Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor From the New World, Op. 95 (1893) [38:25]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-93)
Overture Fantasy Romeo and Juliet after Shakespeare, Opus 13 (1880) [19:19]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Alceo Galliera
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 7 October 1953 (symphony); 15 March 1955 (overture);
First issued: Columbia SX 1025, FCX 124 (symphony); Columbia CX 1065 (overture)

Alceo Galliera's recorded legacy contains a large proportion where he accompanies. One of his most distinguished collaborations is with Callas in The Barber of Seville. This reissue of the New World Symphony has curiosity value, though I would not describe it as essential. Why reissue an unexceptional performance of such an over-recorded symphony? The interpretation is straightforward and worthy, the Philharmonia's playing is very fine, but nothing sets my pulse racing or particularly catches my imagination. In contrast, the recent Silvestri performance from the same label is definitely outstanding – among the most vivid and deeply felt New Worlds available. This makes it all the more puzzling that Forgotten Records should choose to dust off this Galliera performance at the same time. The Adagio beginning of the symphony is disappointingly matter-of-fact and certainly lacking in drama. However, the arrival of the Allegro molto brings a greater sense of involvement, without making one really sit up. The slow movement is honest and straightforward, without any particular individuality. The scherzo again is decent, but to hear more character and imagination we should compare what Silvestri does at Figure 5 - just to select one example. Galliera sounds very routine here. The finale is robust and lively, but Silvestri's performance is fiery and much more characterful. Without wishing to be unfair, I wonder whether the frequent choice of Galliera as accompanist rather than as “centre-stage” actually indicates where his strengths lay – a safe pair of hands, reliably musical. I must mention the beautiful clarinet-playing throughout, not least in the lovely melody at Figure 3 in the finale.

Though Tchaikovsky receives a sturdy, exciting performance, the extra degree of electricity is missing and there is not enough tension where it matters in the introduction. The Philharmonia plays wonderfully – cellos in the introduction, strings in the furious semiquaver passages, horn in the love music, etc. etc., but again this would not be a top recommendation. It is simply a very good performance of the score without achieving anything special or distinctive. There are no CD notes of any kind.

In case this review seems too negative, I should add that these performances would be absolutely fine as an introduction to these two works. The more fastidious or those suffering from war-horse overkill would probably do better to look elsewhere.

Philip Borg-Wheeler

Simply very good performances without achieving anything special or distinctive.