Classical music on CD: Dvorak Symphonies Nos 3 & 7 Vienna Pilharmonic Chung DG 449 207-2

It's the sunniest, the most spring-like of Dvorak melodies, and it's ready and waiting to greet you. No fancy introductions, no expectant preamble, just this bountiful tune, winging it all the way from Bohemia's woods and fields. And so the Third Symphony (and it's a Czech national treasure) begins - as it means to go on. And, for a while, you wonder if Myung-Whun Chung is just there for the ride. The Vienna Philharmonic know how this music goes. They've played it this way for countless generations, fuming, coaxing, lifting phrases in ways that invite imitation but defy comparison. I'm thinking especially of the strings, of course. Their manner of inflection isn't so much "off the page" as "in the air": easy, effortless, songful.

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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