Dvořák: Symphony No 9 in E minor, Op 95 (From the New World); A Hero's Song, Op 111

Reviewed on Fri 07 Apr, 2017

As for the Ninth Symphony, one should not underestimate the formidable linear thrust of Krzysztof Urbański's refreshingly direct approach and the scrupulously responsive playing he draws from his Hamburg band.

It was Gustav Mahler who, in 1898, conducted the world premiere of Dvořák's A Hero's Song. It proved to be the Czech master's orchestral swansong, and although hardly a match for the four Erben-inspired symphonic poems that immediately preceded it, is nevertheless full of red-blooded invention and stirring incident. Krzysztof Urbański's infectiously committed rendering with the excellent NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra is at least the equal of Andris Nelsons's on a rival, identically coupled BR Klassik release (warmly welcomed by Mark DeVoto on 11 June 2013). As for the Ninth Symphony, well, Nelsons's superlative live Munich account may have a touch greater combustible spontaneity, charisma and lustre, but one should not underestimate the formidable linear thrust of Urbański's refreshingly direct approach and the scrupulously responsive playing he draws from his Hamburg band. Towards the end of the (here uncommonly rapt) slow movement – from fig 110 or 9'23” to be precise – Urbański indulges in a mannered tweak of perspective that doesn't improve on repetition, but otherwise there's plenty that captivates both brain and heart. An enjoyable pairing, finely engineered to boot.
–Andrew Achenbach