Dvorák • Varèse

COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Varese
LABELS: Seattle Symphony Media
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák • Varèse
WORKS: Symphony No. 9 • Amériques
PERFORMER: Seattle Symphony Orchestra/ Ludovic Morlot
CATALOGUE NO: SSM 1006

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French-born, British-trained Ludovic Morlot is one to watch: he’s the dedicatee of Elliott Carter’s final work, Instances, no less. This programme, though, is better in theory than practice: two responses to the new world, indeed, but musically indigestible.

Andris Nelsons’s fiery reading of Dvorák’s Ninth Symphony with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (2013) is perhaps the most impressive recent contender: he achieved a detailed polish and luminous balance you won’t find in this live recording. The sound from Benaroya Hall is somewhat generalised and boomy, but what does come across is Morlot’s coltish excitement, particularly in a high-energy Allegro molto. An over-stately approach is death to this masterpiece: here we have something nearing wild abandon, particularly in the final Allegro con fuoco, which zips unselfconsciously along, even if passagework is occasionally congested, and Morlot’s all-guns-blazing approach favours volume over subtlety. The Largo receives a tender, flowing reading, even if the cor anglais solo is rather raw, while the scherzo has a fine elasticity and sense of dance, making Rafael Kubelík’s Berlin Philharmonic recording sound positively arthritic in comparison.

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Given Morlot’s loud, heavy-footed trio, I wondered how Varèse’s Amériques was going to fare, with its need for clarity and space. In fact, this recording from 2011 is impressive. He may not find Boulez’s cool precision with Chicago, but there’s a visceral, compelling power to this performance. The work itself can feel like a patchwork of Stravinsky quotes, plus blessed siren, but Morlot pulls the focus on its inner workings with some success, and finds a convincing line through. Helen Wallace