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Dvorak: Symphony #3, Swoboda (Westminster) (March 29, 2018)

Dvorak's Symphony #3, Swoboda (Westminster)

Thanks to an upload in a classical music group I frequent, I have learned something new about the Dvorak third symphony -- Henry Swoboda got to it first!

I adore Dvorak, and the 3rd is a joy for me. I've never really understood its lukewarm reputation. I like or love all the Dvorak symphonies, and this one comes in only behind 8 and maybe 9 in my affections.

I think sometimes composers who lack the intellectual rigor for thematic development of, say, a Beethoven, but have an innate genius for gorgeous melody are looked down upon, unless they express themselves through suites and the like, and stay away from the exalted symphony.

And the Dvorak 3rd is one example – man oh man, one beautiful theme after another. Sure, my left brain, when applied, may notice some issues, which are always harped on by critics, but my right brain swamps it and just releases the endorphins.

I’ve loved it most of my classical-loving life, and back in the early ‘80s, had all (I thought) of the recordings that had come out at that point: Kertesz, Neumann, Smetacek, Rowicki, Suitner, Andrew Davis. But by far my favorite was, and has remained, Kubelik/BPO/DG. Nobody, to my ear, captures the lilting beauty (that 2nd movement!) combined with balls-out power.

But back then (way before the interwebs), I might not have even known about Swoboda’s Westminster recording (I probably thought Smetacek’s was the first, but now I know it was Swoboda who first laid it down), and I sure would have wanted it. I’m guessing it was long gone from the catalog by then, superseded (very rightly so) by the others.

Not that it’s worth much on a purely musical level. Really, it’s pretty gruesome. Besides the early-tape-era grainy mono sound, a blindfold test of the opening measures would have had me guessing a mediocre high school orchestra, and Swoboda rips through the thing at a breakneck tempo I’ve never heard anyone else attempt, only making it harder for an orchestra that undoubtedly had never played it before (how many orchestras had?).

But hey, at least he did it when nobody else gave a hoot. For that, my hat’s off to him.

Dave Royko/Music Rambles

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