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Suk: Prague/ Summers Tale (Orchestral Works) (BBC Symphony Orchestra; Jií Blohlávek) (Chandos: CHSA 5109) Hybrid SACD, SACD


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Suk: Prague/ Summers Tale (Orchestral Works) (BBC Symphony Orchestra; Jií Blohlávek) (Chandos: CHSA 5109) + Bartok: Concerto No. 2 / Eotvos: Seven / Ligeti: Violin Concerto + Pour passer la Melancolie - Andreas Staier (Gramophone Award Winner 2013 - Baroque Instrumental Catagory)
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Product details

  • Conductor: Jirí Blohlávek
  • Composer: Josef Suk
  • Audio CD (3 Sep 2012)
  • Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Hybrid SACD, SACD
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B008L62Y9K
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,372 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Orchestral Works - Various Performers
2. Prague, Op. 26 - Various Performers
3. A Summers Tale, Op. 29 - Various Performers

Product Description

Product Description

SUPER AUDIO CD IN SURROUND SOUND Two symphonic poems by Suk are performed here by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Jiri Belohlavek, who also brought us the highly acclaimed recording of the composers First Symphony and Ripening, which was Disc of the Month in BBC Music Magazine. A Summers Tale is a highly personal work, rich and imaginative, not to mention brilliantly orchestrated in late romantic style. The work followed the heartfelt and sorrowful outpouring of the Asrael Symphony of 1905 06, composed in memory of his father-in-law, Antonin Dvorak, and wife, Otilka. In the words of the composer: After wild fleeing I find consolation in nature. The jubilation of the opening Voices of Life and Consolation is thought to emphasise natures healing powers and the composers putting a positive face to the world after the bleakness of Asrael. Midday depicts the all-embracing heat of noon, while the Intermezzo, Blind Musicians, expresses compassion for those who can never appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. The storm and wild longing of In the Power of Phantoms give way finally to the mystical calm of Night. The Symphonic Poem Prague is likewise strongly personal and atmospheric, speaking of the history and mystery of Suks home city, its troubles and its triumphs. The opening section conjures up a picture of the early morning mists rising from the Vltava, the river flowing through the city. The mists begin to lift and the ancient fortress of Vysehrad emerges high above on its rock. Gradually the mists disperse and Prague appears in all its glory in the sunlight. The mood then darkens, now speaking of past troubled times; but the work ends on a jubilant note, in a triumphant blaze of glory.

BBC Review

Late Romantic composer Josef Suk, Antonín Dvorak’s son-in-law, wrote a substantial body of works, many of them bold and ambitious and deserving of a place in the modern repertory.

Suk has no greater champion today than his Czech compatriot, Jiří Bělohlávek. Following up his previous Chandos release coupling Suk’s Symphony No.1 with Ripening, here Bělohlávek presents two substantial symphonic poems, again with ‘his’ BBC Symphony Orchestra – the excellent studio recordings were made in January 2012, eight months before he was due to stand down as the orchestra’s Chief Conductor of six years.

Suk’s best known orchestral work, the mournful Asrael Symphony, was written in memory of Dvorak and his daughter Otilka – Suk’s wife – whose deaths within months of each other in 1904 devastated the composer. The double tragedy occurred while Suk was already planning a new piece, one which subsequently reflected his acute loss. Prague, Suk's Op. 26, was conceived as a symphonic poem dedicated to the Czech capital, incorporating elements of its rich, sometimes turbulent, history and reflecting its mystical allure. The finished 25-minute work conveys pride in his home city, but there is poignant sorrow in a love-theme originally written during his courtship to Otilka.

From the super-hushed atmospheric opening, shimmering strings representing the mist-shrouded Vltava river, through the swashbuckling Hussite horn calls and vivid battles scenes, to the triumphant conclusion with spine-tingling organ, Bělohlávek inspires a performance of total commitment. The orchestral sound may not be distinctively Czech, but the vibrant playing is full of character and brings the work alive brilliantly, compensating for a lack of musical development in its most programmatic passages.

