Symphony No.7 in D minor, Op.70
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis
Recorded at the Barbican Hall, London on 21 March 2001
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: February 2003
CD No: LSO LIVE LSO0014
It’s fatal if the conductor tries to make Dvořák sound like Brahms, a trap Colin Davis seems unaware of, let alone falls into. Arguably this the greatest of Dvořák’s symphonies is given time to establish its domain (Bohemia not Hamburg), its folk touches, rhythmic dance and intense lyricism – Dvořák putting into music matters of nationalism, of inner strength, of personal declaration.
Dvořák’s concentrated symphonic structure is given powerful and intimate impetus by Colin Davis and the LSO, vividly recorded. That said, the brass can be too dominant, the violins seem a little recessed in tuttis, and there’s a need for more incisive timpani at times; however, woodwind detail sparkles and the bass line has weight and clarity.
Doubts intrude the first movement – occasionally a little stiff-jointed and texturally too thick, not free-flying enough, which would have traded the massiveness rather well. That said, wind and horn writing is affectionately teased out (guttural-sounding horns entirely native), and there’s no doubting Davis’s heartfelt advocacy throughout, which is at its eloquent best in the slow movement. The Scherzo is fiery and buoyant, the Trio integrated as a single breath with much beguiling expression, and there’s a memorable ’Elgar moment’ towards the close.
If the finale has its direction slightly impeded upon, Davis has an unerring grasp of this movement’s dark-to-light trajectory; the denouement arrives gloriously and with total vindication. There’s no applause, which is fine, but a shame that Martinu’s Double Concerto wasn’t also recorded at this concert, not only a vital performance but also an apt and word-spreading coupling.
Davis has conducted Dvořák 7 with distinction over many years. His Concertgebouw recording for Philips is very fine, and I recall wonderful performances with the Boston Symphony (broadcast) and Staatskapelle Dresden (Proms). A few reservations aside, this LSO account is persuasive, enjoyable and involving, excellent testimony of a conductor who relishes Dvořák for what he is (a great and individual composer) rather than transplanting him.