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If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor Op. 95 From the New World (1893) [45:13]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)

Symphony No. 2 (1943) [23:01]
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
rec. Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, 13-14 March 2005. DSD
TELARC CD-80616 [68:16]

As Paavo Jarvi points out in his brief foreword to Kyle Gann's liner note, both these symphonies were premiered in the USA. Both works involve their composer's recalling a distant homeland with all the poignant longing that comes from separation.

I am not at all sure about Järvi’s Dvořák 9. Often in the first movement the music seemed effortful with accenting and points being made in a laboured way as at 4.30. By contrast Järvi brings out every ounce of pathos from the Largo. The brusque Beethovenian gesture at the start of the clamant molto vivace registers very strongly. While little mannered gestures may momentarily distract (1:40) overall this movement works well. The finale is both dramatic and sprightly. There is much here to enjoy but I would not prefer this in the face of the versions by Kondrashin, Kubelik and Kertesz.

The first five of Martinů’s six symphonies were written in quick succession during the years of his wartime exile to the USA. The Second arose from a commission by a group of Czech expatriates. It was premiered by Erich Leinsdorf and the Cleveland Orchestra on 26 October 1943 in the same concert as the premiere of the Lidice Memorial (recently superbly done by Conlon on Capriccio).

The Second Symphony is certainly lyrical. Its singing heart is in the andante moderato but there is also a skippingly commedia dell'arte element most clearly in the springy poco allegro third movement and in the finale. The buzzy-busy music of the finale reflects the composer’s wild and woolly neo-classical forays in Paris. However what we hear in this symphony more often than not reminds us that here is the same composer who in a couple of year’s time was to write the Fourth Symphony.

Järvi's No. 2 is as ebullient and lively as his father's version on Bis. Comparison's with the recordings by Flor, Neumann, Thomson and Kuchar are not really appropriate given the coupling. Those others are all-Martinů discs. The Telarc disc is the only CD to presents the Martinů 2 alongside Dvořák 9.

Here is a not untroubled but still effective Dvořák 9 alongside a very good Martinů 2. Congratulations all round on thoughtfully provocative programming.

Rob Barnett

 

footnote

Rob:

I hope you don't mind me commenting on a detail in your interesting review of the recent Telarc CD of Dvorak 'New World' and Martinu Symphony No 2 on MusicWeb International.

You write about Symphony No 2: 'It was premiered by Erich Leinsdorf and the Cleveland Orchestra on 26 October 1943 in the same concert as the premiere of the Lidice Memorial (recently superbly done by Conlon on Capriccio).'

From what I've seen in other references the works were premiered on the same day but not at the same concert - the Lidice performance was in New York conducted by Artur Rodzinski. The date is given as October 28, Czech National Day. Martinu and his wife attended the Cleveland concert.

I've recently heard the Telarc CD and your comments seem to me just right.

Best wishes,

MARK TODD

 

 



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