on October 29, 2002
I don't know that there's ever been a more melodic composer than Dvorak. Some might opt for Tchaikovsky, but I would differ with them. Even Dvorak's early symphonies - long unknown to concert-goers and record-collectors - have the gift of spontaneous melody, if not the perfection of craft that his later works in the genre did. And his overtures and orchestral scherzi matched the symphonies in melodiousness: the "In Nature's Realm" Overture is downright irresistable in this respect.
This boxed set of the works, remastered for CD, is a splendid bargain. The remastered sound need take second place to any other integral set of the Dvorak symphonies...And of course the full magic of Kertész's performances is there for all to enjoy without concern for "settling for second best" in any respect.
But I have a few gripes about how Decca has gone about this CD release. The set of symphonies and overtures comes in two 4-CD jewel boxes inside a slipcase. But there are only 7 CDs, the penny-pinching for which leads to awkward sidebreaks for a few of the symphonies. And the "Hussite Overture" - one of the very best in the set, and one of the very best performances of the work anywhere - is nowhere to be found.
How much better it would have been had Decca seen fit to include that 8th CD, with the "Hussite Overture" and with the very real expectation that the regrettable sidebreaks would not have occurred! This is reason enough for me to give this release only 4 stars. And it is a shame because it needn't have been that way!
There is every appearance that Ivan Fischer (interestingly, another Hungarian and not a Czech) is in the process of doing his own (and very new) traversal of these works, with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and on the Philips label. The little I've heard has me very excited. But Fischer does not "put Kertész in the shade." And the price is considerably higher.
Aside from the aforementioned nits about saving a disc and its side effects, I doubt very much that you'd be disappointed in this bargain boxed set.