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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
CD1
Symphony No. 5 in F major Op. 76 (1875) [37:47]
Othello Overture Op. 93 (1891) [13:42]
Scherzo Capriccioso Op. 66 (1883) [12:41]
CD2
Symphony No. 7 in D minor Op. 70 (1885) [37:03]
Symphony No. 8 in G major Op. 88 (1889) [36:42]
CD3
Symphony No. 9 in E minor Op. 76 (1893) [40:24]
Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)
Vltava from Ma Vlast (1874) [12:04]
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra/Mariss Jansons
rec. Konserthuset, Oslo, Norway, 1988-1992. DDD
first released on EMI Classics: CDC7 49995-2; CDC7 54663-2; CDC7 49860-2 and later on Brilliant Classics 92779
EMI CLASSICS TRIPLE 50999 5 00878 2 2 [3 CDs: 64:20 + 73:45 + 52:28]

 


Strange … or is it? Brilliant Classics issued the exact same set under EMI licence in more basic style only two years ago. They have done well although the three discs have a slightly lop-sided feel with only four of the Dvořák Nine. Looking back at the now almost forgotten old numbering they represent numbers 1, 3, 4, and 5. Had Jansons recorded number 6 the symmetry would have been better. However he departed for pastures fresh before EMI could add the Sixth. 

Jansons carved out for himself a reputation as a top-rank Tchaikovskian with his Chandos set of the six numbered symphonies and Manfred. It’s still a premium item after all these years. Jansons then jumped ship to EMI Classics. These Dvořák symphonies represent one of his earliest forays with his new host and rank as pretty much of a success. 

Jansons chases selected details of the first movement of number 5 with a fiery urgency. Small gestures are given a keen impetuous edge. Yet there is also warmth. The sound is quite gripping. 

Othello is superbly done including a lightning sharpness in the little instrumental flurries at the start. Is it my imagination or does Jansons bring out parallels with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth and Hamlet at circa 3.00? The romance of the score sings in ingenuous candour at 5:34 onwards. In the final gestures Jansons again drives an angry edge into the darker material. The Scherzo Capriccioso is  a showcase for the warmth of the recording in the baritonal range. As a reading it shows a tendency to slacken the tension although the grateful folk-dance at 6:10 is a delight as Jansons reasserts his grip. 

Coupling symphonies 7 and 8 has been a popular move since the earliest days of the compact disc. These are radiant readings with Jansons making much of the lilt of the third movement of No. 7 and its mildly tragic occlusion of mood. He brings to the Eighth much excitement and snap. Even in the pastoral pipings he keeps the momentum going. His engaging way with the Seventh carries over into the Allegretto grazioso of No. 8. The brass distinguish themselves with their rollicking and rolling roar in the finale. 

Finally the Ninth. Interesting that, as with Othello, Jansons brings out parallels with Tchaikovsky – this time the Fifth Symphony. Split-second simultaneity of attack and an easeful way with the many lyrical and reflective moments make this memorable.

The Smetana Vltava is another strong contender with much succulent capital made of the effervescent woodwind as well as the opulent string tone. 

If the coupling appeals this box will serve the listener well and deliver a Dvořák that is not merely affable but also lyrically urgent.

Rob Barnett
 

 

 

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