Dvořák: Symphony No 7 in D minor, Op 70; Othello, Op 93; The Wood Dove, Op 110

Reviewed on Thu 01 Aug, 2013

It's fascinating that Dvořák's mid-period Othello seems to prefigure his 1896 tone poem The Wood Dove (the story of a widow-poisoner driven to suicide) in a number of ways; listen, for example, to the faux-innocent woodwind trills appearing in each work at the tipping-point into darkness. In the D minor symphony – perhaps Dvořák's most intensely argued and personal symphonic statement – one can discern not only grief at his mother's death, but also a fervent, often troubled nationalism. Claus Peter Flor clearly has an affinity with this repertoire, and his readings are thoughtfully shaped. BIS's sound is excellent (although a little distant), favouring the strings, but slightly lacking woodwind definition; the cor anglais sometimes sounds harsh. I have to say that, despite the obvious care taken by Flor and his players, the resulting performances do lack something in character (less so Othello, in which the sense of narrative is better sustained). There are good alternatives: for the symphony, try the classic mono Talich (Naxos), Kubelík (DG) or revelatory Fischer (Channel Classics), and for Othello, Talich (Supraphon). Harnoncourt's Concertgebouw recording of The Wood Dove (Warner) is utterly compelling.
–Chris Achenbach