Symphony No. 9 (New World); Othello Overture; Rusalka – excerpts; Songs My Mother Taught Me; Smetana: Dalibor – How do I feel?
Kristine Opolais (soprano); Gewandhausorchester Leipzig/Andris Nelsons
Accentus Music DVD: ACC20419; Blu-ray: ACC10419 100:37 mins
As a whole this concert is a curious miscellany: three bleeding chunks from Rusalka, an orchestrated version of Songs My Mother Taught Me and an aria from Smetana’s lyric masterpiece, Dalibor. The piece that fits well with the New World is the concert overture, Othello, the last purely orchestral work Dvořák composed before the Symphony. This remarkable piece is given a handsome performance: the way the strings emerge from the opening hushed brass chord is little short of magical. Andris Nelsons conveys the work’s turbulent passions, with marvellous control over dynamics and articulation. The excerpts from Rusalka are rather more mixed. The ballet from Act II is dazzling, but the vocal numbers are not completely convincing. Kristine Opolais has performed the title role in Rusalka with distinction, and she sings the ‘Song to the moon’ with sincerity, but her Czech is often indistinct and at times her vibrato is a little too generous. Her performance of Rusalka’s panic-stricken aria from Act II has much more conviction both musically and dramatically. But the main event is the New World Symphony. Some will find the approach to the secondary material in the first movement overly indulgent, and it is a pity that the exposition repeat is missing; but the sense of pace and the sheer beauty of orchestral detail commands attention throughout. This is an unashamedly Romantic reading with some of the best orchestral playing I have heard in the work, not least the cor anglais solo in the slow movement. The producer captures Nelsons’s enthusiasm and his clear bond with the orchestra.