Slavonic Dances, Op.46 – No.1 in C
Symphony No.9 in E minor, Op.95 (From the New World)
Czech Suite, Op.39
Slavonic Dances, Op.72 – No.2 in E minor
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 22 & 23 June 2011 in Lighthouse, Poole, Dorset, England
CD No: WARNER CLASSICS 2564 66656-3 Duration: 75 minutes Reviewed: November 2011
Dvořák Symphony Cycle Volume One: New World Symphony – José Serebrier & Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra [Warner Classics]
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
And so begins what should be an intriguing recorded cycle devoted to the nine symphonies of Antonín Dvořák, a composer whose reputation is worldwide yet it hangs on a handful of works with so much else of his not so much neglected as spurned in favour of box-office success. Although José Serebrier won’t be the first conductor to record all of Dvořák’s symphonies (Kertesz, Kubelík and Rowicki come immediately to mind in this capacity), there does seem a need for a further single-minded approach to this often-wonderful repertoire; and, in addition, the plan seems include other orchestral works of Dvořák including the complete Slavonic Dances, two of which are included here. Indeed the first of the Opus 46 set opens this first release and does so with a blazing opening chord and swinging rhythms: this Dvořákian enterprise is engagingly launched, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (to be Serebrier’s partner for the whole project) lively and attentive and clearly at-one with its conductor, Serebrier himself suggesting himself as an attractive champion of his music.
And so it proves in a fresh-faced account of the ‘New World’ Symphony, a very expressive performance, subtly detailed and with a wide dynamic range, which the recording encompasses with ease – although the Lighthouse (as so often, as recorded) remains problematically coloured, reverberant and recessive at times, but the ear adjusts. Following an uplifting account of the first movement (exposition repeated), the famous Largo follows on almost immediately (a conscious decision on Serebrier’s part or an editing glitch?). This is a great success at a flowing tempo, an unsentimental reading that touches the heart (the cor anglais player should have been credited) and which allows Serebrier to negotiate seamless tempo-relationships (which he also does notably in the opening movement) and build tension without mawkishness. The scherzo follows almost with a break: it’s too soon! Exhilaration and lilt inform the music, though, and the finale (this time with a convincing attacca into it) is enjoys light and shade on its way to a resounding (and jazzy!) conclusion.
This very enjoyable version of a popular symphony is followed by something from Dvořák’s Bohemian soul, the always-delightful Czech Suite with its bucolic drones, pastoral melodies and elegant measures. Although fortissimos ‘swell’ too much in this acoustic, Serebrier and his players (not least the woodwind solos) lavish much affection on this pleasurably gentle and shapely music. To close is another Slavonic Dance, the yearning E minor from the Opus 72 set, its nostalgic gambits radiantly played; it’s a heart-rending rendition.
This makes a handsome beginning to a notable enterprise. Next up are three stellar masterpieces from Dvořák’s catalogue, the Seventh Symphony, In Nature’s Realm and Scherzo capriccioso.