Dvor‡k; Suk

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COMPOSERS: Dvorák; Suk
LABELS: Supraphon
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák; Suk
WORKS: Serenade for Strings – Dvorák; Serenade for Wind Instruments – Dvorák; Meditation on an Old Czech Hymn ‘St. Wencelas’ – Suk
PERFORMER: Prague Philharmonia/Jakub Hrusa
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3932-2

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Dvorák’s two Serenades have something of a retrospective quality. He was prompted to compose the Wind Serenade, perhaps his most completely perfect instrumental work, after hearing Mozart’s Gran Partita in Vienna and the String Serenade certainly owes much to great classical predecessors. Both works were written early in what might be described as Dvorák’s first maturity, the period from about 1875 when he seemed to have found the composing voice we associate with later works. The String Serenade is the more overtly Romantic of the two works with frequently lush textures and yearning harmonies in the slower passages. Jakub Hrusa and the Prague Philharmonia, aided by sympathetic recorded sound, clearly relish the textural aspects, responding with some truly lovely playing in Dvorák’s abundant ravishing counter-melodies. Slightly less satisfactory are some of the tempos: the central section of the third movement, in particular, rather loses its way – a pity, since there is so much to enjoy in many of the individual instrumental lines. The performance of the Wind Serenade is also rather mixed. The first movement gets off to a good start, but rather too much is made of the pauses after the first section and the instrumental detail isn’t always reliable. There are things to admire in each movement, in particular the exquisite start of the slow movement, but as a whole this reading lacks infectious sparkle. For more involved playing and genuine interpretative insight, Paavo Berglund conducting the New Stockholm Chamber Orchestra on BIS in the String Serenade, and the Oslo Philharmonia Wind Soloists on Naxos in the Wind Serenade are a good deal more enjoyable over all. Jan Smaczny