Dvorak: Symphony No. 6; Symphony No. 8

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Symphony No. 6; Symphony No. 8
PERFORMER: Vienna PO/Myung-Whun Chung
CATALOGUE NO: 469 046-2
The conventional view of Dvorák’s Sixth Symphony sees the composer turning away from experiment and a nationally inflected style toward the Brahmsian model. This is a woefully inadequate view of a work which reveals some decidedly Romantic perspectives and relies on developmental methods that owe far more to Beethoven than Brahms. Chung’s performance goes well beyond the conventional. Although he adopts a fast basic tempo in the first movement, he is Romantically responsive to every nuance; the slow movement, played with consummate elegance, also moves swiftly while the furiant scherzo is perhaps a little too fast for comfort. Though refreshing and a real pleasure after some stodgy renditions of the Symphony, Chung’s reading doesn’t generate the sustained impetus of Kertész’s magnificent performance.

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Chung’s way with the much more consciously experimental Eighth Symphony is also on the Romantic side. His tendency to pull up too readily in the first movement robs it of some of its freshness and energy, most damagingly in the recapitulation which relies on speed to deliver full value. Tempo inconsistency also dogs the slow movement; at first this seems an interesting way of dealing with the Adagio’s near-programmatic qualities, but ultimately it makes for some slightly unsettling listening. The exquisite third movement and finale fare considerably better, owing largely to a more consistent approach to tempo; also Chung’s impetuous headlong rush to the last double bar is certainly convincing. Even so, there is little of the reflective insight of Mackerras, still less the infectious energy of Davis. Jan Smaczny