Review by: David Hurwitz
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 9
These performances, recorded in 2009/10, are not Delos reissues. If you’ve heard Gerard Schwarz’s Mahler recordings, you will know that his recent work reveals a distinctive and compelling way with romantic music, miles away from his stiff early recordings of Mozart and Haydn. This Dvorák Sixth is wholly personal and worth getting to know. Contrast seems to have become the name of the game. The first movement, with its exposition repeat intact, is uncommonly swift and exciting, the Adagio unusually slow—a real adagio—but still lyrical and flowing. In Schwarz’s hands the music takes on a larger aspect than it usually does.
The scherzo has plenty of the necessary fire, but the finale is also different (legitimately so) from any other version. In the coda, for example, Schwarz has the strings execute their fugato a touch slower than it typically goes, but with great precision, leading to a truly grand reading of the final pages. In every movement Schwarz varies the pulse effectively within a phrase, making effective use of slight ritards and accents to maintain interest. It’s just thoughtful, intelligent music making, with an orchestra able to follow the conductor’s every whim.
Janácek’s Idyll makes an unusual but effective coupling, dating as it does from two years before the symphony. In seven movements lasting some 30 minutes, the piece sounds a lot like Dvorák (albeit without the tunes) and wholly unlike the Janácek on which his reputation rests. Once again, the performance is warm and captivating, the string playing often luscious in sonority. This very enjoyable, well-engineered disc should excite the interest of Dvorák fans; it came as a very pleasant surprise.
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