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Antonin Dvorak: Symphonic Variations, Op. 78, B. 70
Symphonic Variations, Op. 78
Antonin Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, B. 178, "From the New World"
I. Adagio - Allegro molto
III. Scherzo: Molto vivace
IV. Allegro con fuoco
“It is rare to be able to say that a performance forces one to listen to a work anew, but this is exactly what Alsop's reading achieves. Excellently recorded and with an elegant and witty performance of the Symphonic Variations as makeweight, this is a superb issue all round.”
“Dvorák's New World has already been recorded by almost everyone who matters! But Marin Alsop makes it very much her own, with her fine Baltimore orchestra responding with an account full of warmth, moments of high drama, and, above all, finely paced with a flowing, spontaneous feeling. One notes the delightful flute-playing, the bold, strong trombones in tuttis, and the luminous grace of the strings, immediately apparent at the affectionate opening of both first and second movements. The delicate close of the Largo, after the songful repeat of the beautifully simple and very lovely cor anglais melody, is memorable. The movement's central episodes are equally poetic, particularly the gentle clarinet theme over the murmuring bass pizzicati. The Scherzo bursts in, and the finale has all the impetus one could want. Yet overall, Alsop's is not a histrionic reading but one full of affectionate touches, the appealing little nudge at the end of the second subject of the first movement for instance, while the closing retrospective section of the finale is particularly satisfying. What makes this disc doubly recommendable is the superb account of the Symphonic Variations, inspired but surprisingly neglected. It is a work which after the mysterious opening Lento emolto tranquillo, which is perfectly captured here, needs to move on flexibly but with plenty of impetus, capturing the continual changes of mood and colour. The extraordinary variety of invention and scoring captivates the ear, sometimes perky, sometimes gentle (like the enchanting little repeated-note flute solo, followed immediately by gruff trombones), until it reaches its genial fugal apotheosis and the performance sweeps to its folksy, grandiloquent close. The recording is outstanding in every way, well balanced and vivid in detail.”
“…a terrific reading of a firm favourite. Yet overall, Alsop's is not a histrionic reading but one full of affectionate touches… What makes this disc doubly recommendable is the superb account of the Symphonic Variations… The recording is outstanding in every way, well balanced and vivid in detail.”
“an account full of warmth, moments of high drama, and above all finely paced with a spontaneous forward flow...Throughout, the recording is outstanding in every way”
22nd June 2008
“It’s hard to understand why a work as enjoyable as the Symphonic Variations, by a composer as popular as Dvorak, should be so neglected. Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony remind us of its charms and richly inventive colours in this vivid, incisive account. They also do the symphony proud, proving that a warhorse such as the New World is hackneyed only in the minds of jaded performers and listeners.”
28th June 2006
Disc of the Week
“The unashamed brassiness of the orchestra's sound marks it out as the work of an American ensemble, but alongside that there is plenty of subtlety to the wind-playing, not least the marvellous cor anglais in the famous slow movement, as well as the cameos given to flute and clarinet elsewhere in the work. The strings, on the other hand, bring a sheen more in keeping with the music's European roots.
The recorded sound is particularly warm and welcoming, and both that and the superlative performances mean that the two promised successors to this disc - more Dvorák recorded under the same circumstances - cannot arrive soon enough.”