WORKS: Symphony No. 6 in D, Op. 60; Nocturne in B, Op. 40; Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 66
PERFORMER: Baltimore SO/Marin Alsop
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570995
Had Dvorák ceased composing symphonies after his Sixth, it would surely be viewed as a distinguished crown to his symphonic career. No less an authority than Elgar raved about its ‘tuneful and clever’ nature after playing violin in it at a concert in Worcester Cathedral with the composer conducting. He also enthused about the composer’s handling of the orchestra: ‘no matter how few instruments he uses it never sounds thin’. Doubtless he would have appreciated Marin Alsop’s performance.
As in her recordings of the last three Dvorák symphonies, her attention to detail gives pride of place to the exquisite use of instruments aided in no small measure by superb playing from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. At every turn in this excellently recorded performance, the balance reveals Dvorák’s instinctive feeling for evocative instrumental combinations, cases in point being the freewheeling start of the finale and the magical opening of the first movement’s development. Equally impressive is Alsop’s sense of line, especially in the finale and slow movement where rarely heard depths are revealed.
While this performance is certainly one to return to often, it is not entirely flawless. The accompaniment to the opening theme of the first movement is rather too literal and I missed the sense of exultation in the concluding brass fanfares that can make the same movement’s close so overwhelming. While this recording, accompanied by a nicely judged performance of the Scherzo capriccioso, is highly recommendable, I still find István Kertész and Jirí Belohlávek more completely satisfying in this symphony. Jan Smaczny