Classics Today France 10/10, September 2012.
With his Seventh Symphony, Dvořák had proved that he could compose a ‘respectable’ symphony (as he himself termed it), and had done so to both critical and public acclaim. Four years later, when he began to work on its successor, he apparently felt free to return to a more familiar idiom, and after the serious Seventh – which Dvořák at one stage had considered giving the nickname 'Tragic' – Symphony No.8 was a lighter work, with its roots firmly planted in the composer’s beloved Czech folklore. It is probably the freest of his mature symphonies from a formal point of view, and has interesting parallels with Mahler’s First Symphony, which was premièred shortly after Dvořák had completed his own work. Imitations of the sounds of nature, pastoral subjects and fanfares feature in both symphonies, and both evoke a funeral march and a chorale. The work is here coupled with the symphonic poem The Golden Spinning Wheel, based on an epic poem by the Czech poet Karel Erben. Complete with a wicked stepmother, a dismembering and a magic spinning wheel of gold, this rather cruel fairy-tale is followed by the shorter Scherzo capriccioso. This consistently light-hearted piece was actually composed during one of the darkest periods of Dvořák’s life following the death of his mother in 1882. All of the other works written at this time – including Symphony No.7 – are characterized by a dark, even tragic mood and it is as if Dvořák in this Scherzo felt the need to once again express unrestrained joy. Claus Peter Flor and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra have just released their performance of Symphony No.7 – a recording which has received top marks (‘10/10’) on the website Classics Today France, whose reviewer described it as ‘a striking disc’ offering ‘a revitalized vision of these major orchestral works’.
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