- Scherzo capriccioso for orchestra, B. 131 (Op. 66)
- Nocturne for string orchestra in B major (arr. from Str. Qrt. No. 4 & Str. Qnt. B. 49), B. 47 (Op. 40)
- Symphony No. 6 in D major, B. 112 (Op. 60) (first published as No. 1, Op. 58)
Part of a cycle of Dvorák symphonies underway on the part of conductor Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, this release, like the others, takes on the task of distinguishing itself from the dozens of others recorded by major European and American orchestras over the last century. In this, Alsop succeeds, although buyers should sample to make sure they find her approach appealing. Her tempos are on the slow side -- very slow in the case of the final "Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 66," which doesn't come off as especially capricious (and which was recorded almost a year after the rest of the album) -- and her readings are detailed, restrained, and not without a bit of humor. If you like the serious, powerfully momentum-building Allegro non tanto of the likes of Rafael Kubelik, Alsop may not be for you here. Sample the opening material of the symphony's Scherzo (track 3), the point where, for all the debt he owes to Brahms here, Dvorák asserts his Czech identity. Alsop's rhythms in the strings here are pretty low-impact -- but her slow material in both the symphony's Adagio and in the "Nocturne in B major, Op. 40," is beautifully shaped and quite affecting. The Naxos engineering team, working in a live-performance situation in Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, backs Alsop well, and the orchestra's strings sound quite rich. Overall there's an X factor working in the album's favor here. Alsop may or may not be precisely your cup of tea, but she executes original readings with enthusiasm and commitment, and that's the name of the game. Booklet notes by Naxos stalwart Keith Anderson are in English only.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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. Ted Wilks