They bring the same dedication to A Summer's Tale, an hour-long, five-movement symphonic poem from 1907, the second of a four-part reflective cycle encompassing death and the meaning of life. More positive than the bleakness of Asrael, it explores the healing powers of nature through an enthralling score that fuses epic, Mahler-ian romanticism with adventurous forays into impressionism (Debussy's La Mer had premiered in Paris two years earlier). Bělohlávek and the BBC SO make a powerful and impassioned case for this intense work, one that deserves to be much wider known.

--Jude Clarke

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ali Tigrel on 18 Oct 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This, in my judgement, is one of the best discs released featuring BBC Symphony Orchestra under J. Blohlavek. The music is delightful; playing is beyond reproach; the sound quality is very good but falls short of audiophile standards. Recommended.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful By AlanB on 1 Jan 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Although relatively unfamiliar works, the disc was so well reviewed, so decided to buy it. It certainly has not disappointed. Lovely performances.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3 reviews
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Greatly disappointing performance 11 Oct 2012
By Mogulmeister - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I was really looking forward to hearing this CD, as Jiri Belohlavek has given us outstanding recordings of both Asrael and Ripening. Unfortunately, "A Summer's Tale" is a clean miss, albeit with *tremendous* sonics. While I'm giving this three stars overall, one star is the result of such stellar sound, leaving two for the performance.

The problem with this performance is that it seems lost in the moment, mired in a lot of details, and somehow the big picture eludes it. Whereas a listener can hear the trajectory and big picture in Libor Pesek's overwhelming and emotionally stirring performance of this work Josef Suk: A Summer's Tale, Op.29 and Suk: Symphonie Asrael; A Summers Tale (the same recording, packaged individually or coupled with Asrael), Belohlavek seems trapped in two dimensions without any roadmap for where it's all going. It's not an emotionally engaging performance at all--unlike Pesek's, which is moving beyond words. There's no magic here, and it lacks the amazing subtlety in playing that Pesek gets from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (who at times sound like the Vienna Philharmonic--hard to believe, but true). It's surprising that Belohlavek could be this far off.

"A Summer's Tale" is an absolutely astonishing symphony that few know of, and even fewer seem to appreciate for what it is. I see this referred to in most quarters as a suite, and I completely disagree with that designation. While Suk doesn't call it a symphony, it's entirely symphonic in ambition and content. He takes a central theme and weaves it throughout the work. It's my favorite of all of Suk's works. "A Summer's Tale" was composed against the backdrop of the loss of Suk's father-in-law (Dvorak) and Suk's young wife within a very short period of time. While "Asrael" portrays the shock of suffering such grief and loss, "A Summer's Tale" is more about the consequences of that loss, the enduring pain, the numbness inside while still having to keep moving forward, and reluctant acceptance leading to a sense of repose. The ending to "A Summer's Tale" (in Pesek's recording, at least) is magical, ethereal, and deeply moving, all at the same time. It's one of the greatest endings to any orchestral work ever written. Sadly, you won't have that experience listening to Belohlavek's recording, because like much of this symphony, the ending eludes him. But if you search out Pesek's definitive performance of this masterpiece, you'll hear both an astonishing performance and a magical ending. "A Summer's Tale" is truly an unheralded masterpiece, and while Belohlavek's recording won't convey that, Pesek nails it. It's one of my favorite pieces of music of all time--and that's saying a lot.

UPDATE 9/2013: Gramophone magazine just awarded this performance as "Orchestra Performance of the Year" for 2013. Well, they're entitled to their own opinion, but I don't agree with it even a little bit. About six months ago I took another re-listen to this performance to decide if I should keep it or sell it. I decided to sell it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Superb Peformance of two little Known Works 17 Aug 2013
By ClassicalMusicLover - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Josef Suk's music is highly romantic. A pupil of his father and Dvorak, Suk usually depicts scenes and places in his music. The Symphonic Poem "Prague" (1904) here is the work that requires a very large orchestra with organ. It evokes the history of Prague with all the mystery and intrigue that that city evokes ending in a triumphant display with some very low organ notes, so turn your sub-woofer on. "A Summer's Tale" (1907-8) is a much more subdued work with more dark atmosphere and spirit as the title refers all with a vale of