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.
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.
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.
The Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, B. 191, is the last solo concerto by Antonín Dvořák. It was written in 1894 for his friend, the cellist Hanuš Wihan, but was premiered by the English cellist Leo Stern. The Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor, Op. 90, B. 166, (also called Dumky trio from the subtitle Dumky) is a composition by Antonín Dvořák for piano, violin and cello. It is among the composer's best-known works. At the same time it is a prominent example for a piece of chamber music deviating strongly from the customary form of classical chamber music – both in terms of the number of movements and of their formal construction.
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.