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Symphonies in D Minor Op. 70 & in G Major, Op. 88
in D minor
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/ Vaclav Talich

Naxos Historical 8.111045 [1935/38; 73 mins]

Early imprinting of musical performances is a phenomenon worthy of more attention, and experiences of readers for sharing would be welcomed by Musical Pointers?

A not very good account of Fauré's Requiem this week brought to mind how I learnt to love that work through a Columbia blue label 78s recording by Les Chanteurs de Lyon (ML4529) with glorious soprano and baritone soloists whose names I forget. I was disappointed to read reservations about its re-issue in a comparative review. Nor would I expect Vladimir Golschmann's Sibelius 7 to make the charts again, but no-one's portamento towards the end since his has revived the thrill of that moment, which I savoured again and again as a schoolboy.

Those preliminaries to my joy in realising that this Talich recording of Dvorak's G major Symphony No 8 (I think it was known as No 4 in those days) was the one with which I had first got to know this enduring favourite of mine in the late '30s. It too has the then traditional portamenti!

Ever since then I had subconsciously been awaiting inflections of phrasing which never quite happened. And here they are, sounding incredibly good for the age. Really no allowance is needed for the lack of stereo and modern sound in these two perfect accounts of favourite Dvorak symphonies. Mark Obert-Thorn's restoration from "the most quiet form of shellac" is one of his best; the sound is gorgeous.

I don't think I ever owned Talich's D minor, so didn't have the thrill of recognition. But I endorse the conclusions of Tully Potter, who remarks that whereas other conductors make it sound like Brahms, Talich makes "every bar the purest Dvorak". He fairly claims that, though lacking stereo spread and sophisticated modern sound, they simply are "some of the finest recordings in the history of the gramophone - - uncanny rhythmic sense, subtle flexibility and humility towards the music - - pacing of each movement flawless and the strings sliding up and down in the scherzo irresistible - - tempo changes organic and inevitable".

And you can sample them in generous extracts !

Don't pass by this Naxos treasure!

see also Historical recordings don't come any better than this

© Peter Grahame Woolf