DVORAK: Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88; Carnival Overture, Op. 93; SUK: Serenade for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 6 – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Vaclav Talich – Opus Kura

by | Aug 24, 2009 | Classical Reissue Reviews | 0 comments

DVORAK: Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88; Carnival Overture, Op. 93; SUK: Serenade for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 6 – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Vaclav Talich

Opus Kura 2085, 73:24 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Opus Kura, perhaps as an alternative to the Talich Edition offered on Supraphon, here issues the 1935 inscription of the Dvorak G Major Symphony (1889) by the Czech Philharmonic and its illustrious conductor Vaclav Talich (1883-1961).  The scoring, which includes piccolo and English horn in perfunctory roles in the first movement, allows Talich to exult in the interior colors that define his especial approach to Dvorak. A vivacious, optimistic energy suffuses the entire first movement, in spite of G Minor  episodes and the accession of the tympani. The rather ominous opening to the C Minor Adagio features a lovely clarinet duo at its outset, then proceeds by way of some lovely Bohemian melodies to a dramatically songful melody accompanied by tripping figures in the strings. In spite of persistent shellac hiss, the violin solo shines through prior to the big washes of sound from the tutti, the tympani insistent under the clarion (Wagnerian) brass. Flutters and bird calls suggest a pastoral mood, albeit marked by dark thoughtful tensions, likely an influence from Brahms. The legato Talich elicits from the CPO set the standard for Dvorak performance thereafter.

A haunted waltz in G Minor follows, whose 3/8 time signature adds a sense of the ephemeral, the flutes chirping but the basses ominous. Typical of the period, Talich utilizes slides and portamento to heighten the effect. An elfin dash in 2/4 takes us to the ambiguous finale. The last movement contains a degree of emotional turbulence, set as a theme and variations set forth by the CPO cellos. The music consistently strives to break out into A Slavonic Dance, the flute engaging in a bold, rhapsodic piece of bravura. A kind of Hussite war march ensues, the flute’s intervention inadequate to the militancy afoot. Opus Kura inserts two short repeats Talich elided because of the 78 rpm limitations. The flute takes us back to G Major and the last surge to the coda, a triumph of a spirit incapable of being held in thrall by lingering doubts.

From the same year, 1935, the Carnival Overture, the second of the Nature, Life, and Love trilogy Dvorak penned in 1891. The program describes a wanderer having entered a city at evening, when a frolicsome carnival is in full force. Talich’s performance reels in exuberant energy, only pausing for a nocturnal vision, introduced by the harp and strings, then moving to an English horn and solo violin. We can hear the “duck-call” motif from In Nature’s Realm. In spite of some surly bass harmonies, violins and triangle take us to the animated festivities once more, Talich’s whipping up the Slavonic frenzy with seamless mastery.

Josef Suk’s lovely Serenade (1892) receives its premier recording in November 1938.  The colors belong to Dvorak, but the extended harmonies create a more modal style, still innately melodic. The tripping grazioso second movement waltz suggests what Talich might have made of Mendelssohn or Grieg, had he been permitted to record either. A lovely cello melody introduces the intimate Adagio, in spirit close to Faure’s Elegie. The rollicking finale enjoys those syncopations, brief hymns, and counterpoints which the CPO can relish under Talich’s firm hand, an edgy lyricism guided by relentless discipline.

— Gary Lemco


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