ALBUM TITLE: Dvořák
WORKS: Symphony No. 9 (From the New World); American Suite, Op. 98b
PERFORMER: Bamberg Symphony/Robin Ticciati
CATALOGUE NO: 7194 (hybrid CD/SACD)
While there is nothing to suggest that Dvořák’s powers as a composer were failing in the years before he went to America, his encounter with the New World in 1892 certainly changed him. The new, not always congenial, environment of New York and his having to confront different kind of audiences produced major changes in his style: more balanced musical phrases, pounding rhythmic ostinatos and a new melodic simplicity have made many of his works from these years, not least the New World Symphony, his most popular. Any new recording of the work arrives in a crowded and distinguished field, and so needs to be special indeed.
While admirable in some ways, not least some lovely woodwind playing, there is very little about this performance that stands out. There is no strong sense of pacing in the first movement and its end is a bit of a scramble. The scherzo lacks infectious bounce and the phrasing in the finale is often rather lifeless, apart from the secondary material, which seems unnecessarily sentimental. With playing of high quality and an excellent recording, this performance seems a wasted opportunity and does not approach some very fine recent accounts including Marin Alsop with the Baltimore Symphony (Naxos) and Andris Nelsons with the Bavarian Radio Orchestra (BR Klassik).
The American Suite is undemanding but utterly beguiling. Unfortunately there’s rather dull phrasing in the second movement and the ‘Alla Polacca’ is damagingly fast. Jan Smaczny