Dvorak: Symphonies (complete)

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LABELS: Supraphon
WORKS: Symphonies (complete)
PERFORMER: Prague RSO/Vladimír Válek
This complete recording of Dvorák’s symphonies is a mixed bag: the Fifth and Seventh are from concert performances while the remainder are studio recordings; there is also the question of quality. Vladimir Válek’s readings cheer up notably from No. 5 onwards and the New World is the best performance in the set. Yet while there is a good deal to admire in the renditions of the Fifth and Seventh, there is much untidy detail, notably toward the end of the finales of both works.The early symphonies, not really familiar repertoire even in Prague, suffer from a heavy-handed approach which does little to conceal the hectoring moments in the first and the finale of the fourth. The Third’s slow movement, which can be radiant, is taken too literally and its finale too deliberately. The later symphonies benefit from greater interpretative care and attention to balance. While there are some rewarding moments in the last two symphonies, the finales of the Seventh and Ninth verge at times on the crude. Notwithstanding the clarity of sound, the set makes a fairly patchy impression, and nowhere approaches the idiomatic understanding of Kertész. Jan Smaczny