Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dvorak: Symphony No.7, Suite in A major ('American') - Budapest Festival Orchestra, Fischer

Antonin Dvorak
Symphony No.7, Suite in A major ('American')
Budapest Festival Orchestra, Ivan Fischer
Channel Classics- 30010(SACD)

Classics Today Rating: 9/9
Unlike the release of the Eighth and Ninth symphonies, which are reissues of earlier Philips recordings, these performances are new, and quite beautiful. The Suite never has been done better; its melodic freshness and rhythmic verve leap from the speakers, and like all of Dvorák's supposedly "light" music it proves rather more substantial than you might at first suspect, especially when it's this well-played. As the title suggests, this is a late work, dating from the composer's stint in New York, and it's full of the same kind of tuneful, possibly African-American inspiration that we find in the "New World" Symphony, the Cello Concerto, the "American" Quartet, and the contemporaneous String Quintet.

There's a great deal of competition in the symphony, and Ivan Fischer does particularly well in two particular ways. First, he doesn't monkey with the orchestration in the powerful coda of the finale or in the fortissimo counterstatement of the first movement's opening theme. Amazingly, in this latter passage the winds cut through the texture with perfect clarity, bespeaking the performers' thorough preparation and attention to details of ensemble balance. Second, his scherzo is amazing: fleet, gorgeously light on its feet, and (at the return after the trio) simply exciting as hell. Only in the first movement does Fischer sometimes sound a touch stiff (though again, the climax toward the end is powerful).

Sonically, there's plenty of warmth and depth (particularly in SACD multichannel format), but the loud tuttis turn a touch opaque. A bit more presence from the trombones and timpani could have turned an otherwise very fine performance into a great one. Still, this is awfully good, and if the coupling interests you then by all means enjoy this release without qualms. [6/15/2010]

--David Hurwitz

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