Notes and Editorial Reviews
Back in the days of Talich and Toscanini, collectors might have been forgiven for suspecting that when it came to recorded performances of Dvovák’s last symphonies anything worth saying had already been said. Or at least that’s what some critics of the day would have had us believe. A plethora of recent releases has proved otherwise. Abbado, Harnoncourt, Chung, and now Iván Fischer, all have pressing points to make about these perennially verdant works. In Fischer’s case, this particular CD marks something of a partial return visit. Ten years ago he recorded the Eighth Symphony with the same orchestra at the same venue (Italian Institute, Budapest) for the short-lived Quintana label (11/92 –
In terms of timings, the two readings are remarkably similar, and yet the newer performance is warmer, more malleable and significantly more spontaneous. The most telling comparisons are in the second movement. At 4'52", for example, where Dvovák almost becomes the Wagner of Meistersinger, and where, on the new disc, the trumpeter plays with far more swagger. Then from around 9'23", a clinching last defiant gesture, Fischer is more urgent than before, though the bass-line that sits at the close of the movement is vividly caught on both versions. Both employ expressive string slides (a Fischer characteristic in Slavic music), most noticeably at the end of the Scherzo, where a snappy portamento on fiddles is echoed by the brass. Quintana’s recording is preferable in just one small respect, the trilling horn passage in the finale, which is more forceful than on this new release. In other respects, the Philips scores with an extended dynamic range and a fuller, closer string sound.
The Eighth, then, is given a bouncy, lyrical performance, ‘localised’ with the odd gypsy-style inflection. The New World, on the other hand, is intense and energetic. Indeed, it’s some tribute to Fischer’s musical perception that he views the two works in entirely different terms. Small dynamic details invariably tell with a new-found freshness. I’m thinking of the difference between forte and sforzando among the basses in the first movement (at 1'56") and the softness of the second subject, for once a genuine ppp. These and similar markings register even if you’re not following the music with a score. Accents, too, are keenly observed, articulation is carefully judged (the contrast between staccato and legato at 2'57" into the scherzo) and the string choirs have real bite.
Fischer plays the first-movement repeat and the recording lands a hefty sonic wallop. Indeed, there isn’t a more enjoyable digital New World on the current market, although I’m happy to see that Kurt Masur’s beautifully considered 1991 New York Philharmonic performance has just reappeared on Warner Apex at super-budget price. It’s not as energetically driven as Fischer’s, but as an interpretation it’s extremely well balanced. As with the Eighth, I would also commend Harnoncourt who, though more obviously idiosyncratic than Fischer (who’s nearer in spirit to, say, the straighter-laced Chung or Abbado), brings a host of personalised insights to both symphonies. But Fischer’s CD is a consistent joy and I can recommend it thoroughly.
--Gramophone Magazine Read less
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 8 in G major, Op. 88/B 163 by Antonín Dvorák
Budapest Festival Orchestra
Written: 1889; Bohemia
Date of Recording: 2000
Venue: Italian Institute, Budapest, Hungary
Length: 36 Minutes 50 Secs.
Symphony No.9 in E minor, Op.95 "From the New World": 1. Adagio - Allegro molto
Symphony No.9 in E minor, Op.95 "From the New World": 2. Largo
Symphony No.9 in E minor, Op.95 "From the New World": 3. Scherzo (Molto vivace)
Symphony No.9 in E minor, Op.95 "From the New World": 4. Allegro con fuoco
Symphony No.8 in G, Op.88: 1. Allegro con brio
Symphony No.8 in G, Op.88: 2. Adagio
Symphony No.8 in G, Op.88: 3. Allegretto grazioso - Molto vivace
Symphony No.8 in G, Op.88: 4. Allegro ma non troppo
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