SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 1
Format: APE (image+cue)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Size: 329 MB
01. Symphony no.8: 1. Allegro con brio
02. Symphony no.8: 2. Adagio
03. Symphony no.8: 3. Allegretto grazioso – Molto vivace
04. Symphony no.8: 4. Allegro ma non troppo
05. Symphony no.9: 1. Adagio – Allegro molto
06. Symphony no.9: 2. Largo
07. Symphony no.9: 3. Molto vivace
08. Symphony no.9: 4. Allegro con fuoco
Resigned conducting from Maazel, but the Vienna Phil is dazzling and the price is low
Lorin Maazel’s recordings of the last three Dvorak symphonies would seem to be high profile ones, given that they are on DG and with the Vienna Phil, but they seem to have been relatively ignored. Floating around on Amazon are three individual CDs, each containing one of the symphonies, but only the 9th is given a filler (the Carnival Overture). You can get the complete set as a German import selling on Amazon, but the price isn’t nearly as appealing. I haven’t heard Maazel’s 7th, but the Carnival Overture was given an uninvolved performance, so the disc being reviewed seems our best bet if we want a good chunk of Maazel’s Dvorak without spending a lot.
As for the interpretations themselves, Maazel doesn’t try anything surprising, choosing moderate tempos without striving for a maximum excitement. He’s quite relaxed, actually, favoring reflection to boisterousness. The show, then, is the Vienna Phil, which plays with their wonderful august tone that seems to actually make something special out of Maazel’s reticence. It’s hard to resist their tantalizing beauty. And Maazel seems to find beauty of his own with his tender phrasing, especially in the 8th. I’ve reviewed both the 8th and 9th separately, and I still agree with my original conclusion that the 8th is more interpretively involving, although some may find it more mannered. Maazel goes for dreaminess, and in the opening of the 3rd movement of the 8th, for example, he lingers on the opening notes.
The main thing these readings lack is energy, but there are lovely sounds to compensate. Among other modern recordings, there are always Harnoncourt’s blissful Concertgebouw readings, as well as two other Vienna 8ths with Ozawa and Chung.
Maazel subtly and occasionally not-so-subtly milks the first movement for …
Maazel subtly and occasionally not-so-subtly milks the first movement for every bit of its drama with adeptly deployed emphases, hesitations, and — the least subtle aspect here — some blockbuster dynamics. Exposition repeat, not offensive here but still disrupting momentum. Some well-placed vibrato tugs on the heartstrings in the Largo, which strongly contrasts the mostly ruminative mood with the one stormy outburst in the middle. It’s not just prettiness; there’s a palpable sense of suspenseful anticipation mixed in with the rumination that makes the Scherzo seem aptly prefigured. The distinctive Vienna timpani with their tightly focused timbre cut through the textures brightly, helping Maazel create the mood of nervous tension that dominates the Scherzo; even the trios, though warm and reassuring, move a little quicker than in the hands of most non-Eastern European conductors. Since the finale naturally features the tension Maazel promulgates in the first three movements, his reading coheres supberbly.