Dvořák: Symphonies – No 3 in E flat major, Op 10; No 4 in D minor, Op 13

Reviewed on Mon 19 Dec, 2016

Karel Mark Chichon plays up the Fourth Symphony’s Wagnerian ground-springs, especially at the start of the slow movement and in parts of the finale, where Tannhäuser is an unmistakeable presence.

Interesting that, in the first movement of the Fourth Symphony, the ruggedly voiced and infinitely flexible Rafael Kubelík (DG) and transparent Václav Neumann (Supraphon) don’t play the exposition repeat, whereas Jiří Bĕlohlávek (Decca), José Serebrier (Warner Classics) and Karel Mark Chichon on this new recording do. Does it matter? I think so, though none of the newer versions are quite in the same league interpretatively as their quoted forebears. Chichon plays up the Fourth’s Wagnerian ground-springs, especially at the start of the slow movement and in parts of the finale, where Tannhäuser is an unmistakeable presence. The Scherzo bounces along with a level of energy that makes some of its rivals sound tired by comparison, and, in general, I’d say that in the digital field this is one of the best accounts of the symphony around. The Third Symphony is almost as good, though I missed an element of sweep in the expansively lyrical first movement: here Václav Smetáček and the Prague Symphony (a vintage Supraphon recording) remain unrivalled. But if you don’t as yet know these engaging early Dvořák scores, Chichon and his Deutsche Radio Philharmonie provide us recordings that, if not exactly top-notch, are certainly more than worthy.
–Rob Cowan