August 2008

Dvorák - Symphony No. 6; Vodnik (The Water Goblin)
Netherlands Philharmonic, Yakov Kreizberg, conductor
PentaTone 5186 302
Format: Hybrid Multichannel SACD
Released: 2008

by Rad Bennett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

There seems to be a strong Dutch and Russian connection at PentaTone, and nowhere is this more in evidence than in recordings of the Netherlands Philharmonic with its Russian-American music director. The orchestra was formed in 1986 as a merger of the Amsterdam Philharmonic, the Utrecht Symphony, and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra. Yakov Kreizberg has been its music director since 2003.

This disc is the third in a Dvorák series that will eventually present all the symphonies and tone poems. The Sixth Symphony is a stirring, melodic work that enjoyed great success in the composer’s own lifetime. It is lush and romantic; perhaps its biggest excitement comes from a driving third movement inspired by the rhythms of the furiant, a Czech folk dance. Kreizberg and his virtuoso musicians have a field day with this movement.

They do even better with their intentionally savage performance of Vodnik. This is the first of five tone poems composed right after Dvorák returned to Czechoslovakia from his stay in America, where he had written the famous "From the New World" Symphony No. 5. It is based on a grisly tale concerning a water goblin with a thirst for young maidens, and the composer spared no effort in using all of the orchestral special effects of his day. Triangle trills, tam-tam crashes, and rolls on the bass drum all heighten the desired effect of terror as the goblin rages. These effects are all presented well on both the stereo and multichannel tracks by PentaTone’s ace recording team. The first two discs in the series, the aforementioned Ninth Symphony and the sunny Eighth, are still available as hybrid multichannel SACDs.