Dvorak: Symphony No. 8, The Wild Dove, The Noon Witch - Kreizberg
PentaTone Classics PTC 5186065
Classical - Orchestral
Dvorak: Symphony No. 8, The Wild Dove Op. 110, The Noon Witch Op. 108
Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra
Jakov Kreizberg (conductor)
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Review by Graham Williams - July 11, 2007
It was an imaginative idea of PentaTone to couple this performance of the popular 8th Symphony with two of Dvorak’s late symphonic poems, as these are some of Dvorak’s finest works that make all too rare appearances on programmes in the concert hall and ‘Holoubek’ and ‘Polednice’, heard here, are a well contrasted pair.
On SACD the main current competition in the symphony is from Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra on Philips and the historic George Szell / Cleveland Orchestra versions where, in both cases, the 8th symphony is coupled with the ubiquitous ‘New World’.
The Netherlands Philharmonic may not be rated as one of the world’s top bands, but under Kreizberg’s inspired direction, it sounds one throughout this disc, with responsive playing from all sections of the orchestra.
Although this symphony is usually regarded as one of Dvorak’s sunniest works, Kreizberg finds much more darkness in the music, particularly in the slow movement. The shadow of Brahms often looms large in this performance and moves the work closer in feeling to its predecessor, the Symphony No 7 in D minor.
The cellos and horns mould the opening theme of the first movement with both affection and a yearning quality that presages the overall performance. From the first few bars one is immediately aware of the rich sonority and clarity of PentaTone’s excellent recording. Details, such as the little flute figures heard from 1.24, and almost completely lost in the Fischer recording, are perfectly audible, while the rasp of the horns, at 5.54 and again at 8.50, are particularly thrilling.
Kreizberg takes a serious and weighty view of the slow movement, finding more undercurrents of anguish in the music than is usually the case. He lays great emphasis on the dramatic contrasts in this movement, but his scrupulous care for the dynamics in the score and his ability to extract playing of extreme sensitivity from his orchestra make his interpretation wholly convincing.
The Scherzo is also relaxed, taken at a steady, but not slow, pace. This is a straightforward performance with none of the idiosyncrasies shown by Fischer, and I particularly liked the way Kreizberg avoids any temptation to rush the coda thus avoiding any loss of clear articulation by the woodwind.
Kreizberg maintains his overall conception of the symphony in the joyous finale. For some listeners it may lack ‘Slavic fire’, particularly when compared to Szell, but it is marked ‘Allegro ma non troppo’ and this is exactly the tempo at which it is played here.
Dvorak wrote a set of several symphonic poems in 1896 based on folk-style ballads by Karel Erben including the two recorded here. The poems are all dark and of a gruesome nature, but they all have a strong narrative that Dvorak follows closely, and he depicts their events in music of striking vividness and melodic beauty equal to any of that found in his nine symphonies.
‘The Wood Dove’ tells of a young wife who poisons her husband, remarries, and racked with guilt subsequently kills herself. The music is a striking, almost Mahlerian, funeral march interspersed with more lively episodes. In ‘The Noon Witch’ a mother threatens her fractious child with the witch, who duly appears. In trying to save the child from the witch she suffocates it. Again Dvorak’s exciting music perfectly illustrates the events as they unfold.
Kreizberg is the ideal conductor to bring out the full drama and pathos of these pieces and his magnificent performances do both. I hope that in due course he will record ‘The Golden Spinning Wheel’ and ‘The Water Goblin’
As I have already indicated, PentaTone’s 5.0 DSD recording made by Erdo Groot and the Polyhymnia team and recorded in the generous acoustic of the Yakult Hall, Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, is quite superb. It is richer, clearer and better balanced than the competition allowing all the detail of Dvorak’s marvellous orchestration to be appreciated to the full.
One minor grumble is the lack of consistency in the accompanying booklet.
‘Holoubek’ is translated as ‘The Wild Dove’ on the cover and ‘The Wood Dove’ in the main body of the text while ‘Polednice’ is ‘The Noon Witch’ on the cover but becomes ‘The Afternoon Witch’ in the text.
Copyright © 2007 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net
Review by Mark Novak - August 28, 2007
This is a very good release. The main item, Sym 8, is expertly played. Kreizberg conveys the slavic feel of this work beautifully. Tempi are just about perfect in every movement. The closing presto bars are quite exciting. He never overindulges like some conductors are wont to do. There is also a good 8th (coupled with 9) on Philips by Fischer but I prefer the Pentatone in both performance and sound. The two late tone poem fillers are also wonderful.
Sonically, there is nothing to complain about other than a little lack of coherence when the orchestra is going full bore. The massed strings sound very good throughout from the double basses up to the ist violins (often trciky to capture well in my experience). The trumpt call that opens the 4th movement is very relaistic sounding and the percussion underpin everything nicely. Sonically, another winner from this label. Nice work Pentatone!
Copyright © 2007 Mark Novak and HRAudio.net
Review by John Broggio - April 18, 2008
A good but not great 8th from Kreizburg and his Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra on Pentatone.
This orchestra is made into a rather rustic-coloured bunch by Kreizburg - much to the benefit of the music; no twee affectation, just pure simple enjoyment. Compared to Dvorak: Symphonies 8 & 9 - Fischer and there is none of the world-class sophistication to get in the way of Dvorak's glorious score. Most of the tempi are fairly conventional, although there are some daring pauses in the slow movement that have one in rapt tension. Unlike many, the finale is not pursued in a hell-for-leather fashion and this is all in Kreizburg's favour. This generally relaxed approach (not dull or boring though - sample the coda to the finale to confirm this!) allows for a great many details to come out naturally that one would not normally notice. Very enjoyable, although one might imagine others approaching certain corners of the music with more imagination and flair. There are few modern accounts on SACD (outside of Japan - although I do hope that the 2 Czech PO recordings become more widely available) and as such can easily be recommendable.
The tone poems are played with a sense of discovery and engagement that place the musicianship on a different plane altogether. The only comparisons that spring readily to mind are those of Kubelik's wonderful cycle on DG and they are not to Kreizburg's disadvantage. Here he paces superbly well and evokes the stories just as magically - his principal gain over Kubelik is the recording; at no point can you here the myriad of orchestral detail as one can here. Wonderful stuff - it's worth buying for this alone.
The recording is one of Pentatone's better efforts (i.e. very good indeed). Everything has a natural place in the quite wide sound stage, which has a most tangible presence and depth. It vividly displays how Kreizburg seated his forces and the subtle combinations of instruments are conveyed with loving detail. Quite marvellous.
Copyright © 2008 John Broggio and HRAudio.net