This CD gives you a little slice of the restoration and development of quintessential French chamber music that gained momentum in the late 19th century and peaked around 1900 - the Golden Era of French art, music and culture. In opposition to the latest fads from Germany (Wagner's giantatism) and overzelous Parisian operas, the luminous pioneers of this vital movement in Paris were Frank, Faure, Saint Saens, Ravel, Massenet, Chausson and later the more modern "impressionist", Claude Debussy.
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. While their reading is suffused with a feeling for the work's myriad orchestral colours, they recognise that Suk's music is much more than atmosphere. In particular they excel in their handling of the drama and overwhelming emotional urgency of this remarkable, big-boned symphonic poem.
In 1984 Steven Isserlis made excellent recordings for Hyperion of the Brahms sonatas with Peter Evans; this time he's added some substantial extra items – the two Suk pieces, wonderfully played, are particularly welcome. The new recording is fuller in sound and more realistic; Stephen Hough's commanding playing of Brahms's 'big' piano parts could, one feels, overpower the cello but, thanks to his sensitivity, this never happens.
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.
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.
Milena Wilke was born in Freiburg in Breisgau in 1996. She won first place in the Ton und Erklärung competition (Kulturkreis der deutschen Wirtschaft) 2016 in Berlin and won several other prizes in competitions on both national and international level. In 2017, she was awarded a scholarship by the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes und des Richard-Wagner-Verbands Konstanz and was additionally welcomed in the organization Yehudi Menuhin, Live Music Now. For this new release, together with Tatiana Chernichka she has recorded several works for violin and piano and she also has written two pieces herself.
Josef Suk was a pupil of the great Czech composer Dvorák. He married Dvorák's daughter Otilie (who, by the way, was also talented as a composer). Suk began this symphony after the death of his beloved mentor and father-in-law, Dvorák. Otilie died toward the end of its composition, which prompted Suk to recompose it and invest it with even deeper feeling. At that time he added the subtitle, which is the name of the legendary "Angel of Death" who attends the souls of the departed and offers them hope. The hour-long, five-movement work is a passionate outpouring of feeling. The first contrasts two themes representing, on the one hand, destiny and death and, on the other, happiness in life. The second, an Andante, is a funeral march. The third is a scherzo contrasting the dance of death and reminiscences of life. The fourth movement, a radiantly tragic Adagio, is said to be a portrait of Otilie. The fifth movement begins in a stern mood, but gradually offers hope, closing in peace and bliss. It is a deeply affecting work in a style fairly similar to that of Richard Strauss' tone poems.
If you’ve not previously heard of the Sitkovetsky Trio, it’s because this is the ensemble’s recording debut. Formed in 2007 by three young musicians who met at Menuhin School in England, the group won first prize at the International Commerzbank Chamber Music Award just one year later, and then the NORDMETALL Chamber Music Award at the Mecklenburg Vorpommern Festival one year after that in 2009.
The music of Josef Suk, Dvorak's star pupil, is beginning to get its due, but it is the large, grim Asrael Symphony and a few other orchestral works that have taken the spotlight. Suk wrote a good deal of music in smaller genres, and this expert release by pianist Jonathan Plowright makes a good case for the piano music. The sets of short pieces here date from the 1890s, during the happy period of Suk's life when he was newly married to Dvorak's daughter.
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.