Czech Philharmonic Orchestra / Charles Mackerras

Dvorák: Symphonic Poems

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Just about every Czech conductor has recorded Dvorák's four symphonic poems based on the poetry of Karel Erben, though not every recording is equally successful. At the successful end of spectrum are Vaclav Talich's dramatic 1951 recordings and Rafael Kubelik's lyrical 1975 recordings. At the other end are Zdenek Chalabala's dreary 1961 recordings and Václav Neumann's dull 1977 recordings. To challenge the Czechs' hegemony, we now have Charles Mackerras' 2010 accounts, which come very close to taking Talich's place as the finest performances of these works ever recorded. Mackerras is the American-born conductor who studied in Prague after the war and whose grasp of Czech music is as sure as the finest Czech conductors. With the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra's warm, singing tone and effortless virtuosity at his disposal, Mackerras turns in readings as dramatic as Talich's, as lyrical as Kubelik's, and as colorful as one could hope. Recorded in lushly detailed digital sound by Supraphon, these performances should by all means be heard by anyone who enjoys Dvorák and these works in particular.

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