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Reviews: Dvorak: Symphony Nos. 8, 9 - Fischer

Reviews: 11

Review by beardawgs October 4, 2003 (1 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
An absolute winner – performance and recording. Just heard it couple of times and I was so exited that I had to share it with someone! Will add more later, but the first impression is WOW.

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Review by Dan Popp January 3, 2004 (1 of 1 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
The clarity of individual notes is what I notice most about the recording. Not only does each section have its own physical space, but each instrument and each note are distinct. If at times the sound is "intimate," as if the hall disappears, it occurs at appropriate moments. Certainly there are both intimacy and drama in the 9th. The dynamics of the performace blow away my early CD rendition, and they are fully captured on the SACD.

Initially I disapproved of putting the "New World" symphony first on the disc - it seemed like putting the headliner on stage before the local act. But this may allow the listener to better appreciate Dvorak's 8th symphony. In the hands of this conductor and orchestra it is engaging, sweet, at times quaint, and always delicious. If you already have a recording of the 9th that you love, buy this disc anyway for the performance of the 8th.

I am not a classical music scholar, just a fan - so others may notice imperfections that I don't. But I know what I like, and I like this a lot. Two glowing performances, brilliantly captured.

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Review by nickc March 5, 2004 (2 of 2 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
as has been said here : WOW
this was the first sacd i bought and it blew me away too
when the massed strings play pizzicato i finally realised that this was the real thing
for me the highlight is the eighth and the feeling in the slow movement of being in a great open cathedral in the woods
(once again MC is the difference between just listening to a flat perspective in front of you and almost living it!)

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Review by PeterJones April 5, 2005 (9 of 9 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Awesome! This SACD was the second I listened to, but..well read on. I had just received my order from and popped in Podger's Vivaldi "La Stravaganza" into my new (cheap) SACD player not really expecting much. After the first few notes I was amazed. The sound was incredible. Such warmth and vitality...I didn't think recorded music could sound so good...but I hadn't heard the Dvorak yet.

I spent most of my Saturdays as a teenager playing in chamber orchestras and symphonies (Mooredale Young Virtuosos Chamber Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra) and am familiar with the sound of a string orchestra from the inside and out.

I couldn't believe my ears when I first listened to the Dvorak SACD (in multi-channel sound) this SACD somehow captured that symphonic warmth and depth and breadth of sound that I had only ever heard in a Symphony hall. My scepticism about SACD turned from doubt to faith.

One word of warning...after you listen to this SACD you will likely be disappointed with others. I just haven't found anything else that sounds this good.

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Review by lenw April 26, 2005 (1 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is a very enjoyable recording - I especially liked Symphony No. 9. The sound quality is very good although not as dimensional as some of the Telarc and Channel Classics SACD recordings. The brass passages sound a little on the bright side.

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Review by prometheus August 24, 2005 (8 of 15 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
From all points of the compass, Fischer's Dvorak has attained Consensus All-World status for a performance of the 'New World' symphony.While it is, in general, well played and well recorded--doubtless converting many an SACD naysayer--one might add a couple of (doubtless) iconoclastic quibbles.

Multichannel issues aside, the newcomer has the temerity to challenge Sony's SACD from Szell and the Cleveland--so it had better be flawless! And flawless, I feel, it is not. One reviewer on the site has complained of a glare and unnatural prominence surrounding trumpets and trombones: I concur. But the sound is, generally unexceptionable. It is, rather, a couple of musical issues that make one hesitate to award the laurels to the challenger; to take them, that is, from a much-admired and long-serving musical monarch.

First, the generally fine performance of the Eighth--in rather less blatant, more traditionally mellow sound than the Ninth, I seem to detect--is marred by a Finale which needs to "let its hair down" and indulge in some unbuttoned--inebriated, even--Slavische Tanze. When this movement usually drives relentlessly towards its dionysiac conclusion, I just cannot keep the hands and arms still.Reviewer's palsy, undoubtedly; but with Fischer, I remained sedately chair-bound! This is reflected in the timings: the difference between Szell's 9:03 and Fischer's 10:28 is far from inconsiderable. Apostate that I am, I was watching a DVD the other night and can report that a Karajan who looked--as indeed he was--only weeks from the yawning grave was able to manage affairs in 10:04 including some well-merited applause in the Musikverein.

Second, the Ninth--while boasting a Scherzo of incisive, biting force and a Finale whose Allegro is, for once, truly con fuoco--lands in trouble with the Largo. To these ears, the tempo repeatedly drags, sags and slows and then speeds up to compensate and save the day. Don't think that I take issue with slow tempos here: Fischer's 11:21 is faster than Szell's 12:10--and for that matter Reiner's 12:24 and Walter's 12:07. This is, after all, a Largo. But those other conductors are able to sustain, almost metronomically where necessary, where Fischer cannot. The point is driven home by Paavo Jarvi's Tring/Membran RPO performance: the timing here is an astonishing 15:23 but never has the attention wandering because his slow, even very slow, sections are internally consistent in pace and invariably slightly different in pulse (a la Bruckner). They contrast, then, very well with the broad maestoso brass interludes.

