Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Josef SUK (1874-1935)
A Summer's Tale - tone poem for large orchestra (1907) [52.19]
Praga - symphonic poem (1900) [23.23]
Czech PO/Libor Pešek
rec Dvorák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague, 14-20 Feb 1984 (Summer Tale), 18-19 Jan 1982 (Praga) DDD
SUPRAPHON 11 1984-2 031 [75.50]

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The Tale, though linked through its title to summer, is not without foreboding. It is imbued with a sense of the passing of old empires and of the safety and security that went with them. In the first movement the fields are the same sun-bleached cornfields hymned by Othmar Schoeck in his Sommernacht and in the early tableaux of Delius's A Village Romeo and Juliet. The sounds conjured by Pešek are sometimes astonishingly Debussian reminding us that this orchestra has made outstanding recordings of French repertoire under the inspired direction of Baudo, Pedrotti and Fournet. The winds, in particular, have a recognisably Gallic timbre. The third movement is a lovely piece linking forward, in one direction, with the middle movement of Rodrigo's Aranjuez and with Hovhaness. There is both a chill and an embrace among the spinneys crowning the warmed fields - the title of the movement is In the Power of Phantoms. The fifth and final segment rounds out the piece in serenity.

Praga can be contrasted with Delius's Paris, Vaughan Williams' London Symphony and Elgar's Cockaigne. It wanders a nocturnal Prague and the regal-tragic history of that city is summoned 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.

A generously filled and decently recorded disc though A Summer's Tale lacks the Beechamesque give and take of Šejna's 1966 recording - also on Supraphon.

. Rob Barnett

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