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Giv Cornfield, Ph.d
August 2007

'Discovering Masterpieces' is a new series of EuroArts DVDs in which a Music 101-type documentary precedes the performance. The documentary is well done and is useful for those who wish to know more about the composer and the circumstances leading to the composition of the work under discussion.

That said, this performance, which took place in Palermo in May 2002, is simply the most perfect recording of this masterpiece that I have ever heard! I grew up loving this symphony, and have forgotten how many times I've enjoyed it, but the experience is always fresh, so rich is the music. In this live recording, Maestro Abbado elicits wonderful pianissimi that in the Largo movement make the strings sing with near-human warmth, later contrasted by swelling and majestically sweeping crescendi by the orchestra. The well-deserved and long, standing ovation is captured in detail. This very high-fidelity recording is simply a treasure!



Giv Cornfield, Ph.D.
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, August 2007

'Discovering Masterpieces' is a new series of EuroArts DVDs in which a Music 101-type documentary precedes the performance. The documentary is well done and is useful for those who wish to know more about the composer and the circumstances leading to the composition of the work under discussion.

That said, this performance, which took place in Palermo in May 2002, is simply the most perfect recording of this masterpiece that I have ever heard! I grew up loving this symphony, and have forgotten how many times I've enjoyed it, but the experience is always fresh, so rich is the music. In this live recording, Maestro Abbado elicits wonderful pianissimi that in the Largo movement make the strings sing with near-human warmth, later contrasted by swelling and majestically sweeping crescendi by the orchestra. The well-deserved and long, standing ovation is captured in detail. This very high-fidelity recording is simply a treasure!



Bradley Bambarger
Newark Star-Ledger, July 2007

This DVD features a half-hour film tracing the context and content of Dvorák's ever-popular Symphony No. 9 (nicknamed "From the New World"), as the preface to a full live performance. And what a performance it is -- Claudio Ab bado conducting the Berlin Philharmonic, recorded in true sur round sound. Beyond the exalted playing -- the conductor yielding sounds like a conjurer of spirits in the symphony's Largo -- the musicians were beautifully shot in Palermo, Italy's Teatro Massimo. (This performance, plus Brahms' Violin Concerto with Gil Shaham, is also available on a DVD with the full 2002 Palermo concert.)

Among its virtues, the documentary features expert input from Czech music specialist Michael Beckerman of New York University. The film relies on the Abbado footage as a narrator takes the viewer rather dryly through the various themes in English, with Beckerman coming in to illustrate key points (along with images of Manhattan bustle and Midwestern prairie). The symphony's motifs are often more Old World than New, as Beckerman says, but he explains at the piano how one theme parallels the black spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." He also points out how the tale of Hiawatha inspired the Largo's pentatonic plaintiveness, with American bird song contributing later.

Dvorák came to the U.S. in the 1890s to run the National Conser vatory in New York City, and he was encouraged to help Americans find their way to a classical music free of undue European influence (as he helped his fellow Czechs see a path beyond the Austro-German). He famously insisted that this country's native music was to be found in "Negro and American Indian melodies." This was met with both enthusiasm and racist defensiveness, not touched upon in the film. If not as complex as it might be, the documentary is far better than many.






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12:10:38 AM, 23 August 2014
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