Dvorak • Janacek

COMPOSERS: Dvorak; Janacek
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorak • Janacek
WORKS: Dvorak: Symphony No. 6 in D; Janacek: Idyll
PERFORMER: Seattle Symphony/Gerard Schwarz
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572698


This is a very clever coupling of works. Dvorˇák’s Symphony No. 6 and JanáΩek’s Idyll were composed within two years of each other in the 1870s, when the two greatest geniuses of Czech music were getting to know one another. Both were slightly awkward outsiders but their empathy was remarkable. If there is a gulf between the sophistication of Dvorˇák’s Sixth Symphony and JanáΩek’s often rough-hewn writing in the Idyll, these were compositions that signalled a way forward for both.

Dvorˇák’s Symphony has a pervasive lightness of spirit for all its compelling developmental detail. Gerard Schwarz captures these aspects of the work superbly in the first two movements, but the Scherzo lacks adequate rhythmic kick, with little sense of the expectation of big things round the corner that Dvorˇák surely intended. The finale, too, would benefit from a stronger sense of line. With its untidy orchestral detail, this recording lags a fair way behind Jirˇí B∑lohlávek’s recording with the Czech Philharmonic on Chandos.

The Seattle orchestra’s performance of JanáΩek’s Idyll is in another league. Composed in 1878, when JanáΩek was in his mid-twenties, it owes much to Dvorˇák’s String Serenade and the first set of Slavonic Dances. But it also shows a great deal of originality, even if JanáΩek’s late style would take off in a very different direction. The Seattle Symphony strings distinguish themselves and Schwarz has a clear sympathy with this attractive music.


Jan Smaczny