This new reissue
has a lot going for it, bizarre cover art notwithstanding.
of both works are very fine, and the coupling of Dvořák's
best concerto with his best-loved symphony is apt. Both works
date from the period the composer spent in New York as director
of the National Conservatory of Music. While some, as Raymond
Tuttle points out in his biographical booklet notes, have found
American influences in the music, both pieces are quintessentially
proves a sensitive and generous soloist in the concerto. He
is a fabulous cellist, with technique to burn and a golden
tone. He delivers a virtuoso performance here, but an understated
one. Unlike Rostropovich, Piatigorsky or Du Pré in their various
compelling accounts, he does not impose himself on the music.
Instead he engages in dialogue with the orchestra, allowing
his instrument to sing soulfully in the slow movement and the
gorgeous coda, but giving the orchestra space to shine. The
duet between solo cello and solo violin about half way through
the finale is a prime example of his sympathetic approach.
Sir Colin Davis
has made some of his finest recordings with this orchestra
- including his recording of the last three of Dvořák's
symphonies (Philips Duo 456 327-2 ) - and the rapport between
podium and pew here is affectionate. His rubato is generous
and he suffuses the score with warmth. This is not the most
commanding or penetrating performance you will hear, but it
is a lovely reading, caught in warm analogue sound.
The symphony was
recorded some 21 years earlier than the concerto, but apart
from a little crowding at the climaxes, the sound is almost
as good. Dorati turns in a performance of pace and power. The
brass bray, full-throated, in the first and last movements,
and attacks are crisp. He is free with his tempi in the flowing
second movement, and his scherzo breathes fire. The orchestra
gives him everything he asks for. Again, this is not the most
well-rounded, detailed performance of this much-loved symphony.
My prime recommendation in this price bracket is Harnoncourt
For sheer animal excitement, though, Dorati is hard to beat.
In both of these
performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra is wonderful.
This must be one of the two or three best Dvořák orchestras
in the world – next to the Czech Philharmonic. I say this because
Dvořák's scores benefit from a particular type of orchestral
sound. Warm string tone, characterful woodwinds, and athletic
rather than muscular brass are the keys, at least in my mind,
and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra has all of these. The
winds in particular are amazing. Just listen to the delicious,
luxurious cavalcade of woodwind solos before the cello's first
entry in the first movement of the concerto, in dialogue with
the cello in the concerto’s finale, or the haunting cor anglais
solo in the famous largo of the symphony, and you will see
what I mean.
This disc deserves