Smetana, Dvor‡k

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Smetana
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Má vlast
PERFORMER: RLPO, Czech PO/Libor Pešek
CATALOGUE NO: VBD 5 61739 2 Reissue (1990, 1995)
There are many rewards in this bargain package. Pešek provides one of the most convincing renditions of Dvorák’s decidedly quizzical celebration of his native land in My Home and a full-blooded reading of the Czech Suite. This performance of the Fourth Symphony – one of Dvorák’s most problematic – is beautifully played and has a credible sense of advocacy, but little real interpretative understanding of the work: Pešek concentrates too readily on the lyricism of the outer movements while doing little to ameliorate the repetitive nature of the main material.

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Má vlast fares better: the Liverpool players, performing as if the work were in their blood, respond well to Pešek’s reflective approach: Vyšehrad, Tabor and Blaník benefit greatly from their keeping Smetana’s militarism on a firm leash. No disappointments here, but for sheer drama and insight Talich’s vintage 1954 recording and Kubelík’s moving 1990 Prague Spring performance continue to lead the field. Jan Smaczny