DVORAK: Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Op. 10; Symphony No. 6 in D Major, Op. 60 – Bournemouth Sym. Orch./ Jose Serebrier – Warner Classics 2564 65775-3, 79:56 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Jose Serebrier continues (rec. 15-16 May 2012) his excellent Dvorak symphonic cycle with the 1874 Third Symphony, even today a relative rarity in the concert hall. In three movements, in a manner parallel to the individual symphonies of Chausson and Franck, Dvorak’s Third takes its cues from the German school, especially Beethoven and Schubert, and Serebrier injects a decisive schwung into the opening motif of the Allegro moderato. The Bournemouth Symphony, by the way, has evolved its spacious sound, certainly equal to and surpassing the aural presence it enjoyed under Constantin Silvestri. The peroration of the first movement achieves a Herculean power, brassy and resonant, the trumpets and tympani collaborating in an intense drama of their own.
The heart of the piece, Adagio molto, inserts a funeral march that nods overtly to Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. Considering the work’s premier under Bedrich Smetana and his own influence on young Dvorak, the Wagner allusions prove equally strong; Dvorak often spoke of his admiration of that composer’s Tannhauser. The melodic interplay, quite luxurious in its application of strings and winds, introduces a lovely riff that Dvorak employs in one of his later orchestral Legends, Op. 59. That Serebrier emphasizes the melodic kernel’s obligations to the first movement ties the cyclic principle in the symphony that much tighter. Serebrier and his Bournemouth players deliver an infectious romp of a rondo finale: Allegro vivace. A combination of Haydn humor and folk festivity, the music has strings, woodwinds, and tympani quite active, especially given the tricky syncopations they must execute.
Dvorak’s 1881 D Major Symphony once bore the No. 1 title, given that only the last five of the composer’s symphonic output were common property. Under that former title, many us first heard the work through the efforts of Erich Leinsdorf and the Cleveland Orchestra. The older Vaclav Talich version only found the collectors of rare 78 rpms or waited for transfer to CD in the 1990s. A work of significant maturity, the D Major takes many cues from Beethoven, especially in the melodic poise of the Eighth and formal structure of the Eroica. Given Serebrier’s taking of the first movement repeat, the sheer girth of the often martial music certainly rivals the efforts of the Bonn master. The unnamed oboe solo for the third of the opening movement’s lovely themes deserves mention, as does the Bournemouth’s entire brass section.
Few melodic inventions compare to the expansively mesmerizing tune Dvorak delivers for his Adagio, and Serebrier insists that we love it immediately. A magical haze envelops us, the Bournemouth strings and French horn in glorious cantabile. Dvorak’s love of open-work technique accords each orchestral choir its moment in the sun. That Serebrier deliberately insists on a chamber music sound intensifies the plangent eroticism of the interplay. But the drama also becomes monumental, the sound even exotic in the manner of incense-laden Borodin. Sheer kinetic energy, the wild Furiant plays with two versus three beats and innumerable chirps from impish woodwinds. In total bucolic contrast, the Trio section offers Transcendentalist consolations. The Finale basks in the composer’s developmental and contrapuntal skills, and the Bournemouth brass splash vivid colors across the canvas of the imagination. The application of academic color seems here indebted to Brahms in a way the other movements are not. Dvorak can raise a chorale from his musical groups in ways superior to his idol, and the sheer fluency of motivic evolution argues a seamless technique. Kudos to the clarinet solo and viola choir of the BSO, given their transparency and exuberance of effect. Recording engineer Phil Rowlands, working within the confines of the Lighthouse, Poole Arts Centre, Dorset has another outstanding document to his credit.
A defining tribute to a neglected conductor