Dvorak symphonies performed by Czech Orchestra?

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by MartinC, Dec 8, 2003.

  1. MartinC

    MartinC Trainee tea boy

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    My Uncle has suggested he would like some Dvorak symphonies for Christmas, but he always likes music to be played by an orchestra of the same nationality as the composer :rolleyes: , so I was wondering if anyone might know any decent recordings by Czech orchestras?

    Thanks for any help,

    Martin
     
    MartinC, Dec 8, 2003
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  2. MartinC

    tones compulsive cantater

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    Martin, I have a set of the Dvorak symphonies at home on Naxos, made, I think, by the Slovak Philharmonic. I've found these to be very enjoyable. I'll look for the number tonight.
     
    tones, Dec 8, 2003
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  3. MartinC

    MartinC Trainee tea boy

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    Cheers Tones. Don't worry about the number I've come across that Naxos set. Naxos can be a bit hit and miss from what I've heard, but you'd rate them would you? I think strictly Dvorak was born in what is now the Czech republic but hopefully my uncle would be happy with a Slovakian orchestra...
     
    MartinC, Dec 8, 2003
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  4. MartinC

    tones compulsive cantater

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    I agree, Naxos can be hit and miss. Performances and recordings can range the whole gamut from woeful to outstanding. I confess not to have listened to this set for a while (working on the cantata collection!) but my memory is that it's well played and adequately recorded. I think it's hard to go wrong with Dvorak, the stuff is so tuneful and approachable that you have to make an effort to get it wrong. Having said that, I can think of one case, no less than the famous Ferenc Fricsay, who absolutely kills the New World by taking it far, far too slowly
     
    tones, Dec 8, 2003
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  5. MartinC

    titian

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    Martin
    If you can wait until this evening then I will post you some interesting interpretations f.e:

    - Czech Phil Orch. with Vaclav Neumann
    - VPO (or ??) with Kubelik, the orch is not Slovak but suberb interpretation. (nothing better IMO)
    -


    If you agree wait a few hours...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2003
    titian, Dec 8, 2003
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  6. MartinC

    GrahamN

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    I guess the first question is are you after a full set, or just one or two symphonies. Some of the older sets only give you the most popular ones (e.g. 7-9) or selected highlights.

    I have several of the Naxos series (IIRC 6,7,8; cond. Gunzenhauser). They're Ok, but I have to say I don't listen to them much (but then I've not really been listening to any Dvorak much recently...must be succumbing to too much of this baroque propaganda I get from Tones et al ;) ).

    The main man for Dvorak in decent recordings was Rafael Kubelik, but pretty much all his recordings are with Austro-German orchestras (Berlin, Bavarian Vienna etc). The one that is probably most revered for the genuine Czech sound is Ancerl with the Czech Phil, but he only seems to have 6 and 9 available atm. There're also authentic recordings by Vaclav Talich (pre-war) or Vaclav Neumann ('50s IIRC). With all these, recorded by Supraphon and the old Czech Phil the reputation is for idiomatic rightness shining through the dreadful recording quality and dubious technical security!

    More recently the big Czech specialist is (the Aussie) Charles Mackerras, although he's only recorded tone poems with the Czech Phil.

    One that should be worth 'czech'king out would be the set by Jiri Behlolavek with the Czech Phil on Chandos. Chandos' sound is always top notch, and I've heard several good concerts by Behlolavek. (Unfortunately the fount of all knowledge, gramofile at www.gramophone.co.uk is down at the moment). He does seem to get the top recco for the 6th symphony though. (And Fischer/Budapest - OK hungarians - get it for the 8th). I also spotted a set by Libor Pesek shared between the Liverpool and Czech Phils - although their 6th seems to get the thumbs down.

    All the above is primarily from reputation though, as I've not heard substantial amounts of any of those recordings. The man who should really be commenting here though is Titian (although he's going to have to try hard to recommend anyone other than Kubelik). He may have some of the Neumann or Ancerl recordings though to give a first-hand impression.
     
