DVOŘÁK Symphony No 2. 3 Slavonic Dances
First, a minor glitch: it occurs at 2'52" into the D major Slavonic Dance (Op 46 No 6), where a small fragment of the score appears to have been inadvertently clipped. It had me going backwards and forwards countless times, comparing and contrasting, but – unless we’re hearing a rare alternative edition – it’s definitely missing. An editing fault, perhaps. Elsewhere, all is well. Serebrier connects with the music’s excited busyness, attending to the string lines with particular affection, keeping energy levels high but never sounding aggressive or overwrought. OK, maybe Karel ejna still comes tops in the thrilling C major (Op 72 No 7) and Kubelík (in Munich) in the A flat major (Op 46 No 3), while Szell in Cleveland has the edge in the jog-trotting D major. These and a few others like them (Talich, Neumann, Dorati and the best of Mackerras) are more noteworthy but Serebrier’s readings are wholesome and musical.
The Second Symphony, which Dvořák himself subjected to judicious editing, has become a firm Serebrier favourite and the evidence as presented suggests abundant affection. The middle movements are, as the conductor himself says (in a useful booklet-note), the best, the Scherzo dominated by a winsome theme that levels with the finest in mature Dvořák, while the Poco adagio inhabits wooded glades not unlike those that dominate the great D minor Symphony. Even the Symphony’s opening, working as it does from darkness to light, is memorable, as is the carefree second subject. The finale is full of telling contrasts made all the more effective through the conductor’s belief in the music. As to rivals, the Czechs strike me as best: Vladimír Válek with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and Václav Neumann with the Czech Philharmonic (his 1974 version), both available only as part of complete cycles on Supraphon, are excellent; but for a well-recorded single CD option, Serebrier and his Bournemouth players provide a safe recommendation.