Newton Classics has been re-releasing some outstanding classic recordings recently; this time last year I was very impressed with their repackaged Decca disc of Spanish music played by Alicia de Larocha Falla: Suites from El Sombrero de tres picos; El amor brujo; Fantasia Baetica; Cuatro piezas espanolas. Here comes another: two discs from Antal Dorati recorded at the Concertgebouw by Decca in 1986.
Smetana's Ma vlast (My country) includes six movements, but most music lovers know only The Moldau, with its famous river theme. That theme was featured in Terrence Malick's film The Tree of Life; look for the movie's trailer on YouTube to see how Malick uses The Moldau theme to represent life itself. The movement, and the entire tone poem, is perfectly framed by Dorati, beautifully played by the Dutch musicians, and presented in sparkling, clear, lifelike sound by the Decca engineers. By the way, the version used in Malick's film is by Vaclav Smetacek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, on Supraphon, which is a classic recording as well, and, of course, completely authentic. But there is no lack of authenticity in this performance as well, as Dorati brings out the best of Bohemian music with a middle-European flavour and world-class musicians. Make sure you take the time to listen to all 80 minutes of Ma vlast; these are castles, woods and fields worth visiting with Smetana as your guide.
The Overture: In Nature's Realm by Antonin Dvorak is another work I recommend highly, especially to those of you who only know his Symphonies (and perhaps only his best-known, From the New World). Dvorak's tone poems contain some of his best music, with lovely and lively themes and rich orchestral colour. Dorati is once again a more than reliable interpreter; his Dvorak is as vital and alive as his Smetana.