Symphony No. 7 in D minor Op. 70 (1885) [37:42]
Symphony No. 8 in G major Op. 88 (1889) [37:14]
Symphony No. 9 in E minor Op. 76 “From the New World” (1893) [44:26] American Suite Op.98b (1895) [22:13]
Philharmonic Orchestra/Libor Pešek
rec. Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 1987 VIRGIN
CLASSICS 5220392 [75:12 + 67:12]
can find Pešek’s symphonic cycle on Virgin Classics 5618532
- the eight CD box set contains the symphonies and orchestral
works. More selective purchasers, wanting the
best-known symphonies, might want to gravitate to the Liverpool
recordings contained in this two-disc set. The cycle of
course was split between Liverpool and Pešek’s home
not heard them before. One can get all too cosily inured
to other performances if, scanning one’s eye along the
shelves, one sees the talismanic names – the obvious ones
of Talich, Kubelík, Rowicki, Kertész, leavened by Szell,
Reiner, Barbirolli et al (a very long et al)
for other individual excellences.
can be undervalued but he’s more often inspired by Suk
than Dvořák in my experience and for all the virtues
on display here these are not world beating performances.
The sound is a little distant for one thing and that crucial
sense of spatial distance can tend to blunt the immediacy
of the playing. The Seventh is an interesting example
of not playing up the oft-quoted Brahmsian influences.
Things here are, partly as a result of the recording, rather
too diffuse to be fully effective, especially in the tuttis – this
was a not entirely successful digital set-up. The string
moulding is certainly effective and the Wagnerian cadences
are, like the Brahmsian ones, not underlined in red ink – which
is to the benefit of the symphonic argument. For those
who feel this is the composer’s greatest and most consistently
inspired symphonic statement the performance may well sound
The Eighth Symphony
is rather better; buoyant and resilient. The central panel
of the slow movement is slightly too italicised for my
own tastes – Rowicki and the LSO in their classic recording
are even slower here but the syntax is more tautly sustained.
I tend to prefer a leaner tempo all round but a slower
one can well be justified if it’s convincingly sustained – Kubelík
is another who knows just how it should be done. The scherzo
is charmingly balletic but the finale lets things down.
The tempo really is too slow and the tempo relationships
far too elastic - for all the sensitive detail unmasked
the edifice tends to collapse.
conductor remade the Ninth with the Prague Symphony
and that was altogether a better all-round performance
than this Liverpool one – faster and more incisive. Rhythmically
too it was a class apart. Again Pešek takes a very laid
back approach to the opening movement – especially for
a Czech conductor. The leisurely slow movement is not so
bad though it could do with a sharper sense of rhythmic
pointing. It’s a pleasant all round recording, but rather
slack and underpowered.
American Suite is invariably well done – as it is here;
warm, lyric, pliant and invigorating when required and
with some excellent terraced dynamics.
can easily anticipate me here. Pleasant but variably convincing
performances, not optimally recorded, add up to a bit of
a lukewarm reception.
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