Brahms: Symphony No. 2, Op. 73 In D Major; Dvorak: Symphony

Brahms: Symphony No. 2, Op. 73 In D Major; Dvorak: Symphony

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The Bamberger Symphoniker’s collaboration with the record label Tudor has evolved in cycles. It began with Joachim Raff’s œuvre, a pioneering step into overlooked repertoire. Then stepped up to the Greats with Schubert’s symphonies: the first recording to follow the new Schubert edition was enthusiastically hailed as a refreshing new departure interpreted with historical awareness. Reaching for the stars under the aegis of Jonathan Nott, the scores of Gustav Mahler then entered the Bamberg Konzerthalle. That whole cycle has won countless prizes and awards, becoming a milestone of Mahler discography.

The next step? Staying in Vienna with symphonies by Johannes Brahms while remaining true to Gustav Mahler’s Bohemian homeland with Antonín Dvořák. The Bamberger Symphoniker and Jakub Hrůša’s cycle of the four Brahms symphonies and Dvořák’s last four symphonies is the first recording to give an overview of their extraordinary universe and cast light on their musical affinity, in a vivid soundscape with a contemporary pulse.

REVIEWS:

This enticing release is a further addition to the ongoing series twinning symphonies by Brahms and Dvořák, a theme validated by the kinship between both the composers and the cross-fertilisation of their styles. The orchestra and conductor here have since 2016 been producing a stream of admirable concerts and releases...The ominous, growling opening of Dvořák’s Seventh is perfectly realised and Hrůša immediately reveals his mastery of the form through the application of subtle rubato in his phrasing without the musical thread going slack. Again, lovely woodwind playing strikes a pastoral note, recalling the Brahmsian inspiration to the work but the darker, denser, “Germanic” orchestration also underlines that link; this is a lilting, songful and unhurried account which never loses the skein of disquiet lurking beneath the dancing, three-quarter-time melodies and the faintly disturbing, mysterious conclusion with distant horns intoning gnomically leaves the listener in ambivalent mood, paving the way for the similarly enigmatic Poco adagio. As with the first movement, Hrůša presides over relaxed, flowing playing underpinned by a prominent bass line and a solid, rhythmic stability modulated by judicious use of rubato and rallentando. The stately grandeur of the music is maximised, ensuring that Dvořák does not come across as just a lightweight, jolly tunesmith.This is attractively packaged in a dark green cardboard digipack with colour and black and white photos, trilingual notes and an interview with the conductor by German musicologist and critic Wolfgang Sandner, who describes the unusually warm and friction-free friendship between the two composers whose works make a welcome match for this release, especially, as Sandner remarks, Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony is regarded as the most “Germanic” of his mature works.-- MusicWeb International (Ralph Moore)

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