Classical music on CD: Dvorak Symphonies Nos 3 & 7 Vienna Pilharmonic Chung DG 449 207-2
Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson is Chief Classical Music and Opera Critic for The Independent. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen, in which he interviewed many of the most prominent writers and stars of musical theatre. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 and 4. On television, he has commentated a number of times at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He has published books on Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and has been on Gramophone Magazine's review panel for many years. Edward presented the 2007 series of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint. He has interviewed everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Liza Minelli; from Paul McCartney to Pavarotti: from Julie Andrews to Jessye Norman.
Friday 13 June 1997
But enter Chung into the equation. Where there's song there's dance, and where there's dance there's ... well, all Dvorak's favourite steps. Chung knows them well, marks them well, the tantalising hops and skips, the syncopated stomping. Note the way he gives his timpani leave to kick up some dust in the gusty cross rhythms of the Seventh Symphony's scherzo. Visions of Brueghel peasants in rude good health. Indeed, there's a primitive dynamism about his account of the Seventh as a whole that makes it one of the very best in the catalogue - and that's no mean claim. If Dvorak symphonies were seasonal, this would be his winter - fading light, louring sky, unsettled conditions.
The surge factor is high. Chung makes a terrific thing of the ferocious syncopations that drive the first movement development into the teeth of the approaching storm front. The ensuing Poco adagio is quietly distinctive, concentrated, almost Wagnerian in scale and aspiration. And then the tempest- tossed finale is upon you. And so is Chung. This is tremendously invigorating, full-on, impassioned (strings digging deep, horns coming on like a pagan summons), the big moment of catharsis - as in the dramatic 11th-hour resolution from D minor to major - especially satisfying. I hope this is the start of a cycle. Kertesz and Kubelik have had it more or less their own way for a very long time. Edward Seckerson
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