Symphony No. 8 in G.
The Golden Spinning Wheel,
. Scherzo Capriccioso,
Claus Peter Flor, cond; Malaysian PO
BIS 1976 (SACD: 79:28)
I have always found Claus Peter Flor to be a very interesting, insightful, and exciting conductor, and he does not disappoint here. This is a very attractive and generous program of some of Dvořák’s greatest music. In the Eighth Symphony, arguably the composer’s greatest work in the genre, Flor exhibits his unique ability to imbue the music with fire and passion, yet still mold the work’s somewhat patchwork structure into a convincingly cohesive whole. The various episodic passages of the first movement and the finale are fused together into a seamless flow and one really gets a sense of the grand architecture of these two movements and of the work as a whole. The
and the third movement Scherzo are perfectly paced and lovingly shaped and, for once, the abrupt march-like coda of the latter does not sound like a tagged-on afterthought. I should add that this is Flor’s second go-around with the Eighth, having previously recorded it with the Royal Philharmonic for RCA. That was a distinguished account, but is outshined in every way by this new offering. This is a great interpretation, one to stand alongside the standard-setting recorded performances of Kertész, Szell, Dohnányi, Neumann, and Mackerras.
And as good as the symphony is,
The Golden Spinning Wheel
is even better. Despite its rather fragmented and episodic structure, I have always considered this to be one of Dvořák’s most sublime creations. Once again, Flor displays his knack for fusing together the seemingling unrelated sections of a work into a seamless, unified symphonic statement. This is the finest recorded performance of this great work I know. The disc is topped off with an exuberant, exhilarating performance of the wonderful
. Through it all, Flor’s own Malaysian Philharmonic plays magnificently, imbuing the music with both beauty of tone and rhythmic vitality. Flor manages to elicit a marvelously idiomatic sound from his ensemble that is reminiscent of the best Czech orchestras. The woodwinds are rustic and reedy, the brass play with a burnished, darkly hued tone, and the strings are sweet and songful yet have plenty of heft when the music requires. The sound of the SACD hybrid disc is stunning in its impact and clarity. If you love this music—and if you don’t, shame on you—you will not want to miss this disc.