Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 7.
Václav Talich, cond; Czech PO
OPUS KURA 2080, mono (70:09)
In my review of Arthur Nikisch conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in archive recordings (
32:1), I forgot to mention Talich as one of his conducting pupils—in fact, the one who was undoubtedly the most strongly influenced because he had actually been concertmaster of the
Berlin Philharmonic during Nikisch’s tenure. Moreover, as someone who was Czech by birth and who had actually heard Dvo?ák conduct in person, he was probably as close to a direct link with this composer as anyone on disc could ever be.
These are, of course, famous performances that have been reissued for decades, the Seventh Symphony in particular given a stunning remastering job by Pristine Classical (PASC 048). Opus Kura has done a nice job of removing most, but not all, surface swish, but of course their work is not on the same level as either the Pristine or Naxos reissues of this material. Like Rafael Kubelík, Talich had Czech music in his blood, and it shows. You’ll hear performances as powerful as these, but nowhere near as authentic. The peculiar and indigenous rhythms of the Czech language inform Dvo?ák’s music, as they do Smetana’s, with subtle rhythmic quirks that non-Czech conductors simply do not or cannot reproduce in exactly the same way. Even the great Hungarian conductor Antal Dorati, a wonderful proponent of Dvo?ák, never quite got the hang of the rhythms in exactly the same way.
One thing that impressed me quite favorably upon rehearing these discs was the high quality of the Czech Philharmonic that Talich created. For its time and place, it was a superb orchestra, much more technically secure than Beecham’s orchestras of the era and with a finer tone quality than the early NBC Symphony. Each section is not only strong but also rich in tone, and the overall balance was remarkable.
Even more annoying, to me, than the low amount of original surface noise left in the discs is the continued presence of “swinging copies,” cases where the original 78s were pressed (and, presumably, recorded) slightly off-center. This is maddening because it’s so easy to correct, but no one but me nowadays apparently cares at all. At least, no one at Opus Kura does. Although the Pristine issue of the Seventh Symphony is better than this, the price value is better here because of the inclusion of the first eight
. Supraphon’s “Special Talich Edition” pairs the Seventh and Sixth Symphonies (SU 3832), and at nearly 81 minutes in length is possibly an even better buy, but having not heard this reissue I cannot comment on sound quality. Naxos, on the other hand, pairs the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies on 8.111045, and Mark Obert-Thorn’s remastering is exemplary. A difficult decision, then. Talich’s recordings of the
, once quite common, are now only available on a DVD of 1955 TV performances (Supraphon 7010), so this is a vauluable reissue. The op. 72 set is slated for future release by Opus Kura.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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