Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 - Noseda
National Symphony Orchestra NSO0001
Classical - Orchestral
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9
Copland: Billy the Kid (suite)
National Symphony Orchestra
Gianandrea Noseda, conductor
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - February 24, 2020
This is not the first nor will it be the last recording of Dvorak’s ever so popular ninth symphony. A review of the previous one published on this site dates from September last year: Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 - Keller. Colleague Williams rightly suggested that in order to successfully attract the attention of anyone having already more than one on his shelves, any further addition to the over 50 Super Audio in the Hi-Res catalogue, and a whole lot more in the for many outdated RBCD format, should bring something special. Since I prefer to sit in the concert hall and not in the orchestra, I’m not a great fan of TACET’s ‘Real Surround Sound’, but it does indeed bring something ‘new’. With this NSO release, it is difficult to make a similar claim. At face value, it is just another account. But is it?
Although this has no direct bearing on the music, it is new and noteworthy in that this is the first release of Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra on its own label with a promise for more (“will present standout performances from across the Orchestra’s seasons at the Kennedy Center and beyond”). Furthermore, that we have here one more American label joining the high-resolution market and that it does so in two formats: physical (SACD) and download (Native DSD), next to streaming on the usual media. The icing on the cake is that the recording was made using the best available technology (“recorded live in DSD, June 2019”) and engineered by the top sound wizards of Boston’s Sound Mirror. What more can one wish for?
Gianandrea Noseda is a conductor of global standing, bringing with him bags full of experience at his arrival as the latest NSO’s General Music Director. This extensive experience clearly enabled him to deliver Dvorak’s ‘New World’ inspired Symphony in an indisputable Bohemian fashion by combining typical elements of both in a remarkably spirited first movement with a hi-impact ending. Like in other first-rate versions, Noseda’s second movement is a heaven of peace. In this almost visualized impressionist reading, it could be either a tranquil, sunlit Nebraskan cornfield or a lush Bohemian valley, with a passionate Cor anglais setting the pastoral tone. The orchestra fully shares in this live painting of the score in all its diverse colours. And even more so when Noseda sweeps up the elements in a boisterous reading of the Molto Vivace, reminiscent of Ferenc Fricsay’s Berlin Account (DGG, re-issued in 2007) in the sixties. The final movement is an equally glorious explosion from which the sound engineers were able to draw details in some of the more crowded passages I can’t remember having heard before.
Billy the Kid enjoys the same public favour as the Symphony. Both, therefore, an understandable choice for a first recording, with the clear objective of setting oneself in the market. I would hope though that future release will also look at other, preferably American music, as so much of it have so far been neglected, like Walter Piston’s two violin concerti, or the lovely Song of Orpheus Fantasy for cello and orchestra from the American (William) Schumann.
These having been recorded during one or two live concerts, nit-pickers will always find something to complain about. This is, in my view, not the way to look at it. A live production invariably brings so much more emotional thrill that it largely outweighs any imperfection it may entail; in this particular case the positive tension between audience and musicians is tangible, and the more I listen the more I like it.
It may be clear that from the luxury of available versions, which by the way and for various reasons do not all come into prime focus, it may be difficult to make up one’s mind. That said, Noseda and his forces surely are in the top league. And with a compelling Billy the Kid Suite from Aaron Copland’s complete ballet, plus on top of that an exemplary sound, with modest but effective surround, one can hardly go wrong when opting for Gianandrea Noseda and the National Symphony Orchestra.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
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