Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Josef SUK (1874-1935)
A Fairy Tale - suite (1900) [30.13]
Praga - symphonic poem (1900) [23.22]
Czech PO/Libor Pešek
rec Dvorák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague, 9-10 Nov 1981 (Fairy Tale), 18-19 Jan 1982 (Praga) DDD stereo
SUPRAPHON 10 3389-2 031 [53.35]

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Unless you are hell-bent on getting Pešek's recording of A Fairy Tale you would do better to go for the alternative and mid-price coupling which gives you Pešek directing Praga with A Summer's Tale.

Having heard various versions of A Fairy Tale (based on incidental music for Julius Zeyer's drama of the lovelorn and the star-crossed) I did not find this interpretation all that engaging. There is some lovely music here but Pešek does not capture the sheer intoxication that comes across in much earlier (pre-CD) recordings from Ancerl. This recording is good with some attentive engineering for the violin solos (cousins to the dreamier moments in the Dvorak and Beethoven concertos) but Pešek rather over-ladles the bumptious side familiar from Smetana's Haakon Jarl and Richard III.

Praga wanders a nocturnal Prague and its sanguine-tragic history is invoked by a memorable fanfare which I associate with Janacek's theme for Ostap in Taras Bulba. Suk is a generous melodist (10.15) and is given to using the solo violin and solo viola to advance the plot. The piece is long-winded but in its final address gathers itself impressively around the fanfare theme.

There are more generous couplings at mid-price. This disc struck me as a straggler in the catalogue: welcome for A Fairy Tale but not compelling.

Rob Barnett

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