There are so many fine recordings of Smetana’s Má Vlast by Czech conductors and/or the Czech Philharmonic that it’s easy to overlook the rest. Rafael Kubelik alone recorded the work at least five times officially, but like all great music the work is richer than any single performance. Of all the non-Czech recordings, Berglund’s stands out for its excitement, clarity, intelligence, and idiomatic freshness of expression. It is certainly one of the most listener-friendly performances if you want to listen to the whole work straight through. It has no dead spots, not even in Tábor and Blánik, where even many Czech performances struggle to sustain interest.
Of course, it helps immeasurably that Berglund hasRead more the Staatskapelle Dresden at his disposal, an orchestra that shares timbal qualities similar to those of the Czech Philharmonic. I am thinking of the sweetly characterful winds, the penetrating but not overwhelming brass, and strings that offer richness and intensity without excessive heaviness. Try the love scene in Sárka if you want to hear what I mean. This is a great Wagner orchestra, of course, but also the ensemble valued by Richard Strauss for its lucidity and textural balance, and they play the music magnificently.
Berglund’s own contribution, aside from his unerring ability to find the right tempo for each of the six tone poems, also includes a welcome degree of precision and attention to detail. There is an acid test that you can apply to any performance of this work, assuming that the engineering is good enough to let you hear it (as here). It occurs at the end of Vltava (The Moldau). Atop the hymn-like chords from the first movement, the two trumpets engage in an interlocking fanfare duet. You have no idea how many performances, even Czech ones, let the players get by with bad balances, bad rhythm, or both. It should sound like a single instrument, and the line should soar over the rest of the orchestra. Szell gets is right, of course, and so does Berglund.
Formerly available as part of a two CD set, it’s just great to see this performance reissued on a single disc, warmly remastered. For many listeners I can easily imagine it becoming a first choice.
All I know.February 4, 2013By sean o. (saranac lake, NY)See All My Reviews"This is the first and only complete version of Ma Vlast I've ever heard so my views may be a bit biased. Love "From Bohemia's woods and fields" but I've heard better Moldaus. Still beautiful though."Report Abuse