Tomás Netopil

Suk: Symphony in E major; Dvorák: In Nature's Realm; Carnival

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Though Josef Suk's Second Symphony in C minor has received a number of recordings, his First Symphony in E major has so far received just a few: a well-played but lackluster account by Vaclav Neumann and the Czech Philharmonic, an earnest but deracinated reading by Dalia Atlas and the Philharmonia Hungarica, and this one with Tomás Netopil leading the Prague Symphony. Of the three, Netopil's performance is by far the best. While both Neumann and Atlas seem intent on making the most of the work's monumental architecture and expansive structures, Netopil concentrates instead on the work's heroic themes and lyrical expressivity. The work's opening and closing Allegros seem less pretentious and more heartfelt here than with Neumann while its central Adagio flows more naturally and much more lyrically here than with Atlas. Better yet, the work sounds more like the work of an ambitious student of Dvorák, which was what Suk was, than like the work of the bereft composer of the C minor Symphony, which he would not be for another decade. Under Netopil, Suk's E major Symphony sounds fresh, bright, energetic, and touched by the spirit of his master. With his graceful technique, strong feeling for form, and unerring sense of balance, Netopil is plainly a talented conductor, and the Prague Symphony gives him a powerful performance. In more familiar repertoire, Netopil and the Prague musicians turn in rousing and rambunctious readings of Dvorák's In Nature's Realm and Carnival Overtures. Recorded live in the Municipal Hall in Prague, Supraphon's digital sound is rich, deep, and lush, if not especially detailed in tutti passages.

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