Talich Edition 11 Supraphon SU 38331-2, 68:16 (Distrib. Qualiton) ****:
This disc has special significance for me, since pianist Ivan Moravec was kind enough, many years ago, to mail me from Prague the Supraphon LPs of the 1940 inscriptions of Dvorak’s Polonaise in E-flat from Rusalka as performed by the venerable Vaclav Talich (1883-1961). I knew the Op. 54 Waltzes (recorded 1954) from a fairly elusive Urania LP which also featured Talich’s reading of The Noonday Witch. Talich recorded the cycle Nature, Life, and Love in 1949. The opening tone poem, In Nature’s Realm, realizes the composer’s pantheistic impulses with a richly textured series of effects, not the least of which are some arching melodies. Both Carnival and Othello are the products of 1951 sessions, when the Soviet authorities deemed it politically expedient to allow Talich to make Dvorak records for export, even though he lived in forced restriction–even exile–at home. Carnival is all frothy energy and lust for life. Othello is one of Dvorak’s most brooding works, capitalizing on a six-note “fate” motif that the composer utilizes as a leitmotif in the triptych Opp. 91-93.
The two Waltzes, Op. 54 are by turns dreamy and rousing, the A Major’s wistful nostalgia anticipating the glorious waltz in the G Major Symphony. The D Major gambols in the manner of a sturdy polka, any of the more husky Slavonic dances. The pair from 1940 enjoy the same rich expressivity, but the sound is distinctly scratchy. The two polonaises exult in their national character, noble and processional. The innate warmth of Talich’s style, its agile lilt and attention to every dynamic and agogic detail, compels our eternal fascination. Had the Fates so decreed, Talich could have bequeathed a generation of American conductors the benefits of his epic pedagogy. As it stands, only Sir Charles Mackerras bears the mantle of this monumental artist. A class restoration sonically, the accompanying booklet contains lovely photographs of Talich’s domestic life.
— Gary Lemco