José Serebrier / Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Dvorák: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3; Slavonic Dances

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The Symphony No. 2/4, of Antonín Dvorák has an opus number even though it really was not published until 1959; the 24-year-old Dvorák reportedly had to abandon the manuscript at the bindery due to lack of funds. It's one of Dvorák's least-often-performed works, and it's a bit surprising to find a new recording on the major Warner Classics label. As it happens, the veteran (76 years old when the album was released in 2013) and independent-minded Uruguayan conductor José Serebrier makes a fine case for the piece, recorded with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as part of a planned set of Dvorák's symphonies. It is a sprawling work, no doubt, even after the cuts to which Dvorák later subjected it, and it often sounds more like Wagner than like Dvorák's model Brahms. There are few feet-tapping Czech rhythms, too. Yet everywhere there is a sense of a young mind trying to bring form to a vast canvas. Sample the Scherzo (track 6), where the usual dance rhythms are preceded by a harmonically mysterious introduction whose threads are picked up as the movement proceeds. The whole thing requires a real spirit of enthusiasm to bring off, and here Serebrier and the Bournemouth players succeed with a lively, urgent forward arc. In the three Slavonic Dances that open the album, the Bournemouth is not in the smooth league of Europe's top orchestras, but those who love Dvorák will find his distinctive voice at many places in this sizable work, and it even seems possible that other conductors may find themselves guided anew to it by one of the 20th century's greats.

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