DVORAK:  Symphony No. 7, Op. 70. Symphony No. 8, Op. 88.  Symphony No. 9, Op. 95. Carnival Overture, Op. 92   SMETANA:  Quartet in E Minor "From My Life," Overture to The Bartered Bride
Cleveland Orch/George Szell, cond.
Sony Masterworks Heritage 63151 (2 CDs) (F) (ADD) TT: 79:29 & 75:23  

This is another major issue in Sony's Masterworks Heritage series, restoring to the catalog, in superb transfers, some of George Szell's finest recorded performances, and adding recordings new to CD. The generously-filled CDs offer the last three Dvorak symphonies recorded in stereo from 1958-1960, along with Carnival Overture, also in stereo, recorded in 1963. Of most interest is Szell's 1940 transcription of Smetana's String Quartet No.1, a monaural recording made in April 1949. Szell felt that the music demanded a bigger sound than could be provided by a string quartet; his scoring includes percussion, winds, brass and harp. I find this highly effective, and the brilliant performance shows Szell's dedication to the music and his wisdom in orchestrating it. The mono sound is well-balanced, leaner and sharper than the original LP. There is another orchestral recording of this transcription, a stereo Cala recording with Geoffrey Simon and the London Symphony, a fine performance very well recorded, but not as dynamic as Szell's. Another mono recording completes the Sony set, Smetana's overture to The Bartered Bride.

R.E.B. (Sept. 1999)

(NOTE: Szell's recordings of Dvorak's Symphonies 8 and 9 have been issued on SACD where the sound is even better because of the sonic superiority of SACD over regular CD. The SACD (SACD 89413) can be played only on a SACD player.