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Dvorák: Tone Poems / Simon Rattle, Berlin Po


Release Date: 08/02/2005 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 58019   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 24 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic have not made a finer recording than this excellent two-fer containing Dvorák's four late tone poems based on grisly Czech folk legends. And what a pleasure it is to see these hugely entertaining works being taken up by the big names on the major labels! The music itself operates within parameters comfortable to the orchestra (as opposed to, say, Mahler or Messiaen), which sounds confidently at home here. The color-filled narrative structures also give Rattle a platform on which to leave his interpretive mark without, as is so often the case, seeming to impose his ideas gratuitously on the music just to prove that he has them. The only reservation worth mentioning is his failure to solve the Read more cymbal problem in The Water Goblin (suspended or plates--Dvorák's intentions are slightly unclear and everyone plays it differently). This matters for reasons of rhythm as much as sheer timbre. Rattle opts for suspended cymbals throughout (clearly wrong), ensuring that they remain mostly inaudible in all of the louder passages. Kubelik (DG) and Harnoncourt (Teldec) both offer better examples of how it should be done, with the former offering the ideal solution both in terms of sonic effectiveness and the indications in the score.


Elsewhere, however, even in this same work, Rattle seizes the moment. The variations representing the conversation between mother and daughter are wonderfully atmospheric and fabulously played, and the big storm at the end is aptly cataclysmic. Rattle and company romp through The Golden Spinning Wheel with keen attention to each episode. He doesn't cut the "body-part swap" section, but at the same time he holds the work together as well as anyone and brings it all home to a joyously raucous conclusion. The Wood Dove is outstanding for its vivacious central party music, taken unusually swiftly, and for the luminous textures Rattle and the players capture throughout the transfigured ending.


The Noonday Witch comes off best of all, with ferocious string playing in the Beethoven's Fifth figures at the opening, followed by a truly devilish chase/scherzo and a stunningly anguished conclusion. Note how skillfully Rattle manages the tempo adjustments after figure 15, when the father comes home and sees his wife and child unconscious--his startled reaction has an almost visual realism.


Among modern recordings, my personal preference remains Harnoncourt and the Royal Concertgebouw on Warner Classics (if you can find it), simply because the Amsterdam winds have few peers, and if anything, Harnoncourt is even more pictorially specific than Rattle. But truth to tell, the differences are rather few.


These performances are certainly satisfying taken on their own terms. The Berlin sound rests primarily on the resplendence of its strings, and they play magnificently here, not just in terms of tonal luster, but also regarding rhythm and articulation. This stands in stark contrast to their comparatively amorphous work in Abbado's Mahler Sixth (DG). The engineering also represents the best yet from this source, with solid bass, fine internal balances between sections (the barely audible cymbals in Water Goblin notwithstanding), and the overall warmth and tonal heft that you expect from a great orchestra such as this, but which seldom has been captured since Karajan's glory days. In sum, this is an easy recommendation, and one I'm particularly pleased to be able to make, critical as I have been of Rattle and his various orchestras over the years.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Water Goblin, Op. 107/B 195 by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Bohemia 
Length: 21 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (03/04/2004 - 03/07/2004); Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (06/23/2004 - 06/25/2004) 
2.
Noon Witch, Op. 108/B 196 by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Bohemia 
Length: 13 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Notes: Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (03/04/2004 - 03/07/2004); Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (06/23/2004 - 06/25/2004) 
3.
Golden Spinning Wheel, Op. 109 by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Bohemia 
Length: 27 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Notes: Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (03/04/2004 - 03/07/2004); Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (06/23/2004 - 06/25/2004) 
4.
Wood Dove, Op. 110/B 198 by Antonín Dvorák
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896; Bohemia 
Length: 20 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Notes: Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (03/04/2004 - 03/07/2004); Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (06/23/2004 - 06/25/2004) 

Sound Samples

Golden Spinning Wheel: Allegro, ma non troppo
Golden Spinning Wheel: Molto vivace (Fig 9)
Golden Spinning Wheel: Lento (Fig 15)
Golden Spinning Wheel: Allegro, ma non troppo (Fig 19)
Wood Dove: Andante, Marcia funebre
Wood Dove: Allegro
Wood Dove: Molto vivace
Wood Dove: Andante
Noon Witch: Allegretto
Noon Witch: Andante sostenuto e molto tranquillo
Noon Witch: Andante
Water Goblin: Allegro vivo
Water Goblin: Andante mesto come prima (Fig 13)
Water Goblin: Un poco piu mosso (Fig 19)
Water Goblin: Allegro vivace (Fig 24)

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