If you’re going
to buy this SACD at all, do so for the Fibich. Presumably
added as a makeweight and because it is exactly contemporaneous
with the famous New World Symphony, Podvečer
was Fibich’s last symphonic poem. Its middle section - and
the part often excerpted as ‘Počme’ - is a portrait of the
composer’s beloved Anezka Schulzova. In fact this expansive
middle section evokes many sounds of Nature. The whole piece
is lovely and the Philharmonia Hungarica plays with real affection
- the solo cello, uncredited, is not wholly in tune, however.
The music suddenly becomes very Richard Straussian just after
the fifteen-minute mark. There are even nods towards Rimsky-Korsakov!
Do try to hear
this work. There are two Supraphon performances that spring
to mind that you might find more authentic, though – Sejna
in 1950 with the Czech Philharmonic on S1920-2 and Vajnar
with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1983 on SU3197-2.
Neumann is available with the ‘Počme’ on Orfeo and Supraphon,
both Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
I cannot muster
much enthusiasm for this New World. It begins in rather
ponderous fashion - almost reverential - but soon becomes
sluggish. Drama is lost throughout the first movement. The
recording tends to muddy in the lower-mid, timps either suffer
from the recording or are played with the softest felt. Balance
can be strange – the brass is near-inaudible at around 5:05;
around the eight-minute mark the only phrase I could find
was, ‘deadly dull’.
The famous slow movement
is better - there is some sense of atmosphere here. Opinions vary
on the use of horn vibrato, but it usually works with Central
European players, and here it is just right. A shame the acoustic
seems too boomy; although Producer/Engineer/Editor details are
given, there is no indication as to venue or recording date. The
Scherzo marks a return to the problems of the first movement.
Here accents are blunted and the Trio lumbers along – remember
the loss of momentum of the first movement? The sound, too, can
feel congested. Fatally, in the finale around 3:08 the ensemble
actually threatens to crumble.
Booklet notes are
brief to say the least. It appears this disc previously appeared
as Forlane FF036. The SACD format offers few favours here. If
you really want the Fibich, then this is an acceptable performance.
But there are so many fine New Worlds that a recommendation
is frankly difficult here.