelik, whose interpretations and performances of music from his homeland will be sadly missed. One could always rely on him to produce a sane, sensible reading without histrionics, but fully imbued with the essential nature of Czech music. This is demonstrated on this disc in both items. Listen to the Valse-trio second movement of the Serenade; the "lilt" of the music is so well caught and conveyed that one can barely refrain from swinging arms and conducting in company. The larghetto shows much gemutlichkeit but without becoming syrupy or over-sweet. The symphony is given a very traditional but nonetheless satisfying reading - no surprises, but Kubelik allows the music to speak for itself. Throughout the orchestral playing is good and obviously responsive to the conductor's directives.

The recording is excellent and balance more than satisfactory. The big surprise is that the audience is so well-behaved, so much so that the applause at the end comes as a shock. Previous to this there is not a sound to be heard from them. This is the last in a series of performances of Dvořák's works given by Kubelik at live concerts. I have not heard the others, but if they yield performances as on this disc, they can be recommended as good sound unidiosyncratic performances.

John Portwood



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