Mariss Jansons / Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

Dvorák: Symphonies 5-7-8-9

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When Mariss Jansons and the Oslo Philharmonic recorded Dvorák's Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth symphonies for EMI in 1988 and 1989, they were just coming off their hugely successful cycle of Tchaikovsky's symphonies for Chandos. But while Jansons went on to make good, even great, recordings for EMI in the later '90s, these first two Dvorák recordings were immensely disappointing. Jansons, who had been so lucid and robust in Tchaikovsky, sounds dull and phlegmatic in Dvorák, with sodden downbeats, turgid tempos, and clotted textures. The Oslo Philharmonic, which sounded so fresh and honest in the Tchaikovsky, sounds thick and stolid in Dvorák, with heavy strings, leaden brass, and only occasional touches of woodwind clarity to recall earlier performances. Chandos' early digital recordings had been loud and very present, but EMI's late-'80s recordings were empty and distant. Because of these flaws, by the time EMI released Jansons and the Oslo's Ninth in 1992, many listeners had simply ceased listening. Although they missed a hugely better performance with lovingly inflected conducting from Jansons, warmly characterful playing from the Oslo, and a far more focused and vivid recorded sound from EMI, the lack of interest soon consigned the Ninth along with the Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth to the cutout bin. Reissued here on Brilliant apparently without remastering, Jansons and the Oslo Dvorák's recordings may be of interest to listeners who know his later, greater EMI recordings of Sibelius and Shostakovich or his masterfully conducted, beautifully played, and stunningly recorded performances with the Concertgebouw Orchestra for RCO Live, but to very few others.

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