Magazine article Czech Music

Antonin Dvorak: Symphony

Magazine article Czech Music

Antonin Dvorak: Symphony

Article excerpt

Antonin Dvorak Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, op. 10 Alexander Glazunov Concerto for Saxophone George Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue Karel Krautgartner--saxophone, Jan Panenka--piano, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Vaclav Smetacek--conductor. Production: Matous Vlcinsky. Text: Cz., Eng., Ger., Fr. Recorded: Prague, Rudolfinum 1959; Prague, Domovina 1953 and t962. Released 2009. TT: 69:11. AAD. 1 CD Supraphon SU 3968-2.

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This selection of recordings from the Supraphon deserves recognition both because of the main protagonists--the conductor Vaclav Smetacek and soloists Karel Krautgartner and Jan Panenka--and the choice of music. Dvorak's early symphonic work still requires rehabilitation, while in Glazunov and Gershwin we encounter one composer who has stepped across the frontier to "serious" music and another who has crossed over in the "opposite direction". Although Bedrich Smetana presented Dvorak's Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, op. 10 soon after it was written, in 1874, it has never become as well-known as its successors from the sixth onwards. This is unfair, since it already contains everything that we value so much in Dvorak's mature symphonic work; it is full of energy and contemplative lyricism. In this symphony Dvorak is beginning to keep the geyser of his ideas in check, and also shows himself a future master of instrumentation. Scholars have offered various explanations for the absence of a dance movement, but the three movements of the symphony are definitely intended to be the complete work, since the composer confirmed this form of the piece even in later revisions. The one-movement Concerto for Saxophone by Alexander Glazunov is one of the works inspired by the art of the saxophonist Sigurd M. Rascher (1907-2001), the initiator of a range of pieces including some by composers from Bohemia (Viktor Ullmann, Alois Haba, Karel Reiner). In the inter-war period Rascher passionately promoted equality for the saxophone as a symphony orchestra instrument, and after emigrating to escape the Nazis he built up a saxophone school of performance in the USA (he was still making guest appearances in Prague in 1967). Our debt to Karel Krautgartner, who was banished from Czechoslovakia by the Soviet tanks, can never be paid in full, and it is impossible to describe the personal experience of his performances, but at least some of his recordings have survived. …

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