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Sir Charles Mackerras and the London Philharmonic Orchestra shared a musical heritage spanning 45 years and this live recording of Dvorák’s Symphonic Variations and Symphony No. 8 from 1992 pays tribute to a partnership that exuded a joy and vivacity in music making.
There is no shortage of fine recordings of these two wonderful Dvořák works and Sir Charles Mackerras has recorded Dvořák’s complete orchestral oeuvre first with EMI Eminence (copies of which are now hard to find) and over the years for Supraphon. More recently he also recorded a selection of Dvořák with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
What these performances benefit from is the spontaneity of the live concert environment. Originally recorded for archive purposes by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, such recordings are impossible to overlook when the music making is as fine as it is here. Mackerras had a gift for uncovering the individual DNA in a composer’s music; he did this with aplomb with Dvořák.
The Symphonic Variations show Mackerras’ complete understanding of Dvořák. The subtly and lightness of touch he brings to the waltz episode contrasts with the control and care of the percussion balance in the Scherzo capriccioso. His conducting of Symphony No. 8 is sublime. Conductor and orchestra are at one and here Mackerras shows the ability to seemingly turn every phrase into a symphonic essay.
This recording is a fine exponent of Mackerras’ renowned conducting of Dvořák and gains an enormous amount from the spontaneity of the live concert environment.
The disc pays tribute to a musical partnership that spanned 45 years.
This recording comes from possibly his strongest years artistically.
As a recording conductor Mackerras had a unique understanding of the process. His recording career spanned the latter years of the 78 format through mono, stereo, LP, cassette, CD, through to SACD (surround sound CD) - few conductors can claim this!
Antonin Dvorak: Symphonic Variations, Op. 78, B. 70
Symphonic Variations, Op. 78, B. 70
Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88, B. 163
I. Allegro con brio
III. Allegretto grazioso - Molto vivace
IV. Allegro ma non troppo
“Mackerras's reading of the Symphonic Variations would stand up well to any competition...In the wrong hands these 27 variations can seem bitty. Mackerras underlines the bigger picture with flawless handling of the tempo relationships and by building a powerful sense of expectation in the approach to the fugal finale.”
31st July 2011
“This live 1992 recording from Festival Hall shows Mackerras at the height of his powers. It is a joy from beginning to end. The Eighth has had many notable interpreters, but none knew better than Mackerras how to pace and colour this magical work...The Variations, too, receive a vivid, richly expressive performance, making you wonder why it is so rarely played.”
“Sir Charles Mackerras's way with Dvorak's Eighth Symphony was invariably unaffected, bracing and energetic, and this live relay is no exception...Mackerras always directed [the Variations] with consummate mastery, edging from one variation to the next with evident ease, making the work sound the compelling entity that it is”
“The performance of the Symphony is truly exceptional: besides the fabulous lyrical flair and poise of the playing, Mackerras finds an interplay of darkness and light in the slow movement that's genuinely spine-tingling to listen to. Only very special conductors can come up with performances like this where, even with such a much-played symphony, it's as if you're hearing it for the first time.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.