DVORAK: The Symphonies – Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Otmar Suitner – Berlin Classics

by | Jul 9, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

DVORAK: The Symphonies – Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by
Otmar Suitner – Berlin Classics 0002783CCC (5 CDs, 5 hours, 55 mins.):

Recorded by VEB Deutsche Schallplatten in East Germany between 1979 and
1983, and only fitfully available in the U.S., Austrian conductor Otmar
Suitner’s Dvorak cycle would deserve a hearing even at full price.
Reissued in a specially-priced box, however, it is an irresistible
opportunity to hear deeply felt, virtuosic and often illuminating
performances whose main competition comes from much more expensive and
only marginally superior sets by Witold Rowicki (Philips) and Istvan
Kertesz (Decca).

Born in 1922, Suitner was a pupil of Clemens Krauss at the Mozarteum in
Salzburg, and began his career during WW II. He eventually became music
director of the Dresden State Opera and Staatskapelle in 1960, and
enjoyed a successful touring career. He was particularly popular in
Japan where his Dvorak set, luxuriously packaged, became a best seller.

His conducting is elegant and gently lyrical, with long-limbed phrasing
and understated rhetoric. As most Dvorak performances are, his are
lacking a bit in what I always imagine to be Czech “personality,” but
then Dvorak was a devoted disciple of Brahms, and anyway there are very
few performances, even by the great Czech conductors like Talich and
Ancerl which I find to be recognizably idiomatic in a Czech way. The
Staatskapelle, which bills itself as “Berlin’s oldest orchestra” (it
dates its founding in 1570!), is superb, with wonderful light and
fluent woodwinds and silky strings.

The warm and powerful sound lacks the kind of detail we have come think
of as audiophile, but is totally suited to Suitner’s music making. Dirk
Stöve’s liner notes are brief but enthusiastic.

– Laurence Vittes


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