Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841–1904)
Symphony No. 7 in D minor Op.70 [37:05]
Symphony No. 8 in G major Op.88 [37:10]
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop
rec. Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, Baltimore, USA 2008-9
The review is of the DTS-HD tracks
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM Stereo

The comments in my review of the companion Blu-ray Audio disc of Symphonies 6 and 9 apply here and should be read in conjunction with what follows. This new series from Naxos has a lot of potential in terms of production quality both as sound and in ease of use. Blu-ray video is not as simple in use as standard DVD, with lengthy loading times and labyrinthine menu systems. Unless player firmware is up to date some video discs will not play at all. Then there is the persistence of regional coding. None of these seem to apply to the audio carrier so Naxos's problem is only to reach a sufficiently large market and for that they must issue the right repertoire. On the draft schedule for the next few months, apart from the Chopin already issued, are Mahler, Szymanowski, Schubert, Schumann and Shostakovich discs: a typically eclectic collection. I think we have reason to look forward with confidence at least in the short term.

As for these two symphonies in particular, Marin Alsop is up against zero competition for recorded quality. There are SACD recordings from Ivan Fischer and George Szell, the former of No.8 and the latter of both 7 and 8 but given the lukewarm reviews of Fischer and the staggering price of the Szell - old stereo-only recordings given a face lift - they cannot weigh heavily. I must repeat that these issues so far have been state of the art. That alone is reason to buy them. You will not get the drama of Monteux in No.7 (Decca/London) or the wonderful electricity of Silvestri in No.8 (EMI originally). It can be argued that performances of such reliability in terms of orchestral playing, the Baltimore Orchestra are very fine, and the lyrical nature of Alsop's direction provide much pleasure when actually listening. Whether you will remember much about the performances afterwards is a different matter.

Dave Billinge

Well played but rather undramatic performances in very fine sound.