Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
In Nature’s Realm, Op. 91 (1891) [14:49]
Carnival overture, Op. 92 (1891) [9:38]
Othello overture, Op. 93 (1891-1892) [14:35]
My Home, Op. 62 (1992) [10:07]
Hussite overture, Op. 67 (1883) [13:38]
PKF - Prague Philharmonia/Jakub Hrůša
rec. January 2015, Forum Karlín, Prague, Czech Republic
Reviewed as a 24/48 download from eClassical
Pdf booklet included
PENTATONE PTC5186532 SACD [63:14]
The Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša (b. 1981)
has been well reviewed on these pages; Brian Reinhart admired his account
of Smetana’s Má vlast (review)
and Leslie Wright made his Dvořák and Lalo Cello Concertos with
Johannes Moser a Recording of the Year in 2015 (review).
Hrůša leads a chamber ensemble known as the Prague Philharmonia
in the kind of repertoire that his compatriot Rafael Kubelik did so
well. Indeed, I turned to the latter’s DG Trio set of the Slavonic
Dances and overtures for comparison here.
Hrůša faces a variety of challenges. For a start this small
group lacks the weight and colour palette of a full-sized orchestra,
and an anaemic sound is not what one wants in these wonderfully
robust pieces. Also, Polyhymnia's recording isn’t as immersive
as some of their recent offerings; Mikhail Pletnev’s ravishing
Scriabin comes to mind (review).
More important, Hrůša just can’t match Kubelik for sheer
spontaneity and sense of idiom; those folk tunes are just too unyielding,
and everything else seems rather calculated. As if that weren't dispiriting
enough these performances lack personality or any sense of presence.
The Hussite overture is certainly exciting, but even then the
more experienced Kubelik shows how it should be done.
Incidentally, the 16-bit download of that Kubelik set isn’t cheap
– it sells on Qobuz for Ł16.50 – but you can cherry-pick
the overtures for less. If you’d like the Slavonic Dances
as well then the DG Trio CDs – available online for under a tenner
– are fantastic value. It’s an indispensable release, and
it’s well recorded to boot.
I’ve also listened to Hrůša’s earlier Janáček
collection from Supraphon; it includes the Lachian Dances,
the Cunning Little Vixen suite and Taras Bulba. This
time he leads Janáček’s home-town orchestra, the Jena Philharmonic.
Although the playing is decent, the readings leave much to be desired.
Yes, the organ in Taras Bulba is splendid, but the performance
itself is very dull indeed. Sir Charles Mackerras and the intensely
dramatic Wiener Philharmoniker are still sans pareil in that
one. Also,, the early Decca digital sound is as good as it gets.
I was extremely annoyed to discover that the Supraphon download - unlike
the Pentatone one - comes without a booklet. Following my grumpy Tweet
the label offered to email me one; with respect, that's not the way
to go. They also insist that download sites (DSPs) don’t want
booklets – they cite iTunes in this regard – but eClassical
and Qobuz tell me otherwise. All this buck-passing is very tiresome;
in the meantime downloaders are being short-changed, even though they
often pay more for these files than they would for the equivalent discs.