    GrahamN, Dec 8, 2003
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  7. MartinC

    MartinC Trainee tea boy

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    Titian - Thanks; any info you can give me tomorrow would be great.

    GrahamN - Thanks for all your comments. A complete set would obviously be very nice, but I'm not out to spend loads of money so possibly a couple of good CDs would do. Since my uncle doesn't seem to have any of them at the moment one of them had better be the 9th.
     
    MartinC, Dec 8, 2003
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  8. MartinC

    titian

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    Martin

    It will be difficult to satisfy your uncle with all Czech interpreters (orchestra and conductor) and good quality recordings.

    I suppose you should find out what is most important for your oncle:
    - orchestra Czech or Slovak
    - Conductor Czech or Slovak and therefore more important than the orchestra
    - Interpretation
    - CD quality

    I know you wrote orchestra Czech but you never know if he also means conductor Czech.

    Dvorák-Symphonies, Václav Neumann, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Supraphon
    This is the only interpretation (with more than 1 symphony) where both orchestra and conductor are Czech. The orchestra is far the best one in Czech and Slovakia since ever. Neumann was in the latest decades the main conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. I though prefer Ancerl and especially Kertész. If you don't want to buy the whole lot, there are 2-cd-sets with 3 symphonies. Then I would get the 7-9. The recording quality is not at all the best you can get (to say it diplomatically).

    Dvorák-Symphonies, Kertész, London symphony orchestra, Decca ?
    The interpretation is very nice and the LSO is a great orchestra (but not as you prefer Czech). Also here the recordings which I have on LP though are also not really superb.

    Dvorák-Symphonies, Rowicki, London symphony orchestra, Philips
    This was one of my first recordings I had of Dvorak (on MC!). At that time I wasn't so impressed about the interpretation as with Kertesz and later Kubelik but I wouldn't over estimate my opinion.

    Dvorák-Symphonies, Kubelik, Berliner Philharmoniker, DG
    As Graham as mentioned this is my favourite but be careful: there are several recording of Kubelik with different orchestra and you must get the ones with the Berliner Philharmoniker. The disadvantages is that you don't have your Czech orchestra and the box contains all symphonies plus other small compositions of Dvorak which make the price climb a bit. The recording are very good. Maybe you can get the CDs seperately.

    The Complete Symphonies , Stephen Gunzenhauser, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Label Naxos
    I never heard that conductor (doesn't sound much Czech) and in these cases where you want to give a nice present to someone who knows what he wants, I wouldn't choose this option.

    Anyway I would ask your Oncle if for him it is more important the orchestra or the conductor.

    I hope I helped you with this. For seperate CDs of Dvorak's symphonies, I hope other members can help you with that. I know Giullini's, Maazel's, Abbado's, Muti's versions of the 9th (some also 8th) but I think that as a present you should get a box of the 3 major symphonies (7-9) or the complete ones.
     
    titian, Dec 8, 2003
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  9. MartinC

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    You should be able to pick up the Pesek complete set - split, as noted above, between the Czech and Liverpool POs - for £13 in HMV on 8 CDs (Virgin boxed set, click here for a look). As far as I can see from the review in the Penguin Guide, you can't really go wrong - 7, 8 and 9 all seem to have gone down pretty well, and arguably they're the most important ones anyway. At that sort of money you could probably afford to buy supplementary recordings of any you didn't like anyway.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 8, 2003
    PeteH, Dec 8, 2003
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  10. MartinC

    titian

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    If it is something for yourself / myself then yes but for a gift no. I wouldn't give someone a Cd and say:"look I got something cheap. If you don't like it well I'll buy you something else. Anyway not bad for the money, is it?"

