Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904) (all arranged by Nicholas Ingman)
Serenade for Strings in E major Op 22 [28:36]
Violin Sonatina in G major Op 100 [22:05]
Serenade for Wind in D minor Op 44 [25:25]
Members of the Czech Nonet; Helena Hnykovŕ (violin); František Kuda (piano)
Camerata Nova Prague/Josef Suk
rec. Prague, 1988 (?)
MUSICAL CONCEPTS MC114 [76:20]
Here are three of the composer’s best and most genial works on a well filled and affectionately played disc. It comes, however, with a twist; all three have been re-arranged with a different instrumentation by Nicholas (Nick less formally on the cover) Ingman. Two – Opp. 44 and 100 - are straightforward arrangements for string orchestra. I can understand that the attraction that this has for such groups, although there is surely more than enough music which was originally written for them to keep them occupied. The attraction for the listener is much less obvious. The arrangements are certainly well made and well played but have the fatal flaw of softening the impact and lessening the character of the originals. In the Wind Serenade in particular I miss the sharpness of rhythm and more varied textures of the original scoring. Blandness creeps into a work that is anything but bland in the form in which the composer left it. Similar considerations apply to the Sonatina. It is hard to imagine how Josef Suk, a master of the work in its original form, can have agreed to conduct such a colourless version of this minor masterpiece.
What we know as the Serenade for Strings was originally written as an octet for clarinet, bassoon, horn, two violins, viola, double bass and piano. Although that version has been lost it was later rewritten in the form we know today. This recording presents an attempt by Nicholas Ingman to reconstruct the original. It is of course impossible to know how close or otherwise this might be. Certainly it never sounds ungainly or stylistically improbable, but at the same time I never felt that any parts of the music suddenly came alive or can be perceived differently as a result of the rearrangement. It simply sounded like a very professional re-orchestration which adds nothing to the original. Perhaps I am simply too familiar with the composer’s published version, but, especially in this rather airless recording, I did not find listening to it an experience I would wish to repeat.
Although the leaflet states in terms “recorded Prague 1988” it also indicates that the rearrangement of the Wind Serenade was commissioned in 1989 so that it is likely that 1988 is the date of recording of the (former) String Serenade only.
All in all this is an interesting but unsatisfying disc. It would provide very pleasant background music but adds little to our understanding or enjoyment of these wonderful works.
Very pleasant but adds little to our understanding or enjoyment of these wonderful works.