Naxos Historical 8.111045, 73:04 *****:
Historical recordings don’t come any better than this. Vaclav Talich (1883-1961) inscribed the Dvorak Seventh Symphony only once, 23 November 1938 at the Abbey Road Studio No. 1 in London. The reading is simply molten, traversing the demonic aggression and the bucolic tenderness of the music with seamless authority. The cumulative impact of the first movement coda electrifies, a viscerally exciting moment in recorded music. Each of the phrases in the Poco adagio and the Finale: Allegro movements is fashioned deliberately, but without sacrificing the illusion of spontaneity. It remains a musical anomaly that while Toscanini rejected the D Minor Symphony as a vehicle for his own interpretation, the Talich performance reveals so many traits of clarity and impetuosity dear to the Italian maestro. The interior lines exude plastic lyricism, especially the flute part in the Scherzo trio section. The buoyancy and ease of musical transition, the sudden surges and outpourings of national color thoroughly convince us that Talich’s was a world-class discipline.
The recording of the G Major Symphony (23 and 28 November 1935) is rife with a kind of sylvan exhilaration, a deep love of landscape. The lithe strings, winds, and horns celebrate the passions of nature with increasingly martial energy; the flute and pizzicato strings which emerge after the mortal storm suggest what Talich’s Pastoral Symphony might have been bequeathed us. The motivic energy is easily a model for Szell; the lyric suavity might have inspired Giulini. The pianissimo Talich elicits from the orchestra in the Adagio, the softness of the tympani part, along with the pregnant pauses, bespeak a dramatist’s sure hand; then lovely flute and violin soli over warbling interior voices precede a veritable paean to life. Idiomatic use of portamento adds the note of authority to the Adagio and the haunted waltz, Allegretto grazioso. The breadth of the countermelody is no less refined against the exquisite delicacy of the punctuated waltz tempo. The flute part again dominates the myriad colors of the Allegro ma non troppo finale, whose swaggering march plays out in mock-heroic style. Slovak pomp and circumstance become the order of the day, tunes whistling by in motley succession, the strings and horns consistently splendid. While annotator Tully Potter has reservations about Talich’s 1951 version of the G Major, preferring this Golden Age reading, I am quite content to own both; they thoroughly convince us that Talich’s was a world-class discipline. Mark Obert-Thorn’s transfers of the RCA Victor shellacs rival anything we have from the equally impressive restoration catalogue of Michael Dutton.
— Gary Lemco