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Dvorák: Symphonies 7, 8 & 9, Etc / Dohnányi, Cleveland Orch

Release Date: 06/10/1997 
Label:  London/Decca Double Decker Catalog #: 452182   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Christoph von Dohnányi used to remark wryly that whenever he and the Cleveland Orchestra gave a tremendous concert his illustrious predecessor, George Szell, would get the credit. Szell’s versions of these symphonies are indeed reference recordings, but these performances are better still, surely modern reference editions for any collector looking for an easy way to get Dvorák’s last three symphonies in one convenient, inexpensive package. As always with Cleveland, the playing is outstanding, but it’s special in other ways too, and to illustrate it I offer three sound clips of the same passage–the climax of the first movement of the Seventh Symphony–so that you can make the comparison
Read more for yourself.

First, it’s worth pointing out that Dohnányi plays all of these pieces as Dvorák scored them. There’s no tinkering with extra brass or wind parts, as Szell and even most Czech conductors do. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this tradition, which goes back to the composer himself; the point is that the interpretations are particularly attuned to matters of balance and ensemble, and the clarity of sound is amazing, even at high volume. In this climax, the sound is wonderfully “de-compacted.” You hear everything: brass timbres don’t smear together. The horns rise up terrifyingly, for once the timpani rhythm cuts through with precision, and Dohnányi really gives Dvorák the accelerando that he requests. The tension that results from the rhythmic conflict that Dvorák actually wrote into the score is extremely powerful.

There is nothing else quite like it in the entire discography. Not from Szell (clip No. 2, his Sony Classical recording), excitingly played for sure but less well recorded and denser in texture; and not from Neumann (clip No. 3, his digital recording on Supraphon), very powerful, with crushing timpani and piercing trumpets, but slower and heavier–don’t let the lower recording level fool you. These are all excellent versions, different in approach, but Dohnányi’s performances have a consistent finish throughout all three symphonies that’s very hard to beat. Few conductors hold together the finale of the Eighth as well as he does (or bring more sheer exuberance to its coda), and the “New World” has seldom sounded less hackneyed than it does here.

The Scherzo capriccioso is a considerable bonus. Mahler conducted this work in New York, unsurprisingly, since he might have heard in it a distant echo of the scherzo of his own horn-led Fifth Symphony. In any case, this is one of those pieces that most conductors, even Czech ones, ruin by playing it too slowly. There’s a basic rule of thumb here: if a performances lasts much longer than thirteen minutes, we are entering perilous territory. Dohnányi is just under that mark, and this version is one of the great ones. In short, as I hope you can hear for yourself, this is an indispensable set, engineered with the transparency that the interpretations deserve.

-- ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 7 in D minor, Op. 70/B 141 by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1884-1885; Bohemia 
Symphony no 8 in G major, Op. 88/B 163 by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1889; Bohemia 
Symphony no 9 in E minor, Op. 95/B 178 "From the New World" by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; USA 
Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 66/B 131 by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Christoph von Dohnányi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cleveland Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; Bohemia 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Crystal Clear Instrument Separation July 3, 2013 By DAVID D. (STERLING, VA) See All My Reviews "I heard this CD on WETA and was excited by the crystal clear instrument separation. It would appear that each section of instruments were individually miked for recording so that instead of a "mushy" sound that is typical of miking a general area and all the instrument sounds get mixed and produce wave cancelling and interaction, this recording provides high fidelity of individual instruments. This makes it sound, even on radio, as if you are listening "live" from the front rows of the production setting. I just had to buy the CD. Yes, it's cheaper on Amazon.com, but until now my experience with Arkiv Music has been very good. Saddly, this purchase was very difficult due to the Arkiv accounting system refusing to recognize my credit card, even though it was valid and no other vendor or the bank had any problems. Arkiv could not resolve the issue and I eventually had to resort to a different card, reserved for special activity. Still, it's a great recording and I really enjoy it." Report Abuse
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