Dvořák: The Spectre’s Bride CD review – choral music takes a wild nocturnal ride

Šaturová/Breslik/Plachetka/Wiener Singakademie/ORF Vienna SO/Meister

There could be the dramatic skeleton of an opera lurking beneath the cantata veneer of The Spectre’s Bride, Dvořák’s choral work which was commissioned for the 1885 Birmingham festival but first tried out in the Bohemian city of Pilsen a few months earlier. Based on a poem by Karel Jaromír Erben, about a young girl who is abducted by a ghost she believes to be the spirit of her lover, it was first called The Bride’s Chemise – but that was altered to the title by which it’s known today so as not to upset Victorian sensibilities.

The sequence of 18 solo and choral numbers outlines a taut trajectory, with the wild nocturnal ride on which the spectre carries off the girl as its dramatic centrepiece. Perhaps it’s not all as spectacularly dramatic as it might be in Cornelius Meister’s live performance, which tends to emphasise the lyrical aspects of Dvořák’s score. But there are shapely solo contributions from the ORF orchestra, and certainly some very fine expressive singing from soprano Simona Šaturová as the girl and tenor Pavol Breslik as the spectre.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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