These beautiful and rarely heard works are normally the prerogative of Czech recording companies but we still have the famous Rafael Kubelík CD with the Bavarian Radio Symphony of the four main symphonic poems recorded in Iron Curtain days for a sample of westernized orchestral playing in these tone poems. So it is rather overdue to have a modern, full-blown digital recording of this music together with some rarely heard Smetana to boot.
One really cannot fault these interpretations for brilliance of orchestral colour and imagination especially in "Richard III", "Wallenstein's Camp" and the ubiquitous "Prague Carnival" although here I still recall Zdeněk Chalabala as being supreme. However the Chandos disc wins in that it contains a stunning performance of the Grand Overture in D Major which is a complete rarity and also adds some unknown Smetana such as the two delightful tone pictures, "The Fisherman" and "The Peasant Woman" that make for rather beautiful interludes.
As expected, the recordings are in the top drawer with Noseda and the BBC players finding imagination and colour that has definitely come through from their fine recordings of Liszt tone poems. Notes are also informative and scholarly by the indefatigable Jan Smaczny and there are also some lovely sepia tinted photographs on the front cover setting the seal on what is a stunning and long overdue issue. What about some Dvořák from this excellent partnership next?
Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech