DVORAK: Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, Op. 70; Slavonic Dance in G Minor, Op. 46, No. 8; In Nature’s Realm, Op. 91; Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 66 – Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/ Jose Serebrier – Warner Classics 2564 66656-2, 69:15 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
Recorded 21-22 September 2011, this most recent addition to the Jose Serebrier survey of the Dvorak symphony cycle should prove among the most colorful of installments, opening with the 1878 G Minor Slavonic Dance, a high-powered Furiant (Presto) rife with cross rhythms and a lovely flute part.
From the opening pedal D in the bass, the 1885 D Minor Symphony reveals itself a worthy successor to the Beethoven and Schumann symphonies, both dramatic and eminently lyrical. Conductors ranging from Talich to Leitner, Kertesz to Szell, Celibidache to Giulini, have gloried in its finely wrought colors and seamless transitions. The first movement, Allegro maestoso, extends its melodic texture to embrace a serene song in B-flat Major, the Bournemouth woodwinds chirruping in gracious colors. Once Serebrier establishes the movement’s swaggering momentum, the structural influence of sonata-form plays out with intricately harmonious inevitability, marked by trumpets and tympani. But no less effective come the marvelously delicate passages and open-work, weaving the ground-motif in Dvorak’s ever fertile variants until a ferocious peroration in stretto surveys a height allotted to Beethoven, Wagner, and Brahms of the F Major Symphony.
The Poco adagio reveals equal melodic mastery, utilizing a repeated falling seventh in the strings, pianissimo, to effect a sense of pageant and melancholy at once. The massive swirls and dynamic shifts in the slow movement more than once point to the Brahms influence, particularly in his D Major Symphony. But the scoring and color elements in Dvorak prove even more sensuous and intricately harmonious than those in Brahms, especially as the strings merge with winds and tympani. Here, it becomes rather obvious that Serebrier vies with his venerated George Szell’s uncanny sway in this movement as recorded for Epic Records by the Cleveland Orchestra. The play of triple and duple meters invests the Scherzo: Vivace movement, a natural vehicle for a virtuoso ensemble. The Bournemouth cello and viola line, along with the already-heralded woodwinds, deserves recognition for its lithe, vivid energy. The glorious, spontaneous thrust of the music well hearkens to another Seventh, that of Beethoven. Nice bassoon work. The eminently bucolic Trio section bestows a pure pantheism without apology. The da capo returns to the primal syncopations, perhaps touched by tragedy as the coda explodes around us. The Finale: Allegro brings something of Schumann’s capacity for march-chorale to the fore, culminating in as glorious cello melody in A Major. Serebrier allows this section (repeated, true to sonata-form) a grand leisure, basking in Dvorak’s magical textural interplay. The sonic mass provided by the brass should make every audiophile especially chipper. With scoring marvelously close to Wagner’s Tannhauser, the procession moves to a terrific coda in D Major, a kind of pan-harmonic gloria in incandescent colors.
The tonepoem or overture in sonata-form In Nature’s Realm, the first of the triptych devoted to “Nature, Life, and Love” (1892), allows Serebrier’s forces sonorous, loving scope, from the ducks’ rising off the lake to the chorale invocations celebratory of the composer’s innate pantheism. Delicate filigree from strings and bassoon make for splendidly lilting effects, the string, brass, and woodwind lines soaring in “natural piety,” to quote William Wordsworth. When the music takes a darker turn, the Bournemouth battery becomes involved, only to be assuaged by the main theme and the running string figures.
The 1883 Scherzo capriccioso combines its eponymous scherzo form with the classical sonata-form to create whimsically resonant effects, revealing a gift for melody that proves incredibly magnanimous. An abundantly clever romp, the carefree music even includes a harp cadenza. Ever since I first heard this buoyant and lusciously scored piece under Rudolf Kempe, I have fallen under its eternal spell, and Serebrier and spirited company do not disappoint. Waltzes and Slavonic dances abound in merry alchemy of ¾ time in and around D-flat Major. Serebrier keeps his trumpets forward, but a spooky clarinet creeps in, a suggestion of woodland goblins and bucolic fairies. The English horn solo that introduces the middle section presents a haunted moment all its own in a piece marked by spontaneity and orchestral wizardry of the highest order.
French Romantic and Impressionism… Ivan Ilich