The liner notes of this collection of the complete Dvorák symphonies are at best peculiar and at worst off putting. Rather than focusing on the symphonies themselves, their historical significance, or Dvorák's compositional evolution, they instead concentrate on lauding the conductor, the fame of the orchestra, and the number of albums sold when these recordings were first released. All of this may be more tolerable if the recordings themselves lived up to the hype. But, sadly, they do not. While the performances are certainly adequate, they fail to bring anything new or special to the listener. The earlier symphonies, which are not Dvorák's strongest from a compositional standpoint, are not infused with any extra energy or vitality to make them more captivating to the listener. Sound quality throughout the cycle is often dull; lower instruments such as the basses and tympani sound as if they are playing from under a pillow. Even the more popular latter symphonies (Seven, Eight, and Nine) are simply adequate. The brass playing, particularly in the Eighth Symphony, is frequently not together and the sound quality is unattractive. If listeners are in the market for a complete set of these symphonies, they would do well to consider the set made by the London Symphony Orchestra under Istvan Kertesz instead.
Zemlinsky's Die Seejungfrau ("The mermaid") is a three-movement symphonic fantasy based on the Hans Andersen story. It was first performed (under the composer's direction) in 1905, and is thus a good deal earlier than the works that have recently excited renewed interest in him—the oneact operas Eine florentinische TragOdie (1916) and Der Zwerg (1921), and the exquisite Lyric Symphony of 1922. In its masterly handling of a large orchestra, however, and of an episodic but firm structure, it is a far from immature piece. Zemlinsky was 34 when he wrote it, after all. If his list of works were not in such a terrible mess—many are unpublished; several, including the present work, were until recently thought to be lost—Die Seejungfrau would count as his Op. 30 or thereabouts.