Vaclav Talich

Dvorák: Symphony No. 6; Slavonic Dances, Op. 72

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Although its initial bars sound somewhat tentative, this 1938 recording of Dvorák's Sixth Symphony by Vaclav Talich and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra quickly gathers confidence, and by the first full statement of the main theme, it is obvious this is one of the great, if not the great, recorded performances of the work. Talich, generally acknowledged to be the greatest Czech conductor of the 20th century, turns in a performance of such gleaming power, passionate lyricism, exuberant energy, and whole-hearted love of life, that it is irresistible. With the superlative playing of the orchestra he built himself, Talich finds all the limpid beauty in the opening Allegro ma non tanto, the ardent love in the Adagio, the febrile fury in the Scherzo, and the rip-snorting vigor of the concluding Allegro con spirito. There are excellent later recordings of the Sixth -- one thinks immediately of performances by Colin Davis, Charles Mackerras, Jirí Belohlávek, and Istvan Kertész -- but Talich's is in a class of its own. Naturally, the 70-year-old sound sounds 70 years old, but Opus Kura's remastering makes it as clear and present as imaginable, considering the source. The inclusion of the same performers' lovely and lilting 1935 recording of Dvorák's eight Slavonic Dances, Op. 72, is the icing on the cake.

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