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Dvorak: Symphonies 6 & 9 [Alsop] Blu-ray Audio Review

  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 (88.2kHz/24-bit) (No. 6), DTS-HD Master Audio (88kHz/24-bit)(No. 6); PCM 2.0 (96kHz/24-bit) (No. 9), DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (96kHz/24-bit) (No. 9)
  • Subtitles: None
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Naxos
  • Blu-ray Release Date: January 25th, 2011
  • List Price: $19.99

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

The Performance

[Rating:4/5]

Antonin Dvorak needs no formal introduction to classical music lovers. Like Tchaikovsky, he was incapable of writing music that was not tuneful or did not fall easy on the ear. This Blu-Ray audio- only disc features the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under its principal conductor, Marin Alsop whose career has been in ascendancy for the past two decades. Entering the Dvorak arena, however, raises the comparison bar, since so many outstanding recordings of these works already exist, albeit in lower resolution formats. Do Alsop and the BSO pass the Dvorak test?

Symphony No. 6 is not as frequently played as its successors which is a pity considering the considerable musical invention present here.  There are clear echoes of Dvorak’s mentor, Johannes Brahms, in the heart-rending Adagio but there are also the ever present melodies and infectious rhythms  inspired by Czech folk music.  From the start, it is clear that Alsop has her orchestra under tight rein. The beat, so important to Dvorak’s music, is crisp and precise. To her credit, Alsop avoids the common temptation to luxuriate in this beautiful music andkeeps the instrumental coordination is perfect.

Symphony No. 9 (From the New World) is Dvorak’s homage to his stay in the United States near the end of the 19th century. It has deservedly acquired “war horse” status in the symphonic repertoire resulting in dozens of available digital recordings, albeit, none in Blu-ray audio. If one can call a classical symphony, a “muscle” piece, this is it and, unfortunately, the BSO does not quite have the physique of the orchestral big boys.  However, this reading is taut, well paced, and certainly a good listen in all respects. As in the accompanying piece, I was pleased with overall control of the opening Adagio and subsequent Largo with its familiar “Going Home” melody, both of  which have a tendency to drag under lesser conductors.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The soundtrack in DTS-HD Master Audio and uses the hall effects judiciously. The sound stage features good orchestral spread.  The solo instruments are reproduced in realistic space and there is warmth in the music as it is heard in live venues. The perspective is that of a good center mid-orchestral seat. My quibbles stem from a lack of body to the string section and insufficient bite to the brass. I have not been to the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall so some of this might be a by-product of the recording’s location.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

There are no supplemental interviews.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

This is a music-making at a very high level with a world-class conductor and very capable, if not top five, symphony orchestra. I was favorably impressed with the management of tempi which can often succumb to the rich romanticism of both pieces. The naturalness of the recording gives a sense of place which is the point of the added channels of surround sound. There are many standard definition Dvorak symphonic cycles from which to choose. However, there is no direct competition in the BD catalog. Get this disc for the Symphony No.6, one of my personal favorites, and you will not be disappointed.

[amazon-product]B004EL1ZHS[/amazon-product]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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