Davis is longtime Dvorak enthusiast
The affinity of Sir Andrew Davis for the music of Czech Romantic master Antonin Dvorak, heard at Heinz Hall over the weekend, represents a long-standing enthusiasm of the Pittsburgh Symphony’s new artistic adviser.
A quarter century ago, when Davis was in his mid 30s, he recorded all nine of Dvorak’s symphonies, plus other orchestral music, with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London. These well-paced and thoroughly enjoyable performances have just been issued in an inexpensive boxed set on RCA Red Seal with warm, clear sound that has the welcome bass underpinning one hears in a great concert hall.
Dvorak wrote symphonies throughout his career. Although the earliest ones give audible evidence of the influence of older composers, including Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, they are all unmistakably Dvorak in their emotional generosity and melodic richness. Johannes Brahms, who loved Dvorak’s music and helped his career, was a big influence compositionally, too, especially in the Sixth Symphony.
Davis leads lovingly-shaped performances, both in the nuances of the melodies and in the sequence of moods. The woodwind and brass solos have winning personality, but so too does the string playing. Davis’ lyricism flows naturally into more energetic passages, with strong climaxes that include admirably strong trombones.
The discs are filled out with an exquisite performance of Dvorak’s String Serenade by Rudolf Kempe and the Munich Philharmonic and a spicy one of the Wind Serenade by a Marlboro Festival Ensemble led by Marcel Moyse.
The strong Davis set of the complete Dvorak Symphonies joins an intensely competitive field of other currently available complete sets by Istvan Kertesz and the London Symphony on Decca; Witold Rowicki and the London Symphony, on Philips; and Rafael Kubelik and the Berlin Philharmonic, on Duetsche Grammophon.
Dvorak enthusiasts also will want to search out the too few and much older monophonic recordings by Vaclav Talich and the Czech Philharmonic on Supraphon. Additional Information:
What: The seven-CD set ‘Complete Collections — Dvorak: Symphonies Nos. 1-9/Andrew Davis’
Performed by: Philharmonia Orchestra and other ensembles.
Conducted by: Sir Andrew Davis and others.
Produced by: Sony/BMG RCA Red Seal 70830