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Slavonic dances op. 46 and 72 for orchestra…

Slavonic dances op. 46 and 72 for orchestra (sound recording)

by Antonín Dvořák

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Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904)

Slavonic Dances, Op. 46

[1] No. 1 in C major: Furiant (Presto)
[2] No. 2 in E minor: Dumka (Allegretto scherzando)
[3] No. 3 in A flat major: Polka (Poco allegro)
[4] No. 4 in F major: Sousedská (Tempo di minuetto)
[5] No. 5 in A major: Skočkná (Allegro vivace)
[6] No. 6 in D major: Sousedská (Allegretto scherzando)
[7] No. 7 in C minor: Skočkná (Allegro assai)
[8] No. 8 in G minor: Furiant (Presto)

Slavonic Dances, Op. 72
[9] No. 1 in B major: Odzemek (Molto vivace)
[10] No. 2 in E minor: Dumka (Allegretto grazioso)
[11] No. 3 in F major: Skočkná (Allegro)
[12] No. 4 in D flat major: Dumka (Allegretto grazioso)
[13] No. 5 in B flat major: Spazírka (poco allegro)
[14] No. 6 in B flat major: Polonaise (Moderato, quasi minueto)
[15] No. 7 in C major: Reigen (Kolo) (Allegro vivace)
[16] No. 8 in A flat major: Sousedská (Grazioso lento, ma non troppo, quasi tempo di Valse)

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Václav Neumann

[Recorded: 1971?]

Warner Classics, 2002. TT 75’29.


'What was the concert like?' asked Sir Herbert.
'Oh, not bad at all. They gave a Brahms Concerto and the Fire-music from the Walküre, and some Hungarian dances of Dvořák. I thought them rather showy.'

This excerpt from Somerset Maugham’s short story “His Excellency” is interesting for several reasons. There are, of course, no “Hungarian dances of Dvorak”. There are Slavonic Dances (16) by Dvořák and Hungarian Dances (21) by Brahms. Notwithstanding the historical links between them – Dvořák was inspired by Brahms’ example and even orchestrated several of his (originally written for piano four hands) dances – they are entirely independent compositions. One unfortunate thing they share is the contempt of musical snobs like Sir Herbert’s wife. It is typical of such people, when they insist on talking too much, to get even basic details wrong. If you are not quite so exclusive in your symphonic preferences and enjoy robust orchestral showpieces, you can’t go wrong with Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances. There is so much vitality, charm and sheer good humour in these pieces!

It is pure coincidence that the performance on this disc is completely Czech. I am no fan of musical nationalism. I don’t use in my musical reviews words like “authentic” and “idiomatic” because I don’t understand what they mean in this context. Neumann simply happens to be a great conductor who makes the Czech Philharmonic sound like a world-class virtuoso orchestra. The sound is fantastically clean, vivid and natural throughout a wide dynamic range. As a result, Dvorak’s dashing orchestration and stylish inventiveness are done full justice. It is impossible to believe, though it is nonetheless true, that he originally composed (like Brahms) the works for piano four hands and later orchestrated them at the request of his publisher.

The presentation of this budget-price “Apex” edition is expectedly dismal. The “booklet” contains brief liner notes you may skip with a clear conscience. The cover is still a mystery to me. No recording details are given, nor have I been able to find them online. Judging by the minuscule font on the back cover, these recordings were first released by Teldec Classics in 1972. This is my only reason to suppose they were made sometime in 1971. Since “Teldec” is made up from the first letters of “Telefunken” and “Decca”, that explains the excellent sound quality. Neumann’s 1985 recording of the same music with the same orchestra for the Czech label Supraphon must not be mistaken with this one.

It’s a shame that so few of Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances are well-known: not one is without merit; most are minor masterpieces. (I use “minor” as a synonym to “short length”!) Both sets work surprisingly well as cycles. Václav Neumann has the elusive combination of sensitivity and bravura to bring out the best in this music, and this complete recording (1971, Teldec) is more than worthy of standing besides the classic accounts of George Szell with the Cleveland Orchestra (1962-4, Sony) and Rafael Kubelik with the Berliner Philharmoniker (1975, DG). ( )
  Waldstein | Feb 29, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Antonín Dvořákprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cleveland OrchestraOrchestrasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dorati, AntalConductorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Farrer, JohnConductorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Minneapolis Symphony OrchestraOrchestrasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Royal Philharmonic OrchestraOrchestrasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Szell, GeorgeConductorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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