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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Antonin Dvorak, The Late Symphonies, Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, David Bernard


Sometimes for well-loved classics there are performance possibilities you may not have considered but once you do, it may seem very much a good idea. I've long lived happily with a multi-LP set of the Dvorak symphonies by Karl Bohm and the Vienna Philharmonic. It has all nine symphonies, played heroically with a full-sized orchestra, perhaps, as I think about it, firmly in a Beethovenian manner, in the tradition of great and grand performances of Beethoven's 3rd, 5th, 9th.

A few days ago a parcel arrived containing a two-CD set of David Bernard and the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony doing The Late Symphonies (Recursive Classics RC3137552) of Dvorak. That is a comfortable fit on the two CDs of Symphonies 6, 7, 8 and the Symphony No. 9--The "Symphony from the New World". Like most listeners I came to the 9th first, at a pretty young age (13) and have sampled a fair number of readings of the work ever since. A kind of Beethovenesque, full-out version suits the work very well of course, and as it happens I never contemplated some other take on it.

So the set arrived. I know the New York based Park Avenue Chamber Symphony under David Bernard through several releases. Some I appreciate a good deal (see index box for those reviews). This Dvorak set seems especially attractive for the way Bernhard and the orchestra handle it all. It sounds much less Beethovenian, even a bit less Romantic per se but more in its own right, with Bohemian, Eastern European vernacular elements coming across with a kind of faithfulness to the overall infectious local elements as Dvorak conceived and transformed them, especially in Symphonies Nos. 6 & 7, but generally speaking throughout, even parts of the "New World" 9th.

The set is available for download in the usual places. If you are reading this early the CDs are not out until July 9, 2021.

I am happy to recommend this set to anyone who is not familiar with the later symphonies as a whole, and for any Dvorak enthusiast who wants a refreshing reading of these works. The orchestra and Bernard are locked in, inspired, filled with a different vision than is the norm. I love it all myself. Give these readings a chance and I suspect you too will find them as a breath of fresh air. Bravo.

I wonder if they are considered subsequent volumes--of the Symphonies Nos. 1 through 5? I would love to hear that.

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