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Gramophone, November 2009

The sound…[is good] on Naxos’s Obert-Thorn refurbishment of Dvořák’s two sets of Slavonic Dances (plus another thrilling Carnival Overture) recorded at London’s Abbey Road in 1935 by the Czech Philharmonic under Vaclav Talich—the earliest and most vital of three Talich/CPO versions that have come down to us. The performances are brilliant if less emotionally weighted (as well as less generous with repeats) than the 1950 Supraphon set but superbly drilled and sporting prominent, pre-war style expressive portamentos. What an orchestra!

John Sheppard
MusicWeb International, July 2009

It is easy to assume that because many of them are so well known and they are all so wonderfully tuneful and inventive that the Slavonic Dances are easy to play. However you only have to listen to performances with conductors who either feel they must do something different with them or who do not feel instinctively the dancing rhythms to know that they can sound obvious, boring or just lumpy in the wrong hands. That is emphatically not the case here, and in the less frequently played but on the whole more interesting second set almost every bar contains object lessons in how the music ought to be played. They sound always natural and full of life. The restoration of the recordings by Mark Obert-Thorn seems to be well done, although I admit that it did take me a little time to get used to the somewhat harsh sound of the violins in their higher register, but once I had done that it was pleasure all the way.

Vaclav Talich (1883–1961) conducted the Czech Philharmonic for the first time in 1917 and was made chief conductor in 1919. His last concert with them was in 1954. The present recordings were made during a visit to London in 1935 and throughout they demonstrate a real commitment to and understanding of the music. Somehow they avoid any hint of routine. The strings play with real fervour and the individuality of the woodwind and brass players is a constant delight. Internal balance is always unobtrusively right and speeds are carefully chosen and varied to reveal the changing character of the music. Most repeats are observed although there are minor cuts, presumably to fit the original discs.

It is good also to have the ‘Carnival’ Overture here. In a vital performance like this more than ever it sounds like a halfway house between the Dances and the Concert Overtures and Symphonic Poems.

It is inevitable because of their age that these recordings cannot do full justice to the Dances. They are nonetheless an essential supplement to almost any modern recording of them that I have heard, and fully justify the claim on the sleeve to be ‘historical recordings’ under a ‘Great Conductor’.

Rob Maynard
MusicWeb International, June 2009

Talich’s interpretations of music by Dvořák (and Suk) were always widely regarded as benchmarks against which others must be judged…Talich is intuitively idiomatic and consistently enjoyable to listen to…Dvořák’s writing is just the sort of life-affirming and enjoyable music to perk us up in these currently stressful times, especially when heard in atmospheric and highly accomplished performances such as those on this new disc.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2009

For almost thirty years the name of Vaclav Talich and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra were inexorably linked, the great conductor having put together the finest ensemble the nation had ever possessed.

Sadly his life was to be burdened by ill-health, and then, when the Communists came to power in 1948, his latter years were blighted when he was prevented from conducting his beloved orchestra. He had originally followed a path of an orchestral musician who slowly emerged as a world-class conductor, his appointment as Chief Conductor of the Philharmonic in 1919 finding the ensemble in poor shape. It was through dedication and endless rehearsing that he fashioned an ensemble that could compare with any European orchestra. There followed tours to many parts of Europe, but for Talich it was their autumn visits to London, where he could take the orchestra into the Abbey Road Studios to work with the HMV technicians, that were particularly important to him. On the 1935 visit Dvořák’s complete Slavonic Dances and Carnival Overture wererecorded over two days, performances that were the benchmark for all that followed. Don’t expect great revelations, Talich always allowed Dvořák to speak for himself, the natural Czech lilt projecting the music without haste, the slower sections flowing gently. Much the same could be said of Carnival, everything neat and tidy and without any performance quirks. The sound, even by 1935 standards, was nothing special, and the Naxos engineers have thankfully resisted any futile effort to change the boxy ambience, the rather dry acoustic achieving much inner clarity.

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