This is a fine Testament release taken from the archives of Netherlands Radio and enshrines some magnificent Barbirolli performances in somewhat opaque sound. The Satie Gymnopedie's have a delicate and loving sound that reveal Sir John's deep and intrinsic love for the miniaturistic charm of these enchanting pieces. Britten's 'Sinfonia da Requiem' was another Barbirolli speciality and this is one of many recordings available. However it is intriguing to observe the special attention and alertness that the Concertgebouw players impart to the music that takes on an added grandeur. However it is the Dvořák Seventh that is the real highlight of the disc as it is a version to die for! Sir John handles the music with real imagery and heart-on-sleeve emotion that almost rivals Kertész and Sejna, my other preferred versions in this landmark work.
Glyndebourne has wisely preserved the best of Melly Still's literal,cluttered and ugly 2009 staging; its world-class soundtrack;.Dvorak's operatic masterpiece is in Belohlavek's bones, and he gets a thrilling and luminous account of the ravishing score from the LPO on virtually flawless form. It is the most central European of london's symphonic bands, and certainly equals, if not surpasses, the idiomatic Czech Philharmonic on rival sets conducted by Vaclav Neumann (supraphon) and Charles Mackerras (Decca). Ana Maria Martinez's Rusalka-more warm -blooded than Gabriela Benackova , less self-indulgent then Renee Fleming-gives one of the most ecstatic acounts of the famous Song to the Moon on disc.
Antonín Dvorák's Stabat Mater, Op. 58, truly merits the adjective "tragic"; it was written after the deaths of two of the composer's children in succession, and his grief rolled out in great, Verdian waves. There are several strong recordings on the market, including an earlier one by conductor Jiří Bělohlávek himself, but for the combination of deep feeling, technical mastery from musicians and singers who have spent their lives getting to know the score, and soloists who not only sound beautiful but are seamlessly integrated into the flow, this Decca release may be the king of them all. To what extent was the strength of the performance motivated by Bělohlávek's likely fatal illness (he died days after the album entered the top levels of classical charts in the spring of 2017)? It's hard to say, although he also delivered top-notch performances of Dvorák's Requiem in his last days. The members of the Prague Philharmonic Choir sing their hearts out in the gigantic, shattering opening chorus, which has rarely if ever had such a mixture of the impassioned and the perfectly controlled. Sample the chorus "Virgo virginium praeclara" to hear the magically suspended quality Bělohlávek brings out of the singers in lightly accompanied passages.
Pierre-Laurent Aimard continues to present a repertoire for the piano that is never less than imaginative and is always compelling. The Dvorák Piano Concerto is rarely heard, not because it lacks beauty or inventive scoring for both piano and orchestra, but because the piece has gained the reputation of the 'Tristan' of concertos. Enter Pierre-Laurent Aimard and all of that changes.
Dvorak’s enchanting fairytale of the water-nymph Rusalka has been a signature role for Renée Fleming for the past 25 years. The Gramophone Classical Music Guide writes: “Renée Fleming's tender and heartwarming account of Rusalka's Song to the Moon reflects the fact that the role of the lovelorn water nymph, taken by her in a highly successful production at the MET in New York, has become one of her favourites”.
Unrivalled in the catalogue, this box brings together all the works in a genre for which Dvořák has been undervalued. The composer was himself a lifelong Catholic, a man of uncomplicated faith and not prey to spiritual torments in the manner of his contemporary Bruckner.