Antonín DVORÁK (1841-1904)
Serenade for Strings in E, Op. 22 [27:15]
Pyotr Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48 [29:33]
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice/Leoš Svárovský
rec. 29-30 August and 2 September, 2000, Pardubice University Hall, Pardubice, Czech Republic
ARCODIVA UP 0031-2 031 [56:48]
Assume for a moment that you really could use another recording of these works. This CD is as fine as any: tender phrasing, conducting which never puts a foot wrong, a sense of lightness and charm throughout, and good recorded sound. It adds the unusual trait of bass response so good you can hear the tones of the double basses playing their lines throughout, not just a general background rumble. The Czech Chamber Philharmonic Pardubice is small, but not so small that it can’t make these serenades glow.
I suppose my only concerns are the very rare touch of scratchy or unsteady playing buried somewhere in the strings (only audible when you listen as closely and critically as we do, not the way people usually listen to string serenades!) and the fact that there are so many other albums coupling the Dvorák and Tchaikovsky serenades. They don’t get much better than this, but on the other hand, if you have a performance you’re especially satisfied with (say, the Prague Chamber Orchestra on Supraphon or the Amsterdam Sinfonietta on Channel Classics for the Dvorák, or Philharmonia/Muti for the Tchaikovsky), you may not need to make the jump. If there is any chance that this fills a space on your shelf, I say do it. Rare clarity and precision in the first movement of the Tchaikovsky, a slow movement therein that’s not too weepy, and a chamber sound which might not be plush but it’s as sprightly and graceful as can be hoped for. Top-notch.
Top-notch performances, with rare clarity and freshness, though there’s plenty of competition.