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Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 - Andrés Orozco-Estrada

Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 - Andrés Orozco-Estrada

PentaTone Classics  PTC 5186 574

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Dvorak: Symphony No. 9, Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 Nos 3 & 5

Houston Symphony
Andrés Orozco-Estrada (conductor)


Dvorak’s New World Symphony is counted among the most successful and distinctive symphonies ever written and it loses none of its drama or appeal on repeated playing. Inspired by American spirituals and Henry Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, this infectiously tuneful work with its brilliantly colourful orchestration and rhythmic verve has its creative wellspring in Dvorak’s own homesickness. It was condescendingly described by his critics as a “Czech composer’s impression of the country” but its qualities were never in doubt and its inventiveness and warmth radiate from every page. From beautiful, wistful melodies, to unfettered exuberance and glorious, sustained climaxes, this extraordinary symphony has it all.

Dvorak’s evergreen Slavonic Dances Op. 46 (of which two are heard in this recording) are equally popular with audiences. Responsible for establishing Dvorak’s international reputation, these utterly charming pieces overflow with appealing melodies and catchy rhythms, their freshness and simplicity concealing their artful construction.

Andrés Orozco-Estrada is one of the most sought after conductors of his generation. Music Director of the Houston Symphony and Chief Conductor of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, he is also Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He has been widely praised for his style and command, Die Presse remarking “The orchestra was on top form, displaying precision and clarity in equal measure … packed with drama and finely balanced under Andrés Orozco-Estrada’s direction.” (August 2016)

This is Orozco-Estrada’s fifth recording for PENTATONE. His earlier discs of Dvořák symphonies were described as “Vivid and colourful, overall well balanced” (Pizzicato) “an interpretation full of theatricality, with a sure sense of the monumental” (Gramophone).

Future releases from PENTATONE with Orozco-Estrada in 2017 include Haydn’s Die Schöpfung with the Houston Symphony, and Richard Strauss’s opera Salome with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra.

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Review by Graham Williams - March 3, 2017

This, the third and final release of Andrés Orozco-Estrada's survey with the Houston Symphony of Dvorak's four most popular symphonies for the PENTATONE label is completed by the composer's most popular work, the celebrated Symphony No.9 in E minor 'From the New World'.

With a plethora of recordings of the New World Symphony available on both CD and High Resolution formats (SACD and Blu-ray) collectors face a daunting though pleasurable task in choosing one or more versions for their libraries. It is fair to say, however, that those who enjoyed the earlier two Dvorak releases from this charismatic conductor Dvořák: Symphonies 7 & 8 - Orozco-Estrada and Dvorak: Symphony No. 6 - Orozco-Estrada are unlikely to be disappointed with this new one.

The many desirable qualities that graced the previous two releases are once again in abundance here, not least the marvellously accomplished orchestral playing from the Houston Symphony captured in sumptuous recorded sound. As is the norm these days, Orozco-Estrada makes the first movement exposition repeat and his spacious tempi in all four movements are sane and generally unexceptionable. There are, however, a couple idiosyncratic tics in the Columbian maestro's interpretation that might be regarded as somewhat mannered and could become irritating, especially on repeated listening. In the opening movement Orozco-Estrada relaxes the tempo excessively at each appearance of the movement's slower sections (the first introduced by the woodwind, the second reminiscent of the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”) and this, to some degree, dissipates the overall forward momentum of the music. A similar event occurs in the otherwise lively and robust Scherzo when Orozco-Estrada slams on the brakes as the Trio section is reached. In contrast the famous Largo is well paced with the touching cor anglais solo from Adam Dinitz especially poignant, while the finale is dispatched with considerable energy and drama.

The two Slavonic Dances (Nos. 3 and 5) from Dvorak's Opus 46 set make a most agreeable if rather brief fill-up to the Symphony on a disc with a total playing time of just 54.16. Both are performed with affectionate charm and also plenty of bounce in the faster sections.

As was the case with the former two releases the team from Soundmirror, Boston, have produced an exemplary recording. The sound is full and rich with a wide stereo spread that does full justice to the fine playing from all sections of the Houston Symphony, whilst Andrés Orozco-Estrada's skilful balancing of the orchestra's weighty brass and luxuriant strings ensures that the many characterful wind solos are never obscured.

As was the case with the former two releases the experienced team from Soundmirror, Boston, have produced an exemplary recording. The sound is full and rich with a wide stereo spread that does full justice to the fine playing from all sections of the Houston Symphony, whilst Andrés Orozco-Estrada's skilful balancing of the orchestra's weighty brass and luxuriant strings ensures that the many characterful wind solos are never obscured.

Dvorak's 9th Symphony was recorded at Jesse H Jones Hall for the Performing Arts in Houston (May 2016) while the Slavonic Dances emanate from an earlier concert (September 2015).

In spite of my reservations stated above this SACD will give much pleasure to many, though it never challenges the finest of the considerable competition available elsewhere, nor for that matter Yakov Kreizberg's sympathetic account with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 / Tchaikovsky: Romeo & Juliet Overture - Kreizberg also to be found on the PENTATONE label.

Copyright © 2017 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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Comment by hiredfox - April 23, 2017 (1 of 1)

There is absolutely nothing routine about this performance, the Houston Symphony are on top form and with excellent musicianship deliver a full blooded, finely crafted account of the New World that ranks amongst the best even in a highly crowded field boasting many fine performances. There is a freshness in Andrés Orozco-Estrada's account that lacks any sort of idiosyncratic distraction which this listener found very appealing.

Dvorak was by all accounts a humble and sincere man and probably would have welcomed a straightforward account without elaboration The recording is first rate as you might have expected with the collaboration of Sound Mirror and Polyhymnia, probably recorded in 256fs DSD as is becoming Sound Mirror's norm these days although the booklet notes are silent on this detail. Brass is hugely realistic and the deeply yearning quality of principal French Horn in "My Home" puts the listener in little doubt of the composers sentiments for his native country whilst domiciled in the United States. Thoroughly recommended without caveats.