Dvorak: Symphony No. 2 in B flat; My Home Overture

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Symphony No. 2 in B flat; My Home Overture
PERFORMER: Czech PO/Libor Pesek
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45127 2 DDD
Dvorák’s first two symphonies are magnificent sprawling canvases. The tendency towards hectoring over-emphasis in these early works is richly compensated for by original and bold invention. At the start of his career in 1865, Dvorák’s music suggests that his genius could have gone in all kinds of directions. The scale of these symphonies is Brucknerian, with pre-echoes not only of the mature composer, but of Janácek, Strauss and, in the Second Symphony, even Sibelius.

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Pesek’s new recording is the penultimate release in a complete set (to be issued in a box next year). Unusually for this impressive interpreter of the Czech repertoire the results are slightly disappointing. While Pesek has an impressive overall grasp of the structure, conductor and orchestra don’t quite seem to have sorted out Dvorák’s complex textures, which results in the occasional loss of important leading voices. In this they are not helped by a recording which has a tendency to favour the strings. Pesek also opts for a number of cuts made by the composer at the first performance; a pity, since they diminish rather than enhance this remarkable work. To hear the symphony in its full glory, Kertész on Decca remains a prime recommendation. Jan Smaczny