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Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 - Noseda

Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 - Noseda

National Symphony Orchestra  NSO0001

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Dvorak: Symphony No. 9
Copland: Billy the Kid (suite)

National Symphony Orchestra
Gianandrea Noseda, conductor

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - February 24, 2020

This is not the first nor will it be the last recording of Dvorak’s ever so popular ninth symphony. A review of the previous one published on this site dates from September last year: Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 - Keller. Colleague Williams rightly suggested that in order to successfully attract the attention of anyone having already more than one on his shelves, any further addition to the over 50 Super Audio in the Hi-Res catalogue, and a whole lot more in the for many outdated RBCD format, should bring something special. Since I prefer to sit in the concert hall and not in the orchestra, I’m not a great fan of TACET’s ‘Real Surround Sound’, but it does indeed bring something ‘new’. With this NSO release, it is difficult to make a similar claim. At face value, it is just another account. But is it?

Although this has no direct bearing on the music, it is new and noteworthy in that this is the first release of Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra on its own label with a promise for more (“will present standout performances from across the Orchestra’s seasons at the Kennedy Center and beyond”). Furthermore, that we have here one more American label joining the high-resolution market and that it does so in two formats: physical (SACD) and download (Native DSD), next to streaming on the usual media. The icing on the cake is that the recording was made using the best available technology (“recorded live in DSD, June 2019”) and engineered by the top sound wizards of Boston’s Sound Mirror. What more can one wish for?

Gianandrea Noseda is a conductor of global standing, bringing with him bags full of experience at his arrival as the latest NSO’s General Music Director. This extensive experience clearly enabled him to deliver Dvorak’s ‘New World’ inspired Symphony in an indisputable Bohemian fashion by combining typical elements of both in a remarkably spirited first movement with a hi-impact ending. Like in other first-rate versions, Noseda’s second movement is a heaven of peace. In this almost visualized impressionist reading, it could be either a tranquil, sunlit Nebraskan cornfield or a lush Bohemian valley, with a passionate Cor anglais setting the pastoral tone. The orchestra fully shares in this live painting of the score in all its diverse colours. And even more so when Noseda sweeps up the elements in a boisterous reading of the Molto Vivace, reminiscent of Ferenc Fricsay’s Berlin Account (DGG, re-issued in 2007) in the sixties. The final movement is an equally glorious explosion from which the sound engineers were able to draw details in some of the more crowded passages I can’t remember having heard before.

Billy the Kid enjoys the same public favour as the Symphony. Both, therefore, an understandable choice for a first recording, with the clear objective of setting oneself in the market. I would hope though that future release will also look at other, preferably American music, as so much of it have so far been neglected, like Walter Piston’s two violin concerti, or the lovely Song of Orpheus Fantasy for cello and orchestra from the American (William) Schumann.

These having been recorded during one or two live concerts, nit-pickers will always find something to complain about. This is, in my view, not the way to look at it. A live production invariably brings so much more emotional thrill that it largely outweighs any imperfection it may entail; in this particular case the positive tension between audience and musicians is tangible, and the more I listen the more I like it.

It may be clear that from the luxury of available versions, which by the way and for various reasons do not all come into prime focus, it may be difficult to make up one’s mind. That said, Noseda and his forces surely are in the top league. And with a compelling Billy the Kid Suite from Aaron Copland’s complete ballet, plus on top of that an exemplary sound, with modest but effective surround, one can hardly go wrong when opting for Gianandrea Noseda and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2020 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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Comments (11)
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Comment by hiredfox - January 29, 2020 (1 of 11)

New label, compulsory buy. Familiar repertory but nice pieces anyway. Support the labels.

Comment by hiredfox - February 10, 2020 (2 of 11)

https://www.kennedy-center.org/nso/home/cds--downloads/

Good for them. They are working with LSO Live so this may well be a series of DSD recordings...

Fingers crossed DSD fanatics.

How about this then..

"Recorded live on June 6, 8 and 9, 2019 at the Concert Hall at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Recording producer Blanton Alspaugh, Soundmirror. Recording engineer John Newton, Soundmirror. Mastering engineer Mark Donahue, Soundmirror.
Cover photo Stefano Pasqualetti. Kennedy Center photo Richard Barnes.
Orchestra and artist photos Scott Suchman and Stefano Pasqualetti."

Comment by philip edwards - February 11, 2020 (3 of 11)

Yes, ‘recorded live in DSD’, from the back cover (on Ebay). I have just bought it for the reason suggested by Hiredfox, to support new labels.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - February 23, 2020 (4 of 11)

OK you guys, I have it and a review is forthcoming. Sound is Great.

Comment by Paul Hannah - February 28, 2020 (5 of 11)

Being a subscriber to Presto in the UK I first heard snippets of this recording from Presto's weekly newsletter .

My first reaction was.........not another New world ! However as it was from an orchestra I didn't know and a label I had never heard of I thought …...OK I'll have a listen.

It only took the horn call that opens the first movement for me to say WOW this is so well recorded !

After having a listen to the other snippets on Presto's news letter...…...I thought this is like the sound quality one gets with Reference Recordings and the Sound Mirror people they employ on the engineering end.

