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Thread: Looking for recommendations for a Dvořák Complete Symphonies set that isn't Kertész

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Default Looking for recommendations for a Dvořák Complete Symphonies set that isn't Kertész

    First of all, I have the István Kertész/LSO set everyone has, and I do love it. I'm not looking for repetitions that it's "the one to have." I have it. You don't need to re-recommend it to me; I've been listening to it for decades.

    I have also heard the Kubelík/Berliner set, which I like, but less than the Kertész. I heard enough of the Järvi to feel not terribly interested in it. But I could be persuaded to try it again.

    What I'm looking for are recommendations/comments about more or less recent Dvořák Complete Symphonies sets, which I have not heard. I do love the Kertész, but am increasingly curious about alternative choices.

    Here are a few I've seen and wondered about:
    • Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Jirí Belohlávek.
    • Staatskapelle Berlin, Otmar Suitner (I know; not that recent, but I've never heard it.)
    • Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra & Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Libor Pešek.
    • Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, José Serebrier.
    • Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ivan Anguélov.
    • Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Stephen Gunzenhauser.
    • Philharmonia Orchestra, Munchner Philharmoniker, Sinfonieorchester des Südwestfunks Baden-Baden, Sir Andrew Davis.
    • Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Vaclav Neumann (I know; not that recent, but I've never heard it.)
    • Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra of Prague, Vladimir Valek.


    Ideally, I'm for vigorous, authentic, and lyrically committed performances, without cuts, and without individual symphonies not chopped in half over multiple CDs like the Kertész set.

    Thoughts on these or any others that I've overlooked out there? Thanks in advance!

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    And, er, that should be, "without individual symphonies chopped in half over multiple CDs, like the Kertész set."

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    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    I prefer both the Neumann and Kubelik sets to Kertesz, though not by a huge margin. In fact I really don’t need a complete cycle since I can do without the first four symphonies…


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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    I've been enjoying the recent set by the late Jiri Belohlavek. I can't imagine that anyone would find it unsatisfactory.

    Another excellent set that isn't on your list is Rowicki's with the LSO.

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    The Neumann set is great. You get the idiomatic, totally distinctive Czech Philharmonic sound from their glory days as a standout ensemble (you'll notice the bubbly woodwinds right away) and the music is in their blood. Happily and surprisingly, unlike most of Supraphon's catalogue, the recordings are available on Spotify. Kertesz did a great job inspiring the LSO to tremendously exciting and sensitive heights, but for the authentic Dvorak sound, this is what I would go with. I haven't heard Dvorak symphonies by Belohlavek, but I've heard several of the recordings he's made with the Czech Phil and though they are good, the orchestra has lost a bit of its signature sound and the great sound quality is about the only selling point compared to Neumann. I personally wouldn't recommend the Kubelik set - Dvorak himself complained that German orchestras played his music too heavily, and you can really notice that here. It can turn into indulgent sludge IMO. Dvorak needs a robust snappiness to come across convincingly, and unlike Kertesz, Kubelik doesn't seem to be able to fully convert a foreign orchestra to the Czech idiom. His 9th is one of my favorites but that's about it. Of those listed, the only other I've heard bits and pieces of is Pesek, which I thought was too bland. My two cents...

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    You missed sets by Macal (OOP), Kosler, Bosch, Neumann II and especially Rowicki's terrific 60s cycle. It really depends on how you'd like your Dvorak. I admire Kertesz's Dvorak but there are better sets for me. Personally I'm a big fan of Anguelov, Rowicki and both Neumann cycles. Serebrier's cycle is excellent but in a similar vein to Kertesz for me. Tbh, there's merits in all the cycles available with the exception of Valek, whose set I find pretty poor. Gunzenhauser, Kosler and Davis are decent but not on the level of the others for me (although they too have their moments - Davis' 7-9 are excellent, for example). There are also some indispensable Dvorak partial sets that you should consider (Jansons / Oslo 5, 7-9, Szell 7-9, etc). If you like a more rustic 'Czechness' to Dvorak Anguelov is your man. Belohlavek is a great in-between as it has many qualities (as wkasimer pointed out). For the early symphonies I find Neumann perfect. His straight-down-the-line approach and the Czech PO's lovely playing are a winning combination on both his sets but sound-quality wise the digital set of the early symphonies is superior. For the middle symphonies I really love Rowicki (especialy in #5) and for the last 3 symphonies there are a million and one recommended performances (Jansons, Szell, Kreizburg, Dohnanyi, Mackerras, Fischer, Alsop, etc). My advice is to go listen on Spotify, another streaming service or YouTube. All the performances I've mentioned are there.
    Last edited by Merl; Apr-09-2020 at 11:58.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Apologies for the double post but there's some good recommendations in the thread linked below.

    Exploring Dvorak's Symphonies besides the 9th
    Last edited by Merl; Apr-09-2020 at 12:03.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Thanks for your responses, everyone!

    I agree with the criticisms of the Kubelík set. He's a conductor I have oft admired, but I think no coincidence usually in much heavier rep, such as Mahler and Bruckner, or his wonderful Beethoven Missa Solemnis on Orfeo. That Kubelík's Berliner Dvořák was, for me, frankly just okay was really quite disappointing.

    Neumann I is one I've had my eye on for some time.

    I didn't mention specific symphonies because I have many, more than I need, of individual symphony recordings, especially 7-9. I don't need a single additional New World outside of a complete set. Because I've performed it way too many times, I don't need to hear No. 9 again for at least ten years.

