Jiří Bělohlávek / Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

Dvorák: Complete Symphonies & Concertos

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Even though Antonín Dvorák remains among the most popular of Romantic composers, compilations of his complete symphonies are somewhat scarce, especially when compared to those of other great symphonists of the 19th century. That's one reason why Jirí Belohlávek's 2014 set with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra should get classical fans' attention, but a more valid reason to acquire this collection is the exceptionally high quality of the performances, which Decca recorded in a series of subscription concerts between 2010 and 2014. A deciding factor should be the strong feeling this conductor and orchestra have for Dvorák's music, not only because of a shared Bohemian tradition and the composer's legacy (Dvorák conducted the Czech Philharmonic's first concert in 1896), but also because few other orchestras communicate the rhythms and colors of the music as vibrantly and with as much excitement. As rare as sets of the complete symphonic cycle are, those that include Dvorák's concertos are rarer still. The recordings Belohlávek and the CPO made of the Cello Concerto in B minor with Alisa Weilerstein, the Violin Concerto in A minor with Frank Peter Zimmerman, and the Piano Concerto in G minor with Garrick Ohlsson are essential listening, and their inclusion with the symphonies gives the package much greater value. Decca's high-definition sound delivers clean details and close-up presence, so even though these recordings are live, they sound as fine as a studio recording. Highly recommended.

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