Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Symphony No. 9 in E minor From the New World Op. 95 [44:14]
Leos JANÁČEK (1854-1928)
Sinfonietta, Op. 60 [23:21]
SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg/Sylvain Cambreling
rec. 7-9 September 2005, Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (Sinfonietta), 25-28 June 2009, Festspielhaus, Baden-Baden, Germany (Symphony)
GLOR CLASSICS GC11421 [67:35]
I’ve played this Dvořák New World three times now and every time starts like this - “It can’t be that good” - and ends like this - “wow, it is”. There is serious fire in the first movement, with all-out orchestral playing, high romantic heat and thunderous climaxes, contrasted with a largo that is simply exquisite in its beauty and slow, nocturnal pace. Only a couple of passages in the finale let up on the full emotional power of the reading, but by the end you’ve forgotten about them and can’t help but stand in admiration. The fact that this is the SWR Orchestra of Baden-Baden and Freiburg, under Sylvain Cambreling, rather than, say, the New York Philharmonic, makes it not just a superb reading but a very gratifying surprise.
The one serious blemish on the Janáček Sinfonietta is a sense of hurry in the opening and closing fanfares. It’s actually about the same speed Ančerl and Mackerras use in their classic readings, but over time I’ve come to prefer a little slower delivery. Maybe it’s me. Everything in between goes well, and the finale is suitably physically exciting. The fourteen trumpets sometimes do fail to live up to their incredibly high expectations, since in this work any sign of timidity is weakness. The Dvořák is the star performance though, coming as it does from out of nowhere, and being, as it is, utterly outstanding and thrilling, a high octane account.
The sound isn’t flawless - I believe these are live recordings but the booklet doesn’t say - but it is more than good enough, and the presentation is better than I expected from little-known Glor Classics. Certainly, if you want to hear an unexpected success of a New World Symphony, order this, although if you’re perfectly content with Kubelík, Mackerras, Szell and a host of other past greats, this is not especially necessary.
An unexpectedly thrilling New World with full emotional power. Who’d have known?
Masterwork Index: Dvořák 9