The "Scandinavian Classics" label on this budget disc of Czech music, performed by a Czech orchestra and issued by a German label, is utterly mysterious, and the performance of the Dvorák Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, "From the New World," is pretty standard, with fine control in the slow movement but very subdued response to the vigorous rhythms in the opening movement and finale. But this album is well worth the few dollars it costs because of the rare 20-minute work with which it opens: At Twilight—Idyll for Orchestra, Op. 39, by Zdenek Fibich, an exact contemporary of the New World Symphony. Fibich remains known mostly for a group of small piano pieces in which he programmatically catalogued, sometimes in embarassingly intimate detail, the course of his relationship with one Anezka Schulzova, but this little tone poem is virtually unknown, at least outside the Czech-speaking realm. It was also associated with Schulzova, according to the short booklet note (in English only), dating from the beginning of the composer's liaison with her, and for whatever reason, it's a sunset piece that radiates unusual happiness and serenity. The final section, beginning about five minutes from the end, depicts darkness settling and points of starlight appearing, and it's absolutely lovely. The entire work is quiet and demands control from the players, which Bohemia's Carlsbad Symphony Orchestra under Douglas Bostock provides admirably. The work is a really nice find for lovers of Czech music in general.
© James Manheim, Rovi
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