Dvorak: Symphony No. 7 in D minor; Symphony No. 8 in G

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Symphony No. 7 in D minor; Symphony No. 8 in G
PERFORMER: Oslo PO/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54663 2 DDD
The D major Symphony’s serenading key conceals a Brahmsian sturdiness – more regal than the dark D minor, just as assertive as the Eighth, but without the ponderousness.

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The slow movement’s wind solos lack the poignancy of the old Sejna version, but the Czech ‘Furiant’ Scherzo is brilliantly relaxed (rather than violent) and transitions are excellent. The trumpeting build-ups, a bridge between Berlioz and Janácek are thrillingly done and the finale’s massed strings achieve a precision one associates with Dresden or Leipzig orchestras. The sound starts rather disappointingly but it improves; and what a case Belohlávek makes for the work.

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The improvement of the Oslo Philharmonic under Mariss Jansons recalls the orchestra’s heyday under Fjeldstad in the Sixties. This Seventh is a slightly bumpy ride: boomy or thrusting for the Brucknerian sections of the Adagio, prosaic in the transitional horn calls, occasionally making Dvorák sound like merely floppy Wagner. Despite a fresh, jaunty Trio, internal phrasing lacks refinement. The massed strings tend to overbear. A few wind soli, notably the famous flute passages in an otherwise overstated Eighth, are nicely turned. The sound seems tinny for EMI and there is occasional extraneous noise, so you might do better with the Colin Davis bargain on Philips or the Kertész reissues from Decca. The Oslo orchestra’s Proms appearance gives you a chance to judge for yourself. Roderic Dunnett