Dvorak: Symphony No. 5; The Noon Witch; Scherzo capriccioso

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 5; The Noon Witch; Scherzo capriccioso
PERFORMER: Czech PO/Jirí Belohlávek
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9475
Dvorák’s first two symphonies often elude satisfactory interpretation. While there is a certain amount of fire in the outer movements in Otmar Suitner’s performances, recorded in the late Seventies, he does little to project the surprisingly epic imagination behind these fascinating early works. Suitner’s solution to Dvorák’s youthful expansiveness is to adopt fast tempi, ignore all but one of the composer’s repeat marks and take refuge in all his suggested cuts and one or two besides. The results are the briskest performances of these works on disc, but also the most perfunctory. The superb Third Symphony fares no better, with disappointingly breathless outer movements. From every point of view, Kertész on Decca is much to be preferred.

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Belohlávek’s carefully thought-through reading of No. 5 is in a different league from Suitner. The attention to dynamic detail is exemplary and the playing enormously infectious. I find his abundant rubato tends to compromise the symphonic argument, and the third movement’s trio is slightly ponderous, but for those who like their middle-period Dvorák on the Romantic side, this issue will certainly appeal. Jan Smaczny