Dvorak - Symphony No.6 / Janacek - Idyll
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Cat No: 8572698
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 2nd January 2013
ArtistsSeattle Symphony Orchestra
Janáček’s charming Idyll reflects his preoccupation with Moravian folk-songs and rhythms as well as the influence of his friend Dvořák, identified by Jaroslav Vogel as the work’s “spiritual godfather”.
1Dvorak - Symphony no.6: I.Allegro non tanto
2Dvorak - Symphony no.6: II.Adagio
3Dvorak - Symphony no.6: III.Scherzo (Furiant)
4Dvorak - Symphony no.6: IV.Finale: Allegro con spirito
5Janacek - Idyll: I.Andante
6Janacek - Idyll: IV.Allegro
7Janacek - Idyll: V.Adagio
8Janacek - Idyll: VI.Scherzo and Trio
Of the many recordings of the Sixth Symphony currently available, it is that by Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, also on Naxos, that offers the most obvious competition for this latest release. Alsop drew some lovely sounds from her orchestra, but sometimes seemed to be trying too hard to bring out countermelodies, at the expense of the leading melodic line. Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony never fall into this trap; aided by a recording with a just a hint of dryness to it, theirs is a compellingly earthy account. They bring to the music plenty of élan whilst never losing sight of its pastoral and folk qualities.
As has become customary, the first movement repeat is observed; Dvořák suppressed it only after publication, but one may well feel that any excuse to enjoy this tremendous music again is just too good to pass up! With some exquisite wind solos, the gorgeous Adagio is beautifully expansive and imposing in Schwarz's hands, emphasising that this is no lightweight work when compared with later Dvořák. The Scherzo is a folk-style furiant, and both it and the more relaxed Trio contain echoes of the Czech folksong 'Sedlák, sedlák', better known to English-speaking audiences as the 'Zither Carol'; again, there is an earthy honesty and bite to the playing that is tremendously appealing. Capped by a thrilling account of the Finale, this performance is the perfect antidote to some of the more luxuriant readings out there, and much the truer for it.
The coupling is a generous one. Though hardly the most characteristic of Janáček's works, the Idyll for strings is an assured work from the composer's student years, showing the influence of his mentor Dvořák's Serenade for Strings. It was composed during the summer of 1878 (two years before Dvořák's Sixth!), when the twenty-four-year-old Janáček visited Oettingen in Bavaria at the invitation of the organ builder G.F. Steinmeyer. Janáček used the trip as an excuse to see other parts Germany, including Munich, the Harz mountains and Berlin. Six of the Idyll's seven movements were finished by the time he returned to Prague, where he composed Scherzo (placed sixth in the completed work) at the end of August. Although sadly little of these travels is evident in the music, this is nevertheless an engaging composition, and a well-judged companion for the Dvořák. (When Janáček conducted the work's premiere in Brno, Dvořák was in the audience.) Under Schwarz's positive direction the strings of the Seattle Symphony make a thoroughly persuasive case for it.
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