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Posted December 14, 2010
This new CD from Naxos contains three of Dvorak's best-loved works, all performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop. To attempt to put onto CDs yet another Dvorak symphonic cycle might seem to be economic folly, because these works have been so heavily recorded for the last 60 years by many major orchestras and illustrious conductors.
So, measured against this seemingly overwhelming opposition, how does the Baltimore team fare? I find these performances absolutely delightful, and hope for more recordings of Dvorak's symphonies from them. The sixth symphony is beautifully played, and Ms. Alsop treats us to glorious sounds from the orchestra, yet, it seems to me, she pays great attention to all of the nuances and details that together make this a superb symphony. Similarly, the Nocturne receives a fine performance. The final work on the CD is the Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 66, and here we come to a discussion point - timing vs. performance. Music critic David Hurwitz (whose opinion I generally respect) calls Alsop's performance "dreary." I disagree profoundly. Certainly, at 15:04, Alsop's timing is the longest of several that I checked, yet to my ears the performance does not drag; on the contrary, she begins crisply, which seems correct to me, and again pays attention to details and brings out the work's lyrical sections beautifully. The fastest performance to which I have access is that by Kosler, who takes 12:55, yet that performance begins languidly; speed isn't everything!
Naxos annotator Keith Anderson's program notes are excellent, as usual, and the sound quality is superb; in my opinion, Dvorak fans can hardly go wrong with this budget-priced CD.
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