Very Good Dvorák Eighth, Amazing Golden Spinning Wheel

Review by: David Hurwitz

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Claus Peter Flor recorded this symphony for RCA, and rather well, but this remake is finer still. The Eighth benefits from as fresh and lively an interpretation as a conductor knows how to give it, and Flor for the most part obliges. There are a couple of moments in the first movement and finale that feel a touch self-conscious, but the Adagio and Scherzo are just about perfectly paced, with the latter especially elegant. The coda to the finale is as rousing as anyone could ask, and Flor is one of the very few conductors who makes sure that the rhythm of the final notes (da-DUM) can actually be heard. This may sound like a minor point, but it actually makes the ending sound like an ending, rather than a sudden stop.

Flor’s take on The Golden Spinning Wheel is just fabulous. This very long tone poem (27 minutes here) can sound annoyingly episodic, especially in the three-fold body-part-swapping episode—I know, you’ll have to read the story; but Flor invests the music with so much color and conviction at every point that boredom never sets in. Indeed, the performance is more satisfying than that of the symphony, which is saying a lot. As for the Scherzo capriccioso, it has many of the same virtues as the tone poem. It’s a no-holds-barred account that, while admirably rambunctious, nevertheless strikes me as very slightly too slow in the initial quick episodes.

Throughout the disc the playing of the Malaysian Philharnonic leaves little to be desired, but the sonics, while very good, aren’t quite up to BIS’s best standards. In loud sections, of the symphony especially, trumpets and trombones tend to get submerged, and the timpani aren’t quite as firm as they ought to be. I know it sounds like I am damning this performance with faint praise, but that’s only because it’s basically so good that the little problems tend to stick out all the more. For the tone poem alone, though, this disc is a keeper.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Symphony: Dohnányi (Decca)


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