Hear this reissue and you'll understand at once why music lovers in the St. Louis area were distressed by the news of Leonard Slatkin's departure for Washington D.C. The St. Louis Symphony is one of the greatest treasures of our musical world, and Slatkin can take considerable credit for the angelic playing of his ensemble. However, this disc also reveals Slatkin's limitations as an interpreter. As is all too often the case Slatkin's precise, careful reading barely scratches the emotional surface of the music.
Leonard Bernstein and Kurt Masur (both with the New York Philharmonic) bring considerably more energy, enthusiasm, and passion to the New World. Although the splendid work of the St. Louis orchestra and Telarc's rich sonics are very seductive, the Masur (on Teldec) is both better played and better recorded. Moreover, Masur's interpretation offers considerably more character and power. Nor does Bernstein's analog 1962 recording sound at all inferior next to Telarc's. Indeed, Sony's timpani will easily dislodge any loose plaster from your walls, and Bernstein has all the vitality and fire that Slatkin lacks. While Bernstein's scherzo is overly driven (6:31 compared to Slatkin's 7:38 or Masur's even more stately 7:58), the other-worldly realm of serene beauty that Bernstein creates in II more than compensates for this slight lapse in taste.
Telarc's shamelessly short playing time is also a factor. Sony's midprice New World also includes two Slavonic Dances, the Carnival Overture, and Smetana's Moldau – all in riveting Bernstein performances.
Copyright © 1996, Thomas Godell