DVORAK: Symphony No. 7 in D Op. 70; The Golden Spinning Wheel Op. 109 – Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra/Yakov Kreizberg – PentaTone PTC 5186 082, 65:55 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:
Though this hi-res Seventh comes to us in the face of tough competition from Kubelik on Decca, Neumann on Exton and a stereo-only non-hybrid early transfer from Szell on Sony Classical (which probably sounds not much better than the CD version), it has much to recommend it. I didn’t have the ability to do comparisons, but it would be wrong to write off the Netherlands Philharmonic. Known as the most versatile orchestra in Holland, the band has the broadest repertory range, accompanies most of the Netherlands Opera performances, and usually plays its concerts in the famed Concertgebouw. Its chief conductor Hartmut Haenchen has done the complete Mahler Symphonies and the complete Wagner Ring Cycle.
The Seventh is a typical Dvorak symphony, showing his usual characteristics of Czech nationalism via the use of many folk and folk-like themes, wonderful melodies, interesting rhythms, and often intense harmonies. It has a generally optimistic character and like much of the composer’s music, shows the influences of both Brahms and Wagner. The rich instrumentation, enthusiastic performance and fine acoustics combine for an excellent listening experience. Though recorded in Amsterdam’s Yakult Hall rather than the Concertgebouw, acoustics are rich and enveloping in the multichannel option.
I corrected a serious misconception I had auditioning the other selection on this SACD. I had thought that Dvorak’s Golden Spinning Wheel was inspired by the same folk tale as St.-Saen’s Omphale’s Spinning Wheel. Boy, was I wrong. The original for Dvorak’s symphonic poem was a ballad by Karl Jaromir Erben which vies with Grimm’s fairy tales for bloodiness and gore. Moreover, Dvorak went beyond his other symphonic poems in setting the original ballad. Everything in it is developed from the actual words of Erben’s text, all the melodies and rhythms following the original word for word. This idea was further developed by Janacek in his operas. [It would have been nice for PentaTone to include the text of the original balled or a web link to it.]
– John Sunier