WORKS: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8
PERFORMER: Baltimore SO/Marin Alsop
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572112
The gulf both in structural intent and expressive language between Dvorák’s Seventh and Eighth symphonies is a challenge for any interpreter. The Seventh was written with the example of Brahms’s in mind and is appropriately serious in demeanour.
The Eighth was conceived as Dvorák was turning away from Viennese Romantic classicism; it is both a more personal and more experimental work than the Seventh and, frankly, puzzled Brahms, although it has delighted audiences since its premiere. Although much of the Eighth is lighter in tone, its slow movement has moments of almost heart-wrenching despair.
The great strength of Marin Alsop’s landmark performance of Dvorák’s Ninth Symphony was that along with attention to detail, she never sacrificed spontaneity in pursuing the musical argument. Much the same can be said of her way with the Seventh. Care for detail is apparent in the wonderful horn theme of the slow movement and the glorious sonorities in the Scherzo’s trio section.
Her sense of line is at its most impressive in the way in which the slow movement is sustained and the unfolding of the joyous second theme in the finale. Perhaps the recapitulation in the first movement could have been more overwhelming, but as a whole this splendidly recorded performance stands very high among available readings.
The first movement of the Eighth is on a similar level with Alsop both infectious and persuasively symphonic. The remaining movements, while eminently listenable, do not have this remarkable alchemy and the magical third movement lacks sparkle. Jan Smaczny