Given that the principal
work is From the New World let’s
start with the Slovak Suite or
Slovacko as it’s called in Czech
– properly the Moravian-Slovak Suite.
There is no shortage of competition
even here, though obviously more a trickle
than a Dvořákian
Mácal has the
great benefit of his Czech Philharmonic
and a good recording. But In Church
doesn’t flow with quite the sense of
logic as Talich or František Vajnar
summoned, both with the Czech Philharmonic
and both on Supraphon, and neither is
he quite as subtle as their readings.
But Among Children is rhythmically
well sprung and Two in Love unfolds
eloquently – very warmly and with a
well judged contrasting trio section,
though just a touch on the slow side
overall. The folkloric fiddles exemplify
The Band adroitly though perhaps
the phrasing could be more expressive
in At Night. It’s a fine reading
but not for me a frontrunner.
The Czech Philharmonic/Talich
is the classic historical reading, though
the recording is saddled with a weedy
organ. The Royal Liverpool and Pešek
are very expansive, far too much so
for my liking. Šejna and the Brno State
Philharmonic turn in a much admired
reading preferable as a performance,
despite its relative antiquity, to the
Pešek and also to the Prague Chamber
A pity that the big-hearted Bohumil
Gregor didn’t record it, as his other
Novák performances on disc were splendid.
Which leaves my favourite, the Vajnar.
If you can face another
New World, here’s another New
World. Mácal however has
decided views on proportion and tempo,
so it’s not a dull performance by any
means. The opening movement is quite
slow and genial. There’s a certain refined
quality to the music making; certainly
he abjures overt theatrics and blistering
climaxes. Phrasing is pliant and the
string choirs are moulded with generosity.
The brass is rounded and never blares.
Fortissimi are malleable and contained;
mellow, not cutting. The slow movement
has an infused piety and simplicity.
It’s also unusually grave in places,
with deftly deployed dynamics. Not everyone
will respond positively but I rather
warmed to it. The scherzo is bold but
not over done and the finale is once
again a study in refined and relaxed
projection. Some of the string phrasing
is gorgeous – though some may well find
once more a want of vitality. So this
is really the obverse of the classic
Reiner; it also offers a widely differing
perspective from classic native performances
as well, especially in its extended
The recording is fine,
quite close, and not especially "bloomy"
but sympathetic. Which is the word that
rather sums up this disc – sympathetic,
and affectionate as well.