    I wouldn't over estimate what the Penguin Guide would say about a CD "made in the UK"... But for that price why not?
     
    titian, Dec 9, 2003
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  11. MartinC

    GrahamN

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    I've just relistened to the Naxos 8th, and now know why I don't listen to it much - it's really tedious (except the 3rd movement), and I wouldn't have got to the end of it if I hadn't wanted to give it a fair crack. The orchestral sound is also pretty distant....so definite thumbs down on that one from me. From the reviews that looks one of the weaker ones of the series though. Turns out Gunzenhauser is American. (I got it s/h for 99p, so I got what I paid for)

    The way I read the Penguin review is Pesek is good/fair for 7 and 8, but a bit routine in 9, and poor for 6.

    The reviews of the Belohlavek/Czech/Chandos (note I spelled his name wrong earlier) set seem pretty good, particularly 6th and 8th (he also recorded 5th and 7th for them too). Disadvantages there are that a) they're full price; b) they come at one symphony per disc, so it works out expensive, but you get the tone poems as couplers; c) there's no 9th, although there seem to be two Supraphon recordings of that by the same team (look like they may be the same recording), one at full price and one at £5.

    If you want the full Czech ticket it looks like Neumann or Belohlavek.

    Doesn't meet any of your nationality spec's I'm afraid, but I grew up with the Davis/Concertgebouw/Philips 7th which I think is wonderful. I also have the Davis/LSOLive 9th, which is excellently played but, as with most of that label, the recording lacks atmosphere and ambience (despite being recorded live). The principal reccos for the 9th also seem to be non-Czech (e.g. Masur/NYPO).

    And just to further add to the confusion, I've just seen a review of Kubelik's versions of 7-9 (recorded live) with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra rereleased on Orfeo that the reviewer (Rob Cowan, a fully paid up recordings anorak) rates clearly higher than the Berlin versions ("In short, it lives more"), with the probably exception of the 7th.

    I get most of my new discs from www.mdt.co.uk - they normally take about a week to deliver.

    Hope this helps ;)

    [Edit]
    Actually, how about a "do it yourself anorak kit":

    6 + The Wood Dove : Belohlavek/CzechPO CHAN9170 £11.50
    7&8 Kubelik/BPO DG 4579022 £7.00
    9 + In Natures Realm, Othello : Ancerl/CzechPO Supraphon SU36622 £7.00
    and/or
    9 + Carnival, Symphonic Variations : Belohlavek/CzechPO Supraphon SU36392 £5.00

    You can also argue that the 7th is so heavily influenced by Brahms that the full-on slav tratment is inappropriate anyway - and a Czech exile in front of a German orchestra is probably just about the right mix :D .
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 9, 2003
    GrahamN, Dec 9, 2003
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  12. MartinC

    ross

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    The Kubelik set really stands out as the best available complete set of the Dvorak symphonies, with enough national authenticity (Kubelik is a Czech, after all) combined with wonderful orchestral playing. Only Ancerl with the Czech PO (if it is available) would take preference on authenticity alone, and even then I don't think Ancerl's recordings have the charm, character and beauty of Kubelik's.

    I also think very highly of Harnoncourt's recent recordings with the Concertgebouw (only the latter symphonies are currently available) - far from authentically Czech, but excellent performances nonetheless (though not as good as Kubelik).

    It would be nice if Mackerras recorded a new cycle with the Czech PO. His recent disc of the violin concerto with Pamela Frank and the Czech PO was outstanding.

    Ross
     
    ross, Dec 9, 2003
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  13. MartinC

    MartinC Trainee tea boy

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    Thanks very much for all you help guys :) . I'll have to ask for advice the next time I'm looking for things for myself if I get responses like this!

    I think now I'll have a look to see which of your suggestions I can get my hands on. I reckon he's probably more bothered by the orchestra being Czech rather than the conductor, but I'm not certain. Recording quality is probably much less of an issue for him than it would be for me, but I still think I'd like to stay away from really old ones which have very obvious hiss.

    Thanks again all,

    Martin
     
    MartinC, Dec 9, 2003
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  14. MartinC

    HenryT

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    Interesting! :eek: Masur/NYPO is the one and only (complete) recording I own of the 9th. Didn't buy it on the strength of any reviews at the time, just that I wanted a complete recording and it happened to be the first CD I came to in the shop. I was actually in New York, this was a few years back, so no surprises that this particular recording was being displayed with some promienance as well as being a new release back then. ;)

    Not ever heard symphonies 1-6.

