WORKS: Dvorák: Symphony No. 9 (New World); Suk: Fairy Tale, Op. 16
PERFORMER: Vienna Radio SO/Bertrand de Billy
CATALOGUE NO: 72:09 mins
The best performance on this CD is the suite of movements from Suk’s incidental music to the fairy-tale play, Radúz and Mahulena. At times it is possible to hear the debt Suk owed to his teacher and later father-in-law, Dvorák. There is also a hint of early Sibelius in the sombre funeral music of the third movement.
The music had great personal significance for Suk since he saw in the love of Radúz for Mahulena his own for his young wife, Otylka; the result, in the first movement, is music of profound and ravishing beauty. Bertrand de Billy and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra respond well to the music’s dramatic ebb and flow.
Their approach to the New World Symphony is dependable, though hardly striking. Notwithstanding a slightly cavernous acoustic, De Billy generates a convincing sense of impetus in the first movement and the famous Largo, aside from a rather melodramatic treatment of the string accompaniment in the central section, is certainly attractive.
But the Scherzo lacks a strong sense of momentum, in particular in the trio, and what passes for development in the Finale trails off unconvincingly. In a field populated by distinguished performances of this evergreen favourite, most recently Marin Alsop’s superb reading on Naxos, any newcomer needs to offer something genuinely special, more than is apparent here. Jan Smaczny