Nikolaus Harnoncourt

Dvorák: Slavonic Dances

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The most amazing thing about Nikolaus Harnoncourt's 2000 recording of Dvorák's complete Slavonic Dances isn't that they are so awful. Teldec has been releasing Nikolaus Harnoncourt's lousy performances ever since the days of his malformed and misshapen Bach cantatas, and these dances offer just one more example of his ineptitude. And ineptitude is the word: from the skewed balances, sloppy phrasing, confused tempos, and total lack of rhythmic interest, Harnoncourt's recording of the Slavonic Dances joins the short list of the worst performances of the works ever recorded, right down there at the bottom with those of Neeme Järvi, Lorin Maazel, and Kurt Masur. The most amazing thing about Harnoncourt's Slavonic Dances isn't that they are so awful; the most amazing thing it is that they got made at all. While there hasn't been a good recording of these delightful works since the classic Rafael Kubelik recording of 1973, it's a mystery who gave this project the green light. And while Harnoncourt's recording of the late Dvorák symphonies are just as awful, at least they have the benefit of the superb playing of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, This recording of the Slavonic Dances has the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, a fine orchestra for smaller pieces, sounding uncharacteristically scrappy and scrawny here. This is not worth hearing.

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