Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Josef SUK (1874-1935)
A Summer Tale - tone poem for large orchestra (1907) [51.56]
Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale 'St Wenceslas' for string orchestra (1914) [7.23]
Antonín DVORÁK
Husitska Overture [13.07]
Czech PO/Karel Šejna
rec Dvorák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague, 26-30 Aug 1957 (Summer Tale), 10-11 Mar 1958 (Wenceslas) and Domovina Studio 1950 AAD
SUPRAPHON 11 1923-2 001 [75.50]
  AmazonUK   AmazonUS  Amazon recommendations

Šejna's instinctive approach to A Summer Tale reminds me of Beecham's way with Delius. Pešek, 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. Šejna 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. Šejna 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 Šejna who is at even better advantage with this composer in his recordings of symphony 5, 6 and 7.

I have not heard Pešek's later recording of A Summer's Tale on Virgin Classics but it would have to be exceptional to match Šejna's sensitive imagination in this large-scale and potentially problematic piece. A very high recommendation then despite a recording all of 35 years old.

Rob Barnett

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board.  Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.This is the only part of MusicWeb for which you will have to register.

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: