I have fond memories of these four tone poems which were some of my first ever discoveries in the realm of classical music. My first experience was playing and replaying two Supraphon LP's with Zdeněk Chalabala's masterful accounts whilst later on, I discovered the legendary Istvan Kertész Decca recordings of three tone poems as, alas, he never recorded 'The Wild Dove'.
For some years now, Neeme Järvi's accounts on Chandos has held sway in the digital domain although Antoni Wit on Naxos is also quite commendable. However, I can report that all competition (apart from Chalabala and Kertész) is swept away when one hears Rattle's supremely masterful accounts of the Dvořák tone poems.
The Berlin Philharmonic play like angels throughout these colourful works but they truly come alive in 'The Golden Spinning Wheel' which is executed with fabulous imagination. Here, I also retain affection for Beecham's unique interpretation (available on Dutton) with the RPO but Rattle's conducting is truly marvellous.
The same goes for 'The Wood Dove' which is also magnificent although Chalabala is still an important benchmark here. The woodwind is fabulously clear in 'The Water Goblin' which is also pretty masterful.
My only quirk with this release is the fact that it is spread over two CDs at just over 84 minutes of music. Surely space could have been found for the 'Nature, Life and Love' cycle which would have made an apt and excellent coupling. Otherwise, Dvořákians and all lovers of Czech music simply cannot afford to be without these interpretations.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech