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CD Review

Antonín Dvořák

  • Symphony #7 in D Major, Op. 70
  • Slavonic Dances, Op. 46
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Václav Talich
Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, London
Opus Kura OPK2080 Monaural
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The words which opened my review of OPK2084 apply just as strongly here. As I had previously written, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra had to travel to London to record the symphonies of Antonín Dvořák Václav Talich had a challenging life, both before and after the Second World War, and had few chances to enter the studio. All of his surviving recordings illuminate the music at hand in a way that has earned him a reputation as one of the greats.

So I wrote, and so it remains. If the Symphony #6 has never become a staple, the Symphony #7 has been an audience favorite and mainstay on records for decades. Way back in 1938, this music was a relative rarity on disc and in the concert halls. Captured in reasonably fine sound for the time, these historic readings further confirm Talich as one of the first podium giants of the recording era. Like his recording of the Sixth, the Czech Philharmonic plays exceptionally well given the early date, and Talich is also in very good form.

In the Symphony especially, there are some truly exciting high-points. Notably in the outer movements, the conductor digs in and delivers some thrilling results. The woodwinds beautifully compliment the strings throughout, but particularly in a lovingly phrased adagio. There is real drama and weight here, aided by some genuinely blended horns. The scherzo is happily free of heaviness, and purposefully trips along. In the finale, Talich gradually builds the tension in such a way that the music's tragic nature proves relentless by the end. The light hiss that Opus Kura retains does nothing to get in the way of the Czech musicians' obvious mastery.

In the Dances (Op. 72 can be found on the aforementioned OPK2084) the Czech Philharmonic effortlessly captivates in music that they have dominated on disc for decades. Still, from the same conductor there is competition, as Talich recorded both sets of Dances again before his death. And the orchestra has certainly revisited these works as technology has improved. However, this cannot take away from what remains a major achievement from a great conductor. There is more Talich conducting Dvořák on Opus Kura, as well as on other labels (the 1950s "New World" is among the greatest of all). However you acquire them, the recordings of Talich in the music of Dvořák are still essential.

Copyright © 2015, Brian Wigman