Dvorak: Symphony No. 2

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Warner Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorak: Symphony No. 2
WORKS: Symphony No. 2; Slavonic Dances, Opp. 46 No. 3, 46 No. 6, 72 No. 7
PERFORMER: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Jose Serebrier
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 64527-6

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What do you do if the only score of your First Symphony, sent off as an entry in a competition, is never returned to you? When that happened to Dvoπák, struggling to establish himself as a composer while working as an orchestral viola player, he simply sat down and wrote another one. The resulting Second Symphony of 1865 is an attractive and already characteristic piece, with echoes of Beethoven but also hints of early Wagner in bursts of shining melody in the tenor register. However, the work suffers from the young Dvoπák’s besetting sin of long-windedness, which led the composer to make numerous cuts in his mostly fruitless attempts to get the work published and performed.

Although he adopts those cuts, José Serebrier considers the Symphony ‘a masterpiece’; and his admiration for it is clear in this affectionate and lovingly shaped reading with the responsive Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Unfortunately, Dvoπák’s congested textures are not flattered by the tricky acoustic of the Lighthouse, Poole; they blossom more happily in the Prague venues for Zden∑k Mácal’s Czech Philharmonic recording on Exton, and for Libor Peek’s performance in his Virgin Classics cycle. All the same, with its preface of spirited and sensitive accounts of three Slavonic Dances, this is a recommendable addition to Serebrier’s impressive Dvoπák series.

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Anthony Burton