DVOŘÁK: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 ‘From the New World’; Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88 – Budapest Festival Orchestra / Ivan Fischer – Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCSSA90110, 78:00 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
Antonin Dvorak traveled to the United States in 1892 to take up the post of Director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. While his time spent in the US was enormously successful, the composer longed for the Bohemian countryside. During one of his low moments, it was suggested to him he write a symphony about his feelings and experiences. He had become much taken with Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha” and the colours and spirit of native American culture and music, and would have written an opera based on this had he got a suitable libretto with which to work.
What seems like folk music is all original, and the result is “From the New World” rather than “About the New World”. Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra give an intensely passionate reading, with some seat-of-the-pants playing giving the impression it’s a live performance. The opening is aptly misty and mysterious followed by an energetic rest of the first movement, the largo rich in atmosphere, the cor anglais sound expanding nicely into the Italian Institute, Budapest, the location for the fine recording. The wind are splendidly balanced and piquant in the scherzo, and the finale with its variety of moods culminates with careful planning into the triumphant major for the conclusion.
Good as the performance is of the Ninth, that of the Eighth is, I think, on another level, a really fine rendition of Dvorak’s Symphony inspired by the countryside near his home in Vysoká. Here, the Budapest winds bring out the bird song exquisitely, and the composer’s love of Bohemian folk melodies are made to sound thoroughly convincing. Fischer’s careful gradations of dynamics produce some wonderful results, highlighting the composer’s rich variety of inspiration. Yet nothing sounds over-calculated or forced. The last movement with its theme and variations, or transformations, builds to a satisfying climax.
Thanks to Channel Classics, the recording made ten years ago for Philips makes a welcome return to the catalog in its original SACD form. Still sounding excellent in stereo, the recording is very successful indeed in multichannel mode, not a sonic spectacular but one of those recordings which allows one to forget about the sound and simply listen to and enjoy the music, a tribute to Hein Dekker and Roger de Schot.
— Peter Joelson