Charles Mackerras / Philharmonia Orchestra

Dvorák: Symphonies Nos. 7 & 8

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Though they should by all rights be great, these performances of Dvorák's Seventh and Eighth symphonies with Charles Mackerras leading the Philharmonia are nevertheless quite disappointing. Certainly, Mackerras knows what he's doing. He has these scores at his fingertips, and clearly there's nothing in them he doesn't love. Surely the Philharmonia musicians know these standard repertoire works like the back of their collective hand, and there's nothing here to challenge their virtuosity. Yet their performances, though wholly respectful, never catch fire. One wants the Seventh to burn with tragic intensity, but its big moments -- the opening movement's recapitulation and the closing movement's coda -- have nowhere near the fury they ought to. Similarly, one needs the Eighth to blaze with lyrical energy, but from the cellos' theme in the opening movement to the trumpet's call in the closing movement, its big tunes don't have nearly enough heart. Why any of this is the case is a mystery, but the result is tepid at best, particularly in Signum's much too heavy live sound.

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