Notes and Editorial Reviews
Whatever its structural weaknesses, [Symphony no 1] is full of colourful and memorable ideas, often characteristic of the mature composer. Järvi directs a warm, sometimes impetuous performance, with rhythms invigoratingly sprung in the fast movements, and with the slow movement more persuasive than in either of the two versions I have used for comparison, not just the Kubelik—where it is taken markedly faster—but the Kertesz/Decca version.... The recording, warmly atmospheric in typical Chandos style, is among the best in this series, not always clean on detail but firmly focused. I have never heard the Brucknerian fanfares in the slow movement more persuasively done.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [4/1989; reviewing
Symphony No 1]
Järvi directs a characteristically warm and urgent performance of this exuberant inspiration of the 24-year-old composer. It is by far the longest symphony that Dvorák ever wrote, and was longer still in its original form, before the composer revised it. As Ray Minshull put it, when commenting on the Kertesz/LSO issue, which he had produced for Decca, Dvorák ''later learnt to be jubilant more concisely''. The jubilation is what matters, and there is plenty of that on this record.... There is much to enjoy in a richly inventive score, one which always leaves me amazed that it took almost 100 years to publish, let alone get in the repertory.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [7/1988; reviewing Symphony No 2]
Dvorák's E flat Symphony, the most rewarding of the early works, with its radiant first movement in a flowing 6/8, its striking funeral march slow movement and crisply rhythmic finale, receives a characteristically affectionate reading from Järvi and the Scottish National Orchestra, opulently recorded in typically reverberant Chandos sound.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [5/1988; reviewing Symphony No 3]
There was a time, when I counted the Fourth Symphony as a disappointment next to both the winningly lyrical Third and the heartwarming Fifth. Certainly there are a few obvious Wagnerian derivations here, notably from Tannhauser in the slow movement, but it has taken this ripely expressive reading under an Estonian conductor to bring it fully home to me just how characteristically Czech Dvorák's inspiration already is. This is a more affectionate reading than that of Kertesz on the vintage Decca recording now well transferred to CD. Both Kertesz and Kubelik (whose DG recording is available on CD as part of a complete Dvorák cycle) are brisker in the first movement, but that expansiveness allows Järvi to bring extra expressive warmth to the flowing melody of the second subject. The problem at that slower speed is to sustain tension in the main theme with its sharply dotted rhythms, and more particularly in the often difficult transitions. With luminous sound from the SNO—helped by excellent Chandos sound, among the finest in this series—Dvorákian glow is irresistible, making the movement weightier as well as warmer than with Kertesz.
In the second movement Andante sostenuto Järvi like Kertesz chooses a flowing speed, far more convincing than Kubelik's funereal pace. Allowing himself more rubato, moulding melodic lines most persuasively, Jarvi avoids the squareness which with Kertesz brings out the Wagnerian echoes too blatantly. Comparably in the bold march-time trio of the third movement with its jangling cymbal and triangle, Järvi avoids vulgarity through persuasive rhythmic pointing and careful balancing. And where in the gallumphing main theme of the movement Kertesz is above all fierce (reflecting the marking Allegro Feroce), Järvi makes this roistering tune swagger infectiously. In the finale too Järvi is cunning in his handling of the obsessive rhythms of the main theme, avoiding heavy-handedness.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [12/1988; reviewing Symphony No 4]
I greatly enjoyed this team’s recent Chandos account of the mighty Seventh Symphony (1/96) and can bestow nearly as warm a welcome on their new Fifth. Again, the poised response of the Czech Philharmonic is a pleasure in itself and Belohlavek’s affectionate, yet lucid direction has much to commend it.... The Scherzo trips along most engagingly, full of that easy bounce and swagger which comes so naturally to home-grown performers, while the trio, taken at a more measured tempo than usual, possesses a delectable point and wit to make you really smile. Most distinctive of all, though, is Belohlavek’s weighty conception of the finale. If, alongside Sejna and Rowicki (the latter another wonderfully stylish and invigorating interpreter of this symphony), there is a certain lack of exhilarating forward thrust, Belohlávek’s view has a compensating dignity, imposing concentration and slumbering cumulative power that I found immensely satisfying.... Belohlávek’s sincere and unusually thoughtful interpretation of the symphony will reward discerning Dvorákians.... Most enjoyable.
-- Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone [2/1997; reviewing Symphony No 5]
Belohlávek, in a Gramophone interview last year (2/92), referred to his Czech orchestra's ''singing art of playing'' and its ''mellow sound'', whilst admitting that it lacked the necessary punch for Stravinsky. There wasn't much rhythmic kick in the most recent Dvorák Sixth from this orchestra, conducted by Pesek on Virgin Classics, and even less motivation. Belohlávek's is altogether more lively, and recorded with more colour and range. Still, it is Bohemia's woods, fields and wildlife, rather than energetic village green festivities, that linger in the memory here. Perhaps you shouldn't expect a Czech Philharmonic performance to 'go' or leap about excitedly in the manner of Kertesz's with the LSO; in these days of high adrenalin, high contrast and high definition, there's a lot to be said for a less assertive and vigorous approach, always artlessly sung, and for this orchestra's Old World timbres a Brahmsian fireside glow, for example, to the Symphony's first movement second subject on cellos and horns (beautifully eased in by Belohlávek). These horns, always more rounded in tone than their rasping counterparts in London (Kertesz) or Cleveland (Dohnányi), bear an obvious family resemblance to the woodwind, not only in timbre, but also in the use of vibrato (again, that ''singing art of playing''). And the 'silver moon' flute is one of this disc's principal joys. Chandos as ever guarantee a sepia-toned warmth throughout.
-- John Steane, Gramophone [11/1993; reviewing Symphony No 6]
Jiri Belohlávek is a lucid, sure-footed guide through Dvorák’s mightiest symphonic utterance, and his sympathetic direction combines both warm-hearted naturalness as well as total fidelity to the score (dynamics are scrupulously attended to throughout). If this newcomer sounds just a little under-energized next to such vividly dramatic accounts as those from Dorati, Kubelik or Rowicki (the latter on Philips, 3/73, but currently unavailable), the sheer unforced eloquence and lyrical fervour of the playing always give enormous pleasure. Certainly, the first movement’s secondary material (into which Belohlávek eases effortlessly both times round) glows with affectionate warmth, whilst the sublime Poco adagio emerges seamlessly, its songful rapture and nostalgic vein captured as to the manner born by this great orchestra (listen out for some gorgeous work from the principal flute, clarinet and horn). The Scherzo trips along with an infectious, rhythmic spring, as well as an engaging poise and clarity; moreover, the dark-hued unsettling trio (a casualty in so many rival performances) is handled with equal perception, particularly the poignant, all-too-brief glimpse of D major towards the end at 4'28'' (such marvellous horns here). The finale, too, is immensely pleasing, marrying symphonic thrust with weighty rhetoric rather in the manner of Sir Colin Davis’s distinguished Amsterdam account. The closing bars are very broad and imposing indeed. All in all, a performance of considerable dignity and no mean stature, benefiting from characteristically vibrant Chandos engineering.
-- Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone [1/1996; reviewing Symphony No 7]
In No. 8 Jansons unashamedly takes the view that the opening section is an introduction, and not only does he wait to establish the main tempo, he points the moment of change very clearly, adopting a slow tempo and moulded style before it and a brisk, urgent manner after, leading from one to the other with an accelerando. Pesek and Dohnanyi by contrast let the passage follow through seamlessly. When the score does not indicate a change, purists may well resist, but Jansons's view has tradition on its side, and to my ear sounds the more effective. Jansons in the slow movement takes a relatively broad, affectionate view, with the downward scales for the violins at fig. C (track 6, 3'10'') delectably pointed, always a key passage.... Jansons's warm, lilting account of the scherzo is rounded off with an exhilarating coda, and he then launches into a winningly spontaneous-sounding reading of the finale. It is striking how each contrasted variation develops as though inevitably, leading up to a final coda full of panache, with the trills on the horns made to snarl superbly.
-- Edward Greenfield, Gramophone [6/1993; reviewing Symphony No 8]
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 4 in D minor, Op. 13/B 41 by Antonín Dvorák
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Written: 1874; Bohemia
Length: 14 Minutes 50 Secs.
Symphony no 5 in F major, Op. 76/B 54 by Antonín Dvorák
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1875; Bohemia
Length: 10 Minutes 30 Secs.
Symphony no 7 in D minor, Op. 70/B 141 by Antonín Dvorák
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1884-1885; Bohemia
Length: 10 Minutes 59 Secs.
Symphony no 6 in D major, Op. 60/B 112 by Antonín Dvorák
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1880; Bohemia
Length: 13 Minutes 16 Secs.
Symphony no 8 in G major, Op. 88/B 163 by Antonín Dvorák
Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1889; Bohemia
Length: 9 Minutes 34 Secs.
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