Kirill Petrenko's name
is unfamiliar but after hearing this
I hope we will hear him in other works
with his Berlin orchestra.
Asrael is gaining
an extended discography. Of the works
making up the Suk trilogy Asrael
is the most dramatic. Ripening
is lyrical; Epilogue philosophical
are injected at 4.57 onwards in the
first movement and the sway Petrenko
injects into the music suggests that
he wishes to bring out Tchaikovskian
parallels. The macabre ‘Mendelssohnisms’
of the 7.36 section are mixed with Manfred.
Followers of Suk's
music will find this rewarding listening
as an alternative approach to the more
tempered and rounded yet still pungent
tradition established by Talich and
carried forward with tributary variants
by Neumann, Pesek and Behlolavek.
I am not convinced
by the speed of the fevered temple-hammering
section at 12:30 onwards. This should
be taken at a steadier pace with a feeling
of colossal oppression. On the other
hand the exhaustion of the andante
is aptly captured complete with
that mesmeric metronomic beat (a steadiness
also very assertive in the finale at
11.01 onwards). This no doubt reflects
the remorseless passage of time. The
chorale-like trumpet at 4.43 sounds
uncannily like Shostakovich.
Petrenko's first violins
shudder in steely delicacy at the start
of the Vivace, reaching
back to the long eerie tradition of
Czech ‘grand guignol’ - reflected in
the late tone poems of Dvořák and,
to some degree, in Fibich and Novák.
the fourth movement Delian idylls mix
with Dvořák’s folk sweetness. Listen
for the exquisite solo violin
at. 3.42. In the finale Petrenko and
the engineers bring out the superbly
chesty attack of the strings at 2.03.
I have heard the ‘squeaky’ flutes done
with more eldritch atmospheric virtuosity
but there is real attack here.
The coughs of the Berlin
audience are especially heard in the
second movement. If you want complete
silence then opt for the studio versions.
The Orchester der Komischen
Oper Berlin and conductor have prepared
this admirably detailed and caring performance
with great attention and feeling. It
is a privilege to have on disc the same
performance that was heard by that Berlin
audience in 2002.
I would recommend this
to seasoned Suk enthusiasts and especially
to Asrael fans. It is not the
most intensely tragic of readings though
it does not stint in that respect. However
the meticulous attention to mood and
detail and the sense of spontaneous
fantasy - almost in the Scriabin league
in the first movement - is something
special. For a mainstream studio recommendation
and Pesek on Virgin. If you are near
an HMV shop try the bargain price Pesek
issue on HMV Classics. Talich
is hors de concours (mono and
extraordinarily atmospheric). Svetlanov
on Russian Disc I have always wanted
to hear and should be memorable. Kubelik
on Opus is outstanding and if you had
to go for one in modern sound that's
the one to take.
I liked this CPO version
very much and I hope that dedicated
Suk enthusiasts will try it.