    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    You missed sets by Macal (OOP), Kosler, Bosch, Neumann II and especially Rowicki's terrific 60s cycle.
    Yes, because I mostly tried going with stuff still in print. But sometimes you get lucky in used shops, so you're right those should be in the conversation. Yes, I am one of those who still prefers to buy CDs. Downloads and streaming are not for me, except to audition a possible purchase. I wished to narrow down the choices before proceeding!

    I don't know how I forgot about Rowicki! Yes, it's been in my sights, too, and seems easy to obtain these days.

    If you like a more rustic 'Czechness' to Dvorak Anguelov is your man.
    How is the recording quality on disc? You learn nothing about that from YouTube or Spotify. Usually, Oehms is excellent in my experience.

    As long as we're talking about individual symphonies, for No. 7 I love Dorati/LSO the most. So earthy! But I also am fond of Szell and Fischer, the latter especially for the superb SACD sound and authenticity in style.

    For No. 8, a dark horse, who is WAY better in this symphony than most people expect, is Karajan. I love the old Decca Karajan/Wiener Phil. recording, often coupled with a superb Brahms 3, but also I absolutely adore the live recording that appeared in a Karajan/Wiener Phil. box on the Andante label. Such schwungvoll! (Especially the live one.)

    For No. 6, I think Davis/LSO is also better than expected (by me), and actually very good. Otherwise with Concertgebouw his Dvořák never really caught my attention. I haven't heard the other Dvořák with Davis/LSO. (And I belatedly realize Merl meant Andrew Davis, not Sir Colin.)

    I think my 1-9 shortlist for a post-Kertész set is Neumann I, Belohlávek, and Anguélov, based on recommendations here. I know I should give Rowicki a listen as well. I'll seek out some YouTube bootlegs and report back.

    Again, my thanks!
    Last edited by Knorf; Apr-09-2020 at 19:04. Reason: tag fixin'

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knorf View Post
    I don't know how I forgot about Rowicki! Yes, it's been in my sights, too, and seems easy to obtain these days.

    How is the recording quality on disc? You learn nothing about that from YouTube or Spotify.

    Again, my thanks!
    The Anguelov set is well recorded, in true Oehms tradition. Its got more of a rustic Czech charm than Kertesz et al. As for Rowicki, i passed that set by for years thinking it wouldn't sound great for a 60s set but it still sounds wonderful despite its vintage. The LSO play magnificently for him. As far as Neuman is concerned I prefer his earlier analogue cycle but the digital remake is almost as good and i actually prefer it in the earlier symphonies. One of the most annoying thing about Neumann's digital set is the splitting of the symphonies between discs but it's a great set, still.
    Last edited by Merl; Apr-09-2020 at 17:54.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    Anguélov is out for me, I'm afraid. The playing and conducting are excellent, and definitely stylish. Exposition repeats are not taken, which is not that big of a deal, except in 9, but I don't care about 9 right now. Worse is I discovered cuts in No. 1! But the real problem is I was mistaken about it being in print. No such luck.

    I discovered the label Oehms after picking up some of Simone Young's Bruckner. I'm sure you're right that I can trust the sound quality. If I see this set used at a reasonable price somewhere, I'll certainly think about it. Unless I discover further cuts, in which case forget it.
    Last edited by Knorf; Apr-09-2020 at 20:51.

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    Senior Member Malx's Avatar
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    Try this link:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Symphonies-...=music&sr=1-13

    Unless you have totally dismissed the set.
    Last edited by Malx; Apr-09-2020 at 19:15.

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    Senior Member Knorf's Avatar
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    No, not dismissed. Those cuts in No. 1 bug me, though. Thanks!

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    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    Beyond Kertesz, I reckon the new Decca Belohlavek set, or Neumann's first survey on Supraphon are the best complete cycles. However, from No-5 ish onwards, Kubelik is superb, don't judge him on his own dismissive attitude towards the first couple.

    There are no complete cycles by the triumvirate of earlier great Czech conductors, but if you can pick up any recordings by Vaclav Talich, Karel Šejna, or especially Karel Ancerl, and can allow in many cases for very dated recording quality, then these individual performances are among the best you'll find out there.

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    Senior Member Joachim Raff's Avatar
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    Witold Rowicki is generally better in the earlier symphonies but lacking in the later ones. The newer Belohlavek set is a good consistent set that benefits from a better sound quality. Kubelik is another but like CnC says does not excel until the latter symphonies.

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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joachim Raff View Post
    Witold Rowicki is generally better in the earlier symphonies but lacking in the later ones.... .
    Tbf, for symphonies 7-9 I usually reach for Mackerras, Szell et al but Rowicki isn't bad in 7-9 just a bit underpowered, surprisingly. For 1-6 he's hard to beat. I used to play Suitner's set quite a bit but have tended to overlook it the last few years, even though it was the first complete set I bought and its a mighty fine set indeed (3-7 can hardly be bettered but he does make cuts in #1). Maybe I should revisit Suitner today! The Belohlavek set is very consistent and in excellent sound. However, I wouldn't overlook Jarvi and Serebrier either although Järvi's New World is not one I like much at all and some people aren't sure of some of Serebrier's interpretive choices (but I like them). I'm currently halfway thru Chichon's cycle (I'm up to symphony 4) and it's shaping up to be a really good set but the acid test is the last 3 and the 5th. Anyone who can pull those off will impress me. I recently reviewed the Bosch releases and found these infuriating as there are some crackers in there (the 3rd and 7th disc is brilliant) but some very average performances too. I still like Kubelik (for those last 3) and Kertesz because it's a consistently high quality set though (as is his Schubert).
    Last edited by Merl; Apr-10-2020 at 14:17.

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