Dvorak: Symphony No. 6

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ALBUM TITLE: Dvorak: Symphony No. 6
WORKS: Symphony No. 6
The sheer confidence of Dvoák’s Sixth Symphony constantly amazes. His cultivation of symphonic form, by no means commonplace among the Czech Romantics who tended toward opera and the symphonic poem, pays rich dividends in a work that, while recognising the Viennese classics from Beethoven to Brahms, is strongly individual. The national element emerges most strongly in the excitable rhythms of the Furiant scherzo, but is also perceptible in the accompaniment to some of the themes in the first movement and the wide-ranging main melody of the finale. Another of its delights is superb orchestration – the radiant brass fanfares that light up the end of the first movement comprise just one example.


Colin Davis’s performance of the Sixth joins his excellent recordings of Dvoák’s last three symphonies and can certainly hold its head high in their company. His attention to orchestral detail imparts an almost chamber-music feel that is entirely beneficial. His reading of the first movement is marvellously infectious: the slight rasp added to the opening rhythmic figure and the waltz-like treatment of the lyrical moments are wholly convincing. There is a wealth of ravishing detail in the slow movement and the finale is magnificently structured. The scherzo is certainly exciting, though at times a little untidy. As a whole this is a fine performance if not quite in the class of Kertèsz or Blohlávek. The main disappointment, however, is the recorded sound which, while it does not conceal the fine playing, is close and has little ambience. Jan Smaczny