Dvorak: Symphonies Nos 6 & 9

COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák
WORKS: Symphonies Nos 6 & 9
PERFORMER: Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Thomas Dausgaard
CATALOGUE NO: SACD – 1566
With Thomas Dausgaard and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra’s magnificent performances of Schumann symphonies ringing in my ears, expectations were high for their way with Dvoπák. While their performances make fascinating listening the overall impression in the Sixth is somewhat mixed. This is a pity since there is a much to admire and the small performing forces, in the case of the Sixth Symphony very close to the size of orchestra with which Dvoπák was familiar in Prague in the 1870s and ’80s, certainly reveal much about his instrumentation, not least the detail of his brass writing. The main problem with the first movement, which blossoms wonderfully in a more expansive reading such as B∑lohlávek’s superb benchmark performance, is that the tempo feels unsettled, undermining the magnificent climax. While they are listenable to for the sonorities alone, however, the slow movement could be more involving and the Scherzo less hard driven.

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Dausgaard’s reading of the New World Symphony is much more satisfying. There is a freshness and energy about the playing throughout which imparts a strong sense of new discovery to this very familiar work. There are some slightly perverse decisions about articulation, but in general the rhythmic infectiousness and revelatory instrumental sound compel attention; listen to the way in which you can really hear the cor anglais and clarinet combine during the slow movement’s main melody and the big clarinet melody in the finale is superbly songlike. Certainly this clearly recorded performance is one to return to even if does not displace either Kertész or Harnoncourt’s classic interpretations.