Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Dvorak, Shostakovich etc

CD 1: Antonín Dvořák – Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88, Piano Concerto in G minor, Op. 33
CD 2: Dmitry Shostakovich – Symphony No. 9 in E flat major, Op. 70*,
Bohuslav Martinů – Symphony No. 4, H 305, Memorial to Lidice, H 296*,
Václav Dobiáš – Stalingrad cantata

Rudolf Firkušný - piano, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Rafael Kubelík

Supraphon SU 4080-2 (UK distributor RSK)

I intended to sample the piano concerto (quite a rarity) alongside several other newly released discs received from but found Kubelik's Dvorak items so captivating that I coudn't stop... You had to come to terms with balance favouring Firkušný's piano, as often used to be the way, but actual tone quality of piano and of orchestra is good and the performance generates such excitement and does all one could for the work; a far from negligible concerto.

The symphony, which I thought I didn't need to hear again (there are so many good modern versions) proved cumulatively irresistible and so 'familiar' that I gradually realised that it was through this very 1945 performance that I had got to know this favourite Dvorak symphony of mine, and of many other Dvořákians, fairly soon after the War. It was a salutary experience.

Of the rest, I've also heard the light and mercurial Haydnesque fast movements of the 9th symphony; the slower ones more weighty, the whole soewhat enigmatic.

A double-CD to be strongly recommended.

Dvorak Symphonies and other Orchestral Music

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Vaclav Neumann

Supraphon SU 4090-2 (8 CDs, UK distributor RSK)

This box of eight CDs is too much for a reviewer to traverse in full. But first impressions of lesser known works are great.

How often is the large-scale 1st Symphony (1865) played - 48 mins of due seriousness from a composer in his twenties establishing himself? Or the georgeous 2nd, a huge discovery and one of the best in this set?

Or the macabre Symphonic Poems after scary Eben fairy-tales (the Water Goblin's material was expended in Rusalka).

And the delicious Symphonic Variations which ought to be a concert favourite, surely it's better than the Brahms St Antoni Variations? I've loved it since having an early recording by Henry Wood, but this from Neumann & the Czech Philharmonic (1968) is far more subtle and idiomatic, and excellently re-mastered.

The multi-languages booklet is informative about the music, but tells us nothing about Vaclav Neumann, who was in charge 1968 until 1990.

This is a set to take on holiday on your iPod?

Peter Grahame Woolf

- - there is no finer Dvorák cycle than this one - - better recorded (by far) than any of the (others). Supraphon made some of the very best early digital recordings, and so they remain. A must-have if you love Dvorák [ClassicsToday]

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas - -
Josef Suk and Jan Panenka

SU 4077-2 [Complete - 4 CDs, Box set ]
c.£9 from Amazon

Another good bargain re-release; smooth, immaculate playing - very satisfying if you don't seek maximum "excitement" in all your Beethoven.


- - democracy rules the musical roost by way of Josef Suk and Jan Panenka's stylish give and take. Their conversational rapport is further enhanced by the extreme stereo separation in these 1966/67 recordings, which are in good sound for their vintage. - - All in all, a highly distinctive release that reveals more with each rehearing. --Jed Distler, ClassicsToday