Dvorak: Golden Spinning Wheel; Wood Dove; Noon Witch; Water Goblin

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: EMI
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák
WORKS: Golden Spinning Wheel; Wood Dove; Noon Witch; Water Goblin
PERFORMER: BPO/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: 558 0192

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Dvorák’s late symphonic poems have had mixed fortunes. Janácek considered them Dvorák’s most thoroughly Czech compositions, his enthusiasm in part impelled by the elder composer’s technique of deriving many of the melodies in these works from setting lines of the poetry on which they were based. Beecham showed an interest in them in the early 20th century, but later audiences warmed more to Dvorák’s abstract orchestral music, perhaps finding the somewhat gruesome subject matter – murder and dismemberment are a mainspring of the stories – off-putting. This is a pity, since Dvorák’s musical narration of these pungent fairy-tale ballads is almost always convincing and his ear for orchestral effects unparalleled in his output before the opera Rusalka: the cooing of the wood dove, to cite but one example, is truly spine-chilling. In recent years conductors of the calibre of Harnoncourt and Belohlávek have turned their attention to these neglected works to impressive effect. Rattle’s readings, however, set a new standard. He turns them into miniature orchestral operas with an unfailing attention to dynamic detail and orchestral balance which allows Dvoák’s inspired scoring to speak eloquently for itself. He is also alive to the abundant emotion and sentiment that makes The Golden Spinning Wheel, for all its rambling nature, such a compelling work. Recorded with vibrancy and a wide dynamic range, these performances unquestionably lead the field.