So notwithstanding the half dozen recordings in my collection...….I immediately popped this recording into my cart at Presto.

Its was with gladdened heart to read this review and to find that Sound Mirror was indeed involved as sound engineers for this recording......….so I am glad I followed what my ears told me bought this SACD

Its gratifying to know that even though I am getting on [ 72yo ] my ears are still working fine LOL

Comment by hiredfox - February 28, 2020 (6 of 11)

Good news Paul. I imagine LSO Live are helping with setting up and running an own label operation as part of the NSO's outreach programme. We should also remember that Maestro Noseda is the LSO's principal guest conductor.

That LSO Live have run their own recording operation so successfully for nearly 20 years is testimony to the robustness of their business model so it is good that other front-line orchestra's have taken note and followed suit. The only downside so far is that the Mariinsky Orchestra have seemingly dropped by the wayside but fingers crossed it is temporary and they have not stopped altogether.

Having Sound Mirror on board is a huge benefit for the label and for collectors, especially for those who enjoy higher rate DSD recordings and can hear the difference. Unquestionably the foremost recording house in the world especially with DSD, it has always seemed that Sound Mirror have been relatively under-employed with only occasional projects for Reference Recordings or Pentatone to brighten our days! This new venture promises a steady stream of outstanding recordings during the next few years.

Comment by hiredfox - March 2, 2020 (7 of 11)

My first impression of this new recording is of the wide-open acoustic of the JFK Centre Concert Hall that allows sounds to develop fully and expansively whilst the instruments nestle securely in their positioning in the orchestra. Not a co-incidence of course as this venue although modern is of the classic shoe-box design made famous in old theatres such as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. What we end up with is a quite beautiful recording by Sound Mirror that is almost worth the money alone.

Adrian has covered adequately the genesis of this recording and the NSO's new own label venture, and in truth they are off to a pretty good start. The pieces chosen are of course long time favourites not just in the USA and have been recorded numerous times so comparisons are difficult. I tried to listen to this afresh with a clear mind concentrating on finding any newly revealed insights that might make this a stand-out recording. In that respect the recording disappoints; while the NSO play with conviction, enthusiasm and great gusto there is a a sense that this hell-for-leather interpretation suits the Copland work better than Dvorak's final symphony.

Please correct me if my understanding of this work is incorrect but surely it reflects the composer's longing for his country of birth, of nostalgia and even home sickness as he prepared for his return from the new world where he had become somewhat disillusioned with life. Naturally Dvorak leaned on material collected from his experiences in the USA but Noseda's view that this is at heart a brash frontier American symphony is not one I share. Where is the longing, the sadness and the disillusionment that characterised this period of his life and convinced him to return to his native land. The absence of melancholy and darker passions rankles.

A cautious recommendation for the reasons outlined earlier but not a serious challenge to Fischer, Jansons or Dohnányi or a host of others.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - March 2, 2020 (8 of 11)

Hi John,

Thanks for your well-considered views on this new album. However, in my view it is questionable that, when he wrote his ninth symphony, he was filled with nostalgia and homesickness ‘as he prepared for his return from the new world’. The 1893 premiere in New York was a great success and he stayed on for about two more years, during which he composed a string quartet, a string quintet (No. 3) and his second cello concerto. The second movement was, like the rest taken from Indian music and, according to his own words, meant as a study for an Opera (which he never wrote). For all I know, he did not actually use any native American tunes but used the characteristics of them to create his musical themes.

I think the reason for his return is, indeed, though partly, due to the home front (Children and his beloved Bohemia), but also the financial instability in America resulting in his no longer being paid regularly, and ‘white’ problems with his adoration for Afro-American and native music on which he advised to build future ‘American’ compositional developments.

My favourite remains Fricsay or Kertesz, but unfortunately not available in SoundMirror quality.

Comment by hiredfox - March 5, 2020 (9 of 11)

This article sheds further light on the genesis of the ninth symphony and is worth reading. Not sure one ends up much the wiser.

http://www.antonin-dvorak.cz/en/symphony9

Warning: There are offensive terms used in this article reflecting attitudes of previous generations of writers

Comment by DYB - March 29, 2020 (10 of 11)

Here's some sad news about the Orchestra: the board decided not to continue paying them during these troubled times. Article also reveals their next recording project this summer (still on schedule) is recording all Beethoven Symphonies.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/after-25-million-stimulus-stunned-nso-players-receive-one-week-notice-from-kennedy-center/2020/03/28/9c27603e-7118-11ea-aa80-c2470c6b2034_story.html

Comment by hiredfox - March 30, 2020 (11 of 11)

Sad news that makes my blood boil. Every orchestra is in the same situation and most are not laying off their staff.Surely the finances of the NSO are not in such a parlous state.

At Bournemouth even though the concert season has ended effectively and prematurelythe CEO appealed to sponsors and supporters to maintain their support throughout this crises and for ticket holders not to ask for refunds of their unused tickets and season tickets so that the orchestra can stay solvent during this crises. As I understand it everyone has stood by the BSO, not least to ensure that we will still have an orchestra in a year or two's time when we might get back to a more normal lifestyle.

Price of everything, value of nothing!