Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 & 10 Legends

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Dvořák: Symphony No. 8 & 10 Legends
WORKS: Symphony No. 8 & 10 Legends
PERFORMER: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/José Serebrier

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Eleven years ago, considering the Dvořák Eighth in Radio 3’s Building a Library, I got very grumpy about the lazily uniform way all the recordings played fast and loose – or slow and loose – with the composer’s detailed tempo markings. As far as I know, we’re still waiting for a conductor willing to give us what’s actually in the score. In the latest instalment of his Dvořák cycle, José Serebrier adheres to most of the familiar interpretative traditions of the work, beginning it slowly before accelerating fiercely, and exaggerating the subtle gear-changes in the finale – though at least towards the end he doesn’t allow the variations to droop into the usual deep slumber. His one innovation is to close the gaps between movements, creating segues which Dvořák can’t have intended. However, as conventional performances go, this is an enjoyable one, with expressive strings, fresh-sounding woodwind and poetic horns, all shaping phrases beautifully under Serebrier’s genial control.

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Although the Symphony has pride of place on the cover, it’s actually shorter than the ‘fill-up’, the ten Legends, orchestrations of a relaxed and tuneful set of piano duets. Here a few more carefully observed pianissimo markings would have enhanced the expression and clarified the balance; and the violins sometimes sound in need of a little more bloom than the acoustic of The Lighthouse, Poole has to offer. But it’s a bonus to have these delightful, colourful pieces as part of Serebrier’s cycle – offsetting any disappointment at yet another ‘traditional’ Eighth. Anthony Burton