Dvorák: Symphony No. 6; Scherzo Capriccioso

Marin Alsop / Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

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Dvorák: Symphony No. 6; Scherzo Capriccioso Review

by James Manheim

Part of a cycle of Dvorák symphonies underway on the part of conductor Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, this release, like the others, takes on the task of distinguishing itself from the dozens of others recorded by major European and American orchestras over the last century. In this, Alsop succeeds, although buyers should sample to make sure they find her approach appealing. Her tempos are on the slow side -- very slow in the case of the final Scherzo capriccioso, Op. 66, which doesn't come off as especially capricious (and which was recorded almost a year after the rest of the album) -- and her readings are detailed, restrained, and not without a bit of humor. If you like the serious, powerfully momentum-building Allegro non tanto of the likes of Rafael Kubelik, Alsop may not be for you here. Sample the opening material of the symphony's Scherzo (track 3), the point where, for all the debt he owes to Brahms here, Dvorák asserts his Czech identity. Alsop's rhythms in the strings here are pretty low-impact -- but her slow material in both the symphony's Adagio and in the Nocturne in B major, Op. 40, is beautifully shaped and quite affecting. The Naxos engineering team, working in a live-performance situation in Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, backs Alsop well, and the orchestra's strings sound quite rich. Overall there's an X factor working in the album's favor here. Alsop may or may not be precisely your cup of tea, but she executes original readings with enthusiasm and commitment, and that's the name of the game. Booklet notes by Naxos stalwart Keith Anderson are in English only.

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