Dvorak Symphony No. 6 — Pietari Inkinen/ Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbruecken Kaiserslautern — SWR Music

by | Jul 4, 2020 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

DVORAK: Symphony No. 6 in D Major, Op. 60; Overture to Selma sedlak, Op. 37; Overture to Vanda, Op. 25; Hussite Overture, Op. 67 – Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbruecken Kaiserslautern/ Pietari Inkinen – SWR Music SWR19093CD, 77:38 [Distr. by Naxos] ****: 

This fifth installment of Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen’s cycle of Dvorak symphonies (rec. 11-19 March 2019) benefits from the inclusion of rarely programmed operatic and dramatic overtures, of which the 1883 Husitska, Op. 67 proves most effective. Record connoisseurs may recall that Arthur Fiedler was among the first to offer this music, listed as LM 1 on a 10” RCA Victor vinyl incarnation. The work meant to celebrate the completion of the Prague National Theater and commemorate, simultaneously, the beginnings of the Hussite movement.  Smetana had incorporated the resounding, national, rhythmic pulse in his Tabor and Blanik sections of Ma Vlast. Two old chorale melodies appear: “You, who are God’s fighters” and “Holy Wenceslaus,” that dates back to the 13th Century.  In sonata-form, the music evolves from a slow prelude into a martial depiction of Hussite battles that culminate in a rousing C Major declare coda. 

No less martial in sentiment, the opening of Overture to Selma Sedlak (1877, known alternately as “The Cunning Peasant”) treats a weak libretto by Otakar Vesely as the basis of a folk opera that borrows from both The Bartered Bride and elements from Beaumarchais. What makes the overture compelling lies in the composer’s use of national dances: polka, sousedska, and skocna, each of which alternate duple and triple time. The gentle colorations no less will infiltrate various of the composer’s Slavonic Dances.  The five-act Vanda (1876) represents Dvorak’s failure in the genre of grand opera.  Rather political in content, Vanda depicts the conflict between Slavs and Teutons, the desire of Bohemian to wrest independence from the Habsburg Empire.  The Overture came about in 1880, when Dvorak revised the opera in short form, utilizing a rondo structure to incorporate major motifs – including some impressive counterpoint – of which one melody enjoys the lyrical color we associate with this natural singer in music. 

Dvorak biographer Otakar Sourek claims Dvorak’s 1880 Sixth Symphony “reflects the cheerfulness, humor and passion of the Czech people.”  For many of us early vinyl collectors, the D Major came listed as Symphony No. 1 – as in Erich Leinsdorf’s Cleveland performance – since publisher Simrock had ignored the composer’s previous works and wanted a high opus number to assure future interest in additional works. No less a factor lies in the maturity and ease of transition that the score effuses, a confidence in the materials and their ability to sustain symphonic development. True, the strong, even obvious, influence of the Brahms Symphony No. 2 in D Major infiltrates the first and last movements, but the genial use of folk song and the Czech furiant declare this composer’s own stamp on the work. The lovely Adagio in B Major, set as a rondo, proffers the wonderful coloration of the true craftsman. The third movement, a lively furiant, injects a vitality to the scherzo procedure that ensures the success of this music, as earlier recorded performances by the likes of Vaclav Talich and Istvan Kertesz testify.

Inkinen’s Deutsche Radio ensemble enjoys a definite luster and brilliance, especially in the strings, winds, and brass, and this young conductor seems eager to share the sonic wealth. Highly recommended.

–Gary Lemco

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