Dvorak: Symphony No. 8, Symphonic Variations

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An absolutely stellar live recording. Sir Charles Mackerras was a master in this repertoire (as he was with Janacek, and Mozart operas and symphonies, and so many other music). The conductor died in 2010, after a career that spanned recordings from the 78 to CD era, and this posthumous release came out last year. Curiously, there is no information printed in the booklet or on the case that specifies the concert date(s) from which this was drawn. Certainly, it’s from the latter part of his life, though the energy and pointed clarity and drive of the performances make questions of age irrelevant. Although not age that earns experience.

The Symphony No. 8 is one of Dvorak’s fine later works, like Beethoven’s it’s a more Classically flavored work that falls between two monumental Romantic pieces. The performance cannot be bettered, every moment shows complete understanding of the music, complete confidence and clarity. The revelation is the Symphonic Variations, which has never sounded like such a finely-crafted, exciting masterpiece as it does under the hands of the conductor and this orchestra, out of which he has brought the best. Highly recommended.

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