    Got the 7th on Chandos with Belohlavek (hardly listened to it :shame: - must remedy). And the 8th on Decca with Dohnanyi and Cleveland. Again just recordings I've picked up randomly rather than through recommendations/reputation.
     
    HenryT, Dec 9, 2003
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  15. MartinC

    Herman

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    I have the Kubelik Orfeo recordings with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (with whom he worked for many years) and they are splendid. Better than the Berlin PO. The only downside is they are one symphony per disc plus a non-symphonic work.

    I would not recommend Kubelik with the Vienna. Compared to the seventies performances with the Bavaria, these VPO accounts seem strangely anxious.

    The Ivan Fischer recordings with the Budapest Festival Orchestra are pretty good, too, and the Ninth is coupled with the Eighth.

    Neumann would be a good choice, too.

    I wouldn't worry too much about what the reviews say. Kubelik's Seventh is just as good as his Eighth. (Though the most impressive Eighth, for me, is the Kertesz.)

    Herman
     
    Herman, Dec 9, 2003
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  16. MartinC

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    Fair enough point, but (for most of us at least ;) ) budgetary concerns do unfortunately have to enter into buying gifts as well, and given a choice between receiving something like the DG Karajan Gold Dvorak 9th and the Pesek set, I know which I'd go for.

    I'd agree with you if I didn't think the Pesek set constitutes a serious proposition, but as I'm sure you're aware at least 6 or 7 of the 8 CDs were originally issued at full price (ie £15 each) as well-received new premium recordings within the last ten years or so, and while there are probably preferable individual recordings available of many of the 9 symphonies, this would be true of any single recorded set IMHO.

    Agreed with Graham re the Philips Davis recordings btw, they're great.
     
    PeteH, Dec 10, 2003
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  17. MartinC

    GrahamN

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    As an aside to all this, you may be interested the the Philharmonia are doing a Dvorak/Janacek series at the RFH next year.

    Belohlavek is in front of them for
    20th Jan: Dvo 9th + Janacek Sinfonetta (+ Kocsis playing Mozart Pf 23)
    Had my ticket for this one for ages.

    29th Jan: Dvo 7th + Vln Conc played by Midori, and Smetana Bartered Bride Ov
    Can't stand Midori, so giving this one a miss, despite wanting to hear the 7th

    then Sir Charles Mackerras (as mentioned above a Czech specialist, having studied in Prague with Talich) is there for

    24th Jun: Dvo 6th, Janacek Taras Bulba, (and Josh. Bell playing the Brahms)
    29th Jun: Han-Na Chang playing the Dvo Cello Conc. and then the Janacek Glagolitic Mass, with massed LPO/LSO choirs.
    Both these latter ones are also absolute musts for me! Oh BUGGER - I'm already going to a concert 29th Jun (Marriage of Figaro, Concerto Koln at the Barbican)

    Actually, suddenly remembered Dvorak died in 1904, so there should be lots of him about in 2004!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 10, 2003
    GrahamN, Dec 10, 2003
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  18. MartinC

    MartinC Trainee tea boy

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    Right guys, thanks again for all help. I've just ordered the Czech. PO / Belohlavek versions of the 6th, 8th and 9th on Chandos/Supraphon. I hope I get them enough in advance to give them a listen myself :) .
     
    MartinC, Dec 11, 2003
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  19. MartinC

    PeteH Natural Blue

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    Noooo! You missed the 7th, by far the best of the entire series :spank: :D

    That was the first time I've got round to playing with the extended smilies list btw, and I've just noticed something a little odd - can someone explain to me why this one is "NAD owner"?

    :NADowner:

    My NAD S500 is really very nice, thank you very much :MILD:
     
    PeteH, Dec 19, 2003
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