It’s good to have these well-preserved/-remastered recordings back in circulation. Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (1900-73) ensures that Dvořák’s magnificent Seventh Symphony is powerful, ardent, flexible, deeply–felt and spontaneous, recorded in Kingsway Hall when the Hamburg Radio Symphony Orchestra was visiting London. Over three days in March 1953, with John Culshaw producing, the ensemble also set down four of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances – the first three of Opus 46 and the final one from Opus 72 – most enjoyable if overshadowed by terrific, paprika-infused, readings of seven of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances, including the three that the composer himself orchestrated from the piano/four hands originals. They really leap off the page with pizzazz but no contrivance (how some conductors maul these gems!), and with cheeky wit too in the case of the elegant oboe-led No.3.
Fast-forward ten years – the orchestra is now the NDR-Sinfonieorchester, the label has changed from Decca to Deutsche Grammophon, and we can rejoice in handsome stereo sound captured on the players’ home turf. Dvořák’s two Serenades (Opus 22 for Strings, Opus 44 for Winds) are the bill of fare, both done proud by Schmidt-Isserstedt and the NDR members. The string piece glows, sways, poeticises (heartfelt slow movement) and exhilarates, while the one for wind struts, swings and exudes outdoors freshness – these harmonie musicians savouring every note, playing with character and precision, and how well the microphones pick up cello and bass.
Three LPs have become two very recommendable CDs – on Eloquence 484 0365.