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Dvorak: Symphony No. 6; Janacek: Idyll / Gerard Schwarz, Seattle SO

Album Summary

>Dvorak, Antonin : Symphony no 6 in D major, Op. 60/B 112
>Janácek, Leos : Idyll for Strings
Conductor Ensembles Composers

Notes & Reviews:

Dvorák's was a strong voice in the re-establishment of Czech musical identity, and the noble themes, open landscapes and dancing Scherzoof the Symphony No. 6 bear the stamp of a genius at his height. The work can also be heard as a tribute to Brahms, who had helped him earlier in his career. Janácek's charming Idyll reflects his preoccupation with Moravian folk-songs and rhythms as well as the influence of his friend Dvorák, identified by Jaroslav Vogel as the work's "spiritual godfather".

American Record Guide, May/June 2013
The first movement is so beautifully played that I was glad for it this time. II is warm and gentle; III is wild and ecstatic. IV is still very good. The Idyll is for strings - seven movements in 30 minutes, like a divertimento. The strings sound just right here - much better than they did in the older recordings. It is good to hear this played by the strings of a symphony orchestra. When it comes to strings, the more the better.

BBC Music Magazine, February 2013
This is a very clever coupling of works...Dvorak's Symphony has a pervasive lightness of spirit...Schwarz captures these aspects of the work superbly in the first two movements, but the Scherzo lacks adequate rhythmic kick...The Seattle orchestra's performance of Janacek's Idyll is in another league...The Seattle Symphony strings distinguish themselves and Schwarz has a clear sympathy with this attractive music.

Gramophone Magazine, February 2013
Schwarz usefully separates his violin desks, which pays generous dividends in the finale...[the Janacek Idyll is] an effective showcase for the Seattle strings, who distinguish themselves with a degree of lustre and expressive sweetness that matches the best rival American orchestras.

MusicWeb International, 12th July 2013
The first things one notices about this recording are the warm strings and mellow brass. Without a doubt this is the best I have yet to hear from the Seattle Symphony. Gerard Schwarz also seems a natural interpreter of Dvorßk.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, Sea (04/27/2011/04/29/2011); S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium-Benaroya Hall, Seat (04/27/2011/04/29/2011); Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, Sea (05/05/2009/05/08/2009); S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium-Benaroya Hall, Seat (05/05/2009/05/08/2009).


Dvorak symphony 6 Janacek Idyll Naxos 8.572698
Preromantic-era composers from the areas often called "Bohemia" and "Moravia" wrote music with no regional attributes; thus, works by Baroque- and Classical-era composers such as Bohuslav Cernohorsky, Jan Dussek, Frantisek Kramar, Antonin Rejcha, Pavel Vranicky, and Jan Zelenka depict essentially no Bohemian or Moravian characteristics. That changed when Smetana (1824-1884), described as the first Czech nationalist composer, began to compose music that reflected feelings of national pride and identity. For example, Smetana's famous orchestral cycle "Ma vlast" (My Country) depicts aspects of the countryside, history, and legends of Bohemia, such as Prague's famous river Vltava. His successors, who continued and extended the idea of expressing Czech musical identity in music, include Dvorak, Fibich, Janacek, Foerster, Novak, Suk, Martinu, and Weinberger.
Dvorak became a major composer in the expression of Czech musical identity in music. Brahms befriended Dvorak and persuaded his own publisher Simrock to publish Dvorak's "Slavonic Dances" (Op. 46), which began Dvorak's slow but sure ascent to international fame. His most famous work, the "New World" Symphony, became the crowning glory of an international career. The Sixth Symphony, Op. 60, composed in 1880, certainly expresses Czech musical identity. For example, the Scherzo is a Furiant, a Bohemian dance in 3/4 time with a characteristic effect of cross rhythm. It is fiery and impulsive in character, but the word Furiant has no etymological connection with the English word "fury." The main characteristics of this movement are strength, defiance, and unbounded joyfulness. Everything resounds with the irresistible dance rhythm as Dvorak's creativity and consummate skill are demonstrated, and full use is made of his brilliant use of orchestral color.
Although later music by Janacek is quintessentially Czech/Moravian in character, his earliest compositions reflect this trait much less overtly. His delightful Idyll, written when he was 24, reflects his preoccupation with Moravian folk-songs and rhythms as well as the influence of his older compatriot Dvorak.
The performances are splendid and the recording quality is excellent. Keith Anderson's program notes are up to his usual high standard.
For music-lovers looking for two quintessentially Czech/Moravian works, beautifully performed and well recorded, this budget-priced CD deserves serious consideration.
Ted Wilks
Submitted on 02/10/13 by Ted Wilks 
American Conductors Rule in Dvorak Sixth
This music will make your heart sing and your spirit soar. Although there have been many fine recordings of Dvorak's delightful Sixth, American conductors seem to have cornered the market. Best of all is the enchanting live performance by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony from the essential six-disc boxed set, "The Slatkin Years". Reasonably priced used copies are still available from Amazon. Further serious competition for this release comes from another remarkable Naxos disc with Marin Alsop leading the formidable Baltimore Symphony.

It's nearly impossible to choose between the two Naxos recordings. They have different strengths--and weaknesses. Schwarz has the best strings: as radiant and lovely as any ever recorded and reminiscent of the legendary Czech Philharmonic in its heyday (1950s-1970s). But Alsop has the most heroic & thrilling brass. She favors faster tempos, bigger climaxes, and Beethovenian drama. Schwarz is more restrained, and his accents are less crisp.

Thus Schwarz finds plenty of mystery in I, but he seems reticent compared to the fiery Ms. Alsop. Schwarz rightly sees II as the emotional heart of the symphony, and he delivers a deeply touching reading. Alsop's tempo is slightly faster, but she never seems rushed. III may be Dvorak's greatest Slavonic Dance, and Schwarz turns in an appropriately spirited and colorful reading. Yet Alsop is even bolder and brassier, while still managing to uncover some lovely woodwind detail. Both finales are lively and bracing. Schwarz's brass finally assert themselves, adding some welcome harmonic tension. Alsop is again faster, almost breathless, and she builds to an exuberant and glorious conclusion.

The deciding factor between these two excellent discs may be the couplings. Alsop serves up compelling readings of two minor Dvorak scores: the Nocturne and Scherzo capriccioso. Schwarz instead offers the arresting and rarely-heard Idyll by Leos Janacek. This seven movement score (1878) would serve as an ideal companion to Dvorak's haunting Czech Suite. The performance is everything one could desire in this music: graceful, serenely flowing, and richly melodic. Schwarz and company handle Janacek's tricky rhythms and unusual harmonies as if to the manner born.

That said, the best strategy would be to acquire both Naxos discs, as they complement each other splendidly. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for that indispensable Slatkin/St. Louis boxed set. That, too, would be a welcome addition to any classical music collection.
Submitted on 03/03/14 by Tom Godell 
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Works Details

>Antonin Dvorák (1841 - 1904) : Symphony no 6 in D major, Op. 60/B 112
  • Conductor: Gerard Schwarz
  • Ensemble: Seattle Symphony
  • Notes: S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium-Benaroya Hall, Seattle, USA (05/05/2009/05/08/2009)
  • Running Time: 47 min. 48 sec.
  • Period Time: Romantic
  • Form: Orchestral

>Leos Janácek (Composer) (1854 - 1928) : Idyll for Strings
  • Conductor: Gerard Schwarz
  • Notes: Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall, Benaroya Hall, Seattle, WA (04/27/2011/04/29/2011)
  • Running Time: 28 min. 42 sec.
  • Period Time: Post Romantic
  • Written: 1878