Joseph Suk's Ripening is one of the most amazing of all post-Romantic orchestral works. It is immensely complex in its structure: a celestial introduction is followed by a cogent progress of scherzos and slow movements, of funeral marches and fugues, all concluded by a serene coda. Yet the work is immediately comprehensible as a musical drama, made clear through the coherence of the thematic and harmonic material. Pesek and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic perform like modern-day deities. They fall short of the heights of Talich and the Czech Philharmonic, but Talich gave the work its premiere. Nonetheless, Pesek gives Ripening his very considerable all: his concentration holds the gigantic structure together as a single arch. Plus, his players articulate every instrumental detail, right down to the beatific wordless women's choir at the work's close. Highly recommended.
The steady increase in recordings of his music has now established Suk as one of the great musical poets of the early 20th century. Too much is made of his affinities with his teacher and father-in-law, Dvorák; for his own part, Dvorák never imposed his personality on his pupils and Suk's mature music owes him little more than a respect for craft and an extraordinarily well developed ear for orchestral colour. His affinities in the five-movement A Summer's Tale, completed in 1909 – a magnificent successor to his profound Asrael Symphony – reflect Debussy and parallel the music of his friend Sibelius and Holst, but underpinning the musical language is a profound originality energising both form and timbre.
Mackerras's recording joins a select band: Šejna's vintage performance on Supraphon and Pešek's inspired rendition with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; his is an equal to them both and the Czech Philharmonic's playing is both aspiring and inspiring.
Dvorak's pupil and son-in-law Josef Suk was a fine violinist and a modest, highly capable composer known chiefly for a charming but unadventurous Serenade for Strings composed in his teens. But Dvorak's death in 1904 inspired him to the greatest creative effort of his life – an intensely emotional, richly elaborated memorial symphony, lasting an hour and named "Asrael" for the Islamic angel of death. The emotional content of the work became intensified during its composition when Suk's wife (Dvorak's daughter), Otylka, died when she was only 27, and "Asrael" became an elegy for father and daughter. The full power of this work is felt in this recording (Virgin 7-91221-2) by Libor Pesek and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.
The two large-scale works by Dvořák and Smetana are complemented here by the one- movement Elegy, by Josef Suk, Dvořák’s student and later son-in-law. Formed in 2007, the Sitkovetsky Trio performs worldwide and has received numerous awards and critical acclaim, but is here making its début on disc, in a programme perfectly suited to the ensemble’s virtuosic and impassioned music-making.
"…This new Belohlavek version gives us the best of both worlds by combining nobility of utterance and a passionate advocacy of this stirring music in glorious 5.0 multi-channel sound.
The committed playing of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in both works exemplifies their respect both for Belohlavek as arguably the finest interpreter of Czech music alive today and their enthusiasm for the composer's regrettably still neglected output. This SACD is a mandatory purchase for lovers of Suk's opulent scores and audiophiles alike." ~sa-cd.net
Not only is this an intriguing programme with some premiere recordings but also it’s played on Suk’s own Bösendorfer. There’s even a colour photograph of Tomáš Víšek playing it in Křečovice surrounded as he is by Suk memorabilia. The works include his well known Jaro or Spring but Arco Diva adds the much less played opus 22 stable mate Letní dojmy (Summer Impressions). The Two and Three Piano Pieces have never been recorded before and nor has Spanish Capers. We also have four little morceaux by Dvořák’s daughter and Suk’s short-lived wife, Otilie as well as four attractive pieces by Suk’s son, also Josef. None of these have ever been recorded………Jonathan Woolf @ musicweb-international
Alkan was counted in Busoni's pantheon of five romantics alongside Chopin, Schumann, Liszt and Brahms. Brahms and Schumann are the references in the euphoric Grand Duo Concertant - nothing short of a 20 or so minute Sonata in three turbulent movements. This is a work of diving romance and if Alkan had stopped in the style of the first movement then we would have been able to 'place' Alkan. Instead we get a second movement that clamours in bass heavy capering for all the world like a picture of a Black Sabbath. As if to make ‘amends’ the finale is back to the helter-skelter tumble of vivacity we find in the first movement. This euphoria carries over into the Cello Sonata which is in four classically well-tailored movements. Alkan's originality or eccentricity (take your pick) returns for the Adagio which is part sentimental and part affecting. This perhaps offers a parallel with Joseph Holbrooke's chamber works in which sublime ideas and treatment suddenly find themselves up against kitsch music hall ditties. A wild saltarello with grand manner Hungarian gestures from the piano round out the picture.
The two Serenades ‘sung’ by the more rapturously Oistrakh-like Kang are sentimental and are recorded with rich immediacy. The Six Humoresques also arrive courtesy of Kang. These are magical bonbons - each weighted and balanced to perfection even though I favour the rawer vintage set glowingly recorded by Rosand and still available on Vox. True Sibelians must not miss these works and Kang and his orchestra do catch these silvery spells and confident little drinking songs - pride and eloquence, seduction and midnight poetry haunt these pages and it's all one especially well.
This performance of the fiery Fantasy in G minor for violin and orchestra, Op. 24, of Josef Suk, with violinist Christan Tetzlaff catching the full impact of the irregular form with its dramatic opening giving out into a set of variations, is impressive. And Tetzlaff delivers pure warm melody in the popular Romance in F minor, Op. 11, of Dvorák. But the real reason to acquire this beautifully recorded Ondine release is the performance of the Dvorák Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53, a work of which there are plenty of recordings, but that has always played second fiddle (if you will) to the Brahms concerto. Tetzlaff and the Helsinki Philharmonic under John Storgårds create a distinctive and absorbing version that can stand with the great Czech recordings of the work. Sample anywhere, but especially the slow movement, where Tetzlaff's precise yet rich sound, reminiscent for those of a certain age of Henryk Szeryng, forms a striking contrast with Storgårds' glassy Nordic strings. In both outer movements as well, Tetzlaff delivers a warm yet controlled performance that is made to stand out sharply.