So when the gent on the Clapham omnibus--or the NYC subway--asks me whether he should put on to eBay his (shock! horror!) stereo-only, single-layer, non-DSD, geriatric Szell recording, and get the Fischer recording "like what all them smart coves has", then I'll unequivocally say "Don't Do It, Guv, You'll Only Regret It!"

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Review by Dr. O November 24, 2005 (5 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
A remarkable performance! The engineering on the recording is absolutely first rate, and both the conducting and the playing are superb!

Every single nuance comes out with clarity and timbral brilliance. A MUST HAVE for the classical audiophile!

I often wonder why the 8th Symphony is not performed more often. It remains in the shadows of the famous 9th - "From the New World." If you are not familiar with this lesser known work of Dvorak, then by all means get yourself a copy of this recording and treat yourself to a sparkling gem! You can thank me later!

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Review by darkroommd December 26, 2006 (7 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This disc will join my favorite SACD albums. My reference recording of the Eighth Symphony is Dohnanyi/Cleveland on London and for the Ninth is Harnoncourt/Concertgebouw on Teldec DVD-Audio. I put both performances on par with both of these.

In the Eighth, the portamento strings (and later in brass) in the Allegretto is a nice touch, but I cannot comment whether this is a faithful interpretation. Overall, the playing is very precise with detail that I did not previously hear (thanks both to performance and SACD). I agree with another poster that the fourth movement Allegro drags a touch with respect to tempo and mood. Dohnanyi gives it more energy and fervor.

In the Ninth, the overall performance is very satisfying. The Largo is more subdued than others I have heard, but does not suffer in any way. Fischer keeps you hanging on unusually long fermatas near the end of the movement. The Scherzo stands out as exceptionally precise and well done, with excellent articulation of the difficult rhythms in this movement. Tempi are standard.

As for the sonics, the SACD surround is brilliant. (The redbook CD layer is also excellent.) Sound stage is perfect; a mid-orchestra distance I would estimate. There is enough reverb without loss of clarity. Without digressing too far into the DVD-A vs. SACD debate, suffice it to say I prefer the SACD for its warmth and realism.

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Review by threerandot May 31, 2007 (13 of 16 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
I have avoided reviewing this disc, but I have also wanted to express my opinions on it for quite some time. I did want to give it a fair chance, since many seem to regard it as a recording that could well be the new benchmark.

Ivan Fischer is obviously a sensitive and intelligent conductor, but after repeated listenings to this recording, I still find something nags me about this disc. As a matter of fact, I have had a difficult time putting my finger on it. As far as performances go, I find this disc uneven and much of the playing seems routine. There seems to be some rather tepid playing throughout and Fischer only catches some of the nuances of these works.

The Ninth has an uneventful first movement and even more uneventful Largo which just lags. Things pick up a little more in the third. The Finale does have more spark than the rest of this symphony and stands out as a result. The Eighth begins with a definite improvement, the sound having a little more body and focus and it is played better than the Ninth, with more sparkle and passion.

I wish I could say more about the sound of this disc. I think there is perhaps too much depth and a lack of focus. Winds aren't very colorful or rich and strings lack body. Bass is fine I'd say and the brass do come through quite nicely. The tympani are unimpressive.

An important point I'd like to make is that one of the big problems in this disc is that the details sometimes go missing. Winds just don't seem to come through very clearly and lack focus and detail. Pizzicato strings also seem to be missing in action.

This is a disc that initially illicited a very favourable response from others here and perhaps I expected too much. But I have had the disc for almost a year and my opinion of it has improved only somewhat. Don't get me wrong. This is certainly not the worst performance of these works you are likely to hear. The Budapest Orchestra is a very capable body, but the sound and uneven performances take away from what could have been a much better outing.

(This review refers to the MCH portion of this disc.)

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Review by krisjan March 24, 2010 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
The text for this review has been moved to the new site. You can read it here:

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Review by willemvoorneveld June 19, 2012 (2 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
This is a good example of a splendid recording with a caveat. I like this performance and recording a lot because it gives the impression of a live performance with substantial symphony hall acoustics.
Based on the results on disk I have to assume that the Italian institute in Budapest is quite a large concert hall with almost church like acoustics. Based on this given, I think it is very appropriate that Fischer brings his tempo down, most noticeable in nr.8. In addition Fischer seems to want to undue the music from any non-relevant, over the top musical extravaganza to avoid Dvorak’s music becoming kitschy.

When I first played this SACD I was not overly impressed, but overtime I have learned to appreciate this recording. The sobering approach to this music in combination with the fantastic but tricky acoustics ensure a long lasting appreciation for this SACD.

The recording is listed as a 6 channel DSD recording. The violin sound I obtained through my 6 speakers was very real; as silky as violins can sound. All speakers were quite busy so I have to assume that this record is best played on a system with 5/6 large speakers all doing low and high frequencies.


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