Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op.53 (1880) [29:56] Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op.95, ‘From the New World’ (1893) [36:29]
Nathan Milstein (violin)
Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, Hague Philharmonic Orchestra/Antal Doráti
rec. 4 March 1951, Northrop Auditorium, Minneapolis (concerto), 7 October 1952, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, DORÁTI EDITION ADE070 [66:23]
The performance of the Dvořák Violin Concerto by Milstein here (one of several he recorded) was reissued by Naxos in 2004 and reviewed on this site by myself and Jonathan Woolf. There, the coupling was the Glazunov Concerto and Mozart’s Adagio in E, K 261 and the Rondo, K 373. Here, given that this is the Doráti Edition (as opposed to the Nathan Milstein chapter of the Naxos Great Violinists series), the coupling is entirely apt: the famous “New World” Symphony acts as bedfellow.
The Naxos transfer of the Violin Concerto was by the experienced Mark Obert-Thorn; Here, Chris Bereton has transferred the performance over to compact disc from a French HMV original (FALP 158; the original issue was on an RCA Victor disc, M 1537). Much though I enjoyed the orchestral detail on the Obert-Thorn, the detail is still here in the newest transfer but with an added warmth. The elfin opening to the finale remains one of the finest on disc; one can almost imagine the Czech folks in traditional dress drawn on the disc cover dancing to this, especially as Doráti’s contribution introduces a real earthiness. All of which allows for increased enjoyment of Milstein’s performance; the sweetness of his high range, the tensile way with the composer’s lines which layers over a sheen of intensity; the deliciously judged close to the slow movement.
Whereas with the Naxos disc the emphasis was on Milstein, here it is shared between Doráti and Dvořák in the exciting Hague version (he recorded it several times, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra version on this same label was reviewed by Brian Wilson here). Atmosphere is huge here; rarely if ever have the muted horns with their section link in the famous Largo been more effective than here. Lovely transfer, too, the pizzicato strings, so nicely placed by the Hague musicians, nicely audible. The recording does have problems coping with the second movement climax however, crowding somewhat (it copes much better in the finale); the return of the cor anglais melody comes as something of a relief. And yet the tissue-thin strings as the composer fragments the material towards movement end is utterly magical.
There is plenty of dynamism in the final two movements, strings digging in deep in the finale. Here, as elsewhere, everything is impeccably musical and well-drilled, with a particularly lovely final movement horn solo.
Doráti’s Hague “New World” is perhaps best thought of as refreshing and light. And if it is true that the Hague Philharmonic is not a great orchestra, they are certainly on best behaviour for the great maestro. The transfer here is from a Philips LP.
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