DVORAK: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8 – Andrés Orozco – Estrada / Houston Sym. – Pentatone multichannel SACD PTC 5186578 (01/03/16) TT: 76:34 [Distr. by Naxos] ***1/2:
Highly listenable performances of late symphonies by the Czech master.
Pentatone gives us two lovely Dvorak symphonies on one disc in this new release, which will be part of a series of discs with the Houston Symphony.
As most of our readers know, Dvorak wrote nine symphonies, the last five of which are called his “Mature Symphonies”. Included in this SACD album are Dvorak’s Symphonies nos. 7 and 8, each of which, though different in character, represent the composer at his peak of creativity and energy. Symphony No. 7 gives us a feeling of restlessness. The treatment Dvorak’s homeland had received at the hands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire which ruled it, irritated the composer. The lightness of Symphony No. 8, written in his farmhouse in the Czech countryside, is quite a contrast to the 7th. Dvorak’s rural surroundings may have influenced the music’s mood, just as his works written in Iowa, like his New World Symphony, were greatly affected by his external environment.
The Houston Symphony led by its Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada, recorded these symphonies at the Jesse H. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts in Houston, in April 2014 (Symphony No. 7) and March 2015 (Symphony No. 8). These are 5.0 multichannel recordings, with the rear channels providing a muted ambiance. In general, the sound is quite good, but I think the strings lack some of the sheen that a good SACD recording can bring. Not a bad recordings by any means, and the sound, especially at the higher frequencies, may be what the producer was looking for, but I think more extended highs would be my preference.
These are quite good and straight performances by Orozco-Estrada and the Houston players. It’s a contrast to some of the Leonard Bernstein performances of Dvorak that are filled with passion (some would say excessive passion), but these are fine interpretations that nicely capture Dvorak’s style.