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Alsop and the BSO Take On The New World

My first thought was: What’s the least necessary “new” recording to add to classical stacks? Dvorak’s New World Symphony would be tops. But the Baltimore Symphony’s recent album just might prove a naysayer wrong…

This won’t be a rant against pandering to the gray old guard who pay up for the $90 seats… I’m fond of the New World, however ubiquitous it may be. Grew up on a recording that paired it with his Slavonic Dances. A much better post-New World dessert than the BSO’s appetizer of his Symphonic Variations.

And that’s my biggest complaint: Symphonic Variations should be a B-side on some other album – but not the first-taste on this new disc – first recording of the BSO under Marin Alsop’s baton. My gut reaction: the Variations are the reason we have a “skip” button. Then, as I listened again while cleaning house, I thought it began to grow on me… by third hearing the verdict was in: It was the bathroom chemicals going to my head.

If you like cinema scores, you’ll be tickled. If you want the best Dvorak, hit “track 2.” Immediately.

I’m loving the Largo, Marin. You do have that Romantic soul that some have touted. My BSO- going in 2008 firmly convinced me that you are a rhythmic dynamo most at home in the newer and bolder: Adams, Corigliano, above all: Joan Tower. Now that’s what I’d have recorded… Concerto for Orchestra – adding to your work with the Colorado Symphony. Concerto was the BSO’s season finale alongside Beethoven’s 9th. Onstage, Ms. Tower said: “Wish it could have been his First instead…but at least I’m going first. “ We laughed, but in the end, the BSO proved Tower’s work, down to its tuba solo, a most accessible delight…and eclipsed B’s 9th… but not, thankfully, this recording of Dvorak’s 9th.

Let’s delve back into the mournful dawning sound of his Largo’s English horn. For me, that exonerates all. The pacing is fantastic, lingering in all the right places. The Allegro con fuoco is as rip-roaring and triumphal as any you’ll encounter, sliding achingly into a lovely little bit of oboe and flute flitting in and out of the strings making a little airy plain of glowing sound about six minutes in. Then we kick up to brassy once again. Sun-soaked prairie religiosity turns over to Beethoven-like braggadocio. Ultimately, you get your tympani and melancholy minor too.

There’s no reason to resist this recording – even if you have another Dvorak 9 on your shelf at home.

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One Response to “Alsop and the BSO Take On The New World”

  1. sam says:

    Hey…

    This just confirmed. Found the old Dvorak recording at the childhood family manse:

    Guess Kurt Masur’s recording w/ the New York Philharmonic is pretty stiff competition.

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