Dvorak: Symphony No. 6; The Water Goblin

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: PentaTone
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák
WORKS: Symphony No. 6; The Water Goblin
PERFORMER: Amsterdam/Yakov Kreizberg
CATALOGUE NO: PTC 5186 302

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In recent years Dvorák’s Sixth Symphony has gained ground in the recorded catalogue. Though it is unlikely to challenge the New World in popularity, it is good that this magnificently crafted work has more recognition. Dvorák wrote the work with a Viennese audience in mind and there is certainly a debt to Brahms. While this is clear at the beginning of the last movement, the true symphonic precursor is Beethoven, in particular his Eighth and Ninth symphonies. Bearing this in mind, a strong sense of line and structural control make for the best performances. Yakov Kreizberg begins well: the opening, taken at a moderate tempo and with care over phrasing, bodes well, but when he gets to the second subject things become mired in an overly-romantic view which fatally undermines the generous, expansive development of this superb movement. Isolated incidents become exaggerated: for example, the start of the development almost grinds to a halt requiring a major hike in tempo for the more intensive working out. The result is that the movement lacks impetus, and the radiant conclusion, so memorable in Belohlávek’s benchmark recording, comes more as an afterthought than a natural, logical climax. The exhilarating ‘Furiant’ scherzo and the broad-boned finale also lack a sense of excitement. Pity, considering the orchestral playing – as the slow movement indicates – is often very fine. Conversely, the performance of the Water Goblin is rewarding. Clearly, Kreizberg has a way with Dvorák, but he seems to have lost it in the Sixth. Jan Smaczny