István Kertész / London Symphony Orchestra

Dvorak: Symphony Nos. 8; Symphony No. 9 "New World"

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Is this recording of Dvorák's Ninth (aka, "From the New World") by István Kertész and the London Symphony the greatest ever made? How could it be? Virtually every conductor who ever held a baton has made a recording of the work and the honor roll of great recordings is long and distinguished, starting with the Czechs -- Talich, Ancerl, and Kubelík -- moving through the Hungarians -- Reiner, Szell, and Solti -- on into the Italians, Toscanini, Giulini, and Abbado -- the Austrians -- Karajan and Böhm -- the English -- Colin Davis -- and even the Russian -- Kondrashin. And yet, so eternally fresh and endlessly moving is Dvorák's Ninth that one can easily imagine great recordings of it stretching out into aural infinity.

And while this may or may not be the greatest recording of the work ever made, it is certainly among the greatest. István Kertész, the Hungarian conductor who died tragically young, made recordings of Kodály, Brahms, and Dvorák for Decca in the '60s and '70s that were highly prized in their time. This coupling of Kertész's 1968 Ninth with his 1962 Eighth were surely among the highlights of his slender discography. Like the works themselves, they are eternally fresh -- listen to the power of the Ninth's tuttis or the lyricism of the Eighth's themes -- and endlessly moving -- listen to the tenderness of the Ninth's Largo or the exhilaration of the Eighth's finale. And like Kertész's other recordings, they have an energy and a buoyancy that few other performances could match. The London Symphony's playing is bright, warm, colorful, and supremely virtuosic and Decca's stereo sound is deep, detailed, and just about real. Anyone who loves the work -- and that list should include just about everybody -- will enjoy this recording.

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