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Symphonies Nos 3 & 7
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L'art d'Anton Dvorak est d'inspiration slave et exprime un sentiment national. Une couleur immédiatement reconnaissable et une forme propre de lyrisme se dégagent de son oeuvre. Il a écrit neuf symphonies. Ces pages témoignent de l'immense art d'orchestrateur qui caractérise ce compositeur. Dans cet enregistrement, Myung Whun Chung, chef précis et raffiné mais non sans élan ni fougue, sait ici comme toujours obtenir le meilleur de son orchestre. --Lina Patch
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Il faut noter également que Chung est largement trahi par une prise de son curieuse, sans profondeur, à l’image stéréophonique trop latérale, avec des mises en avant artificielles de certains pupitres, comme les violons, souvent présentés à nu, sans cacher certaines imprécisions de synchronisation. Le Philharmonique de Vienne donne simultanément une prestation qui semble soignée avec des coins laissés sales…
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At this point Dvorak was a Wagnerian, and there are elements of Wagner's harmonies and orchestral color throughout - it's hard to miss the echoes of The Flying Dutchman in the finale. But the romantic sweep and rhapsodic mood of the Third owes more to Schumann's symphonies - which is to say, if you enjoy Schumann's lyrical style, this work will also appeal. The most convincing recording I know is Kertesz's with the London Sym., but it can only be found in Decca's box set of all the symphonies. Chung's reading isn't as incisive, and he aims for a velvety blended sound that for some listeners will be not Czech enough. But the glory of the Vienna Phil. can't be passed up, even when the score offers few technical challenges. As an outing for the strings, Dvorak's hummable melodies sound gorgeous.
A dozen years after the Third, when the London Phil. commissioned Dvorak's Seventh Sym., he was well-to-do, celebrated, and a huge favorite in England. The premiere was sensational and the score a masterpiece. Chung's rounded, mellow approach isn't quite as effective here; for stretches of the first movement, the music-making feels fairly generalized. This very Brahmsian work is one of the few by Dvorak, an incorrigibly sunny composer, to evoke some of Brahms's dark undercurrents - although not very dark at that. Chung applies his musical gifts very well but without really thinking deeply into the score. The orchestra plays with its expected polish and lovely string sound. DG's recorded sound is also generalized, delivering more blend than detail.
The used market charges a good deal for a CD whose main attraction is a single early Dvorak symphony. Much as I liked the performance, pure economics would dictate buying the complete Kertesz cycle first at a bargain price.
The third symphony was an important staging post for Dvorak for two reasons. Firstly it was the first of his symphonies to secure a performance in Prague (1874)but secondly and probably more importantly, it was the work that earned him an Austrian State Stipendium. This important financial grant enabled him to continue as a full-time composer and his friendship with Brahms, one of the judges, stemmed from that point.
One of the best early recordings of this essentially lyrical three movement work was made by Kertesz and the LSO in their ground breaking early survey of the complete Dvorak symphonies. That was an impressively strong reading and was followed by Kubelik's gentler performance. Chung, on this far better recorded than either disc, delivers a performance of strength to match Kertesz and lyricism to match Kubelik. The playing of the VPO as recorded is simply superior to either the LSO or the BPO on this occasion, and that by some distance.
The dramatic seventh symphony is a far more recorded symphony, held by many to be Dvorak's finest. It is certainly his most non-nationalist symphony and more centrally placed in the line of great European symphonic works. As such it has attracted considerable numbers of recordings, not always as good as hoped for. The seventh was the one, generally agreed critically, failure of Kertesz's complete set which absolutely failed to thrill. Kubelik's version sounds sonically impoverished. However there were, and still are, some absolutely marvellous recordings from the earl days of stereo and now hugely improved with re-mastering. The stand-out versions include Szell and the Clevelanders, Barbirolli with the Halle and Monteux with the LSO. A more modern success is the Jarvi version with his Scottish orchestra. All of these are performances that really 'lift' and have thrill factor in abundance plus good recordings, particularly for their vintage.
Chung is the new thrilling performance for the later generations of collectors boasting the best sound, resplendent orchestral playing with burnished horns ringing out with cutting trumpets at climatic points, plus a genuinely exciting 'interpretation' to offer. In effect this is not so much an interpretation but an opportunity for the orchestra to really let its collective hair down and really enjoy themselves. Chung does not allow this to be indulgent or to have wayward tempi but he enables a lyrical expression of the melodic line to be combined with the dramatic strength that underpins this marvellous work.
The used market is charging exorbitant prices for this disc but that probably reflects its appeal for obsessive collectors. One must hope for a re-issue from DGG. In the meantime, all I can do is to draw attention to this disc's desirability should the opportunity arise for a purchase at an affordable price.
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