ejna's instinctive approach to A Summer Tale reminds
me of Beecham's way with Delius. Peek, in his early 1980s Supraphon
cycle, does not quite capture that spontaneity and magic. Especially in his
major works Suk's music can sag and meander unless the conductor is prepared
to sculpt, chase and ignite the bars. ejna has no fears in this direction
and is alert to every opportunity for responsive ebb and flow. Fand
and Kubla Khan, Bax and Griffes, both seem to be nephews to this warm
and yet minatory music. ejna excels in laying bare the predictive
relationship with Mére l'Oie. He brings out the Rimskian spice
as well as the sinister atmosphere perhaps strayed from Erben's poems and
a sweltering exoticism so very close to Rodrigo's Aranjuez. In the
fourth movement he excels at the same capering malevolence to be found in
the woodwind writing in Asrael. In the long final address he portrays
the sated exhaustion of the hero dragged down to the same green seaweed tangled
depths inhabited by Erben's Water Goblin.
The other two pieces on the disc are substantial makeweights. Wenceslas
is a predecessor to the Barber Adagio and a forerunner to
the sort of anthemic theme Martinu threaded into his symphonies. There is
a hint of Finzi about this string writing as well. The recording is staggeringly
strong in the bass department with exceptional response and a grinding anguish
that places it in the select company of two British works: the Introduction
and Allegro and the Tallis Fantasia. When Suk wrote this piece
he stood on the brink of the Great War and the Meditation seems to
carry presentiments of poppies and slaughter-fields.
I confess that I am not sympathetic to the Dvorák work. It struck
me as bombastic though given a good run for its money by ejna who is
at even better advantage with this composer in his recordings of symphony
5, 6 and 7.
I have not heard Peek's later recording of A Summer's Tale on
Virgin Classics but it would have to be exceptional to match ejna's
sensitive imagination in this large-scale and potentially problematic piece.
A very high recommendation then despite a recording all of 35 years