Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Josef SUK (1874-1935)
Ripening - a symphonic poem (1917)
A Fairy Tale - suite (1900)
Czech PO/Václav Talich
rec Dvorák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague, 28 Apr 1956 (Ripening), 2 May 1949 (Fairy Tale) mono
SUPRAPHON 11 1904-2 001 [70.58]

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Suk's gangling and loquacious orchestral tetralogy had Ripening as its penultimate chapter. None of its elements are short. Asrael plays for over an hour and A Summer's Tale is of similar span. Ripening was written eight years after the Tale in 1917. It was completed on 14 August that year and premiered by those who made the recording here though no doubt the orchestral personnel had changed completely.

Ripening muses in one long paragraph (Asrael and the Tale are each in five movements) tracking through high summer, tossing great wave-form fanfares backwards and forwards at climactic moments like a cresting summer storm. Trumpets and horns echo and re-echo at 7.35, 11.53 and 19.51 to take a few examples. The work has a Straussian opulence and the layered luxuriance of Bax's Spring Fire if without its transparency. Strauss's named symphonies are quite apposite parallel works. The flow of the argument is instinctive - essentially rhapsodic and bound up in the feelings of the moment. Both Beecham and Barbirolli would have made classic interpreters had they been aware of the work.

To have this work conducted by its dedicatee and recorded with a lifetime of championing Suk's works behind him is a privilege. One wonders how different the present version was from that first patriotic night in Prague when Talich was cheered to the rafters.

Ripening, by the way, was inspired by a poem by Antonin Sova (1864-1928). The score carries a section of the poem as a superscription. As with so much of Suk the work has autobiographical roots.

The recording of A Fairy Tale is tottering and ancient (1949) having been remastered for Supraphon at the Abbey Road studios in London. It is not the only version to have but it has some great moments including some notably passionate playing in the True Love of Raduz and Mahulena.

This disc, of great historical moment, is primarily for the connoisseur rather than the general listener.

Rob Barnett

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