Ashkenazy here essays one
of the great monuments of turn of the century late-romanticism
and does so with poignant success.
Symphony is shot through with
tragedy. First: the death of Dvořák, his father-in-law;
then a year or so later, the death of Dvořák's daughter,
Suk's young wife, Otylka.
iconic recording of Asrael
is that made by Talich
in mono in the early 1950s. That's the version by which I
came to know the work via a pensioned-off reel-to-reel Grundig
on which I had taken down a then very rare broadcast in
the early 1970s off BBC Radio 3. That recording from
Supraphon is still available - now in the Talich Gold series – and
is very special. Talich puts the music across most vividly.
It has vulnerable tenderness, eerie tension and a thundering
account of inimical fate. The music is core Suk - he has
a special bittersweet sound - somewhere subtly other - a
supernatural world torn between Mahler and Berlioz.
people cannot stand Asrael
and can finding nothing
gripping in it. For me it is vital in the repertoire – a
work that I heard in concert (1998, Liverpool) courtesy of
Libor Pesek and the RLPO and for years before that had played
many times on tape and CD. I have tried to keep up with the
competing versions ever since and am only sorry to have missed
out on the Russian Disk version by Svetlanov and the USSRSO.
We must hope that either Regis or Svet or Warner will revive
and the Helsinki orchestra give Asrael
pulse. This provides a grip lacking to same degree in the
Pesek and Petrenko (CPO). Theirs is a generous and sumptuous
recording. It's the finest it has had to date. The performance
is one which I have found constantly rewarding for its eldritch
phantasms, its magnificence marbled with sorrow, its heroic
determination and its winged delivery. Try the grunted and
gruff interleave of the rest of the brass benches with the
trumpets at the end of the third movement.
reviewed this as a standard CD not as an SACD.
fine notes are by notable Czech music authority Jan Smaczny.
field is not crowded and - historic Talich aside - this stands
as the very best of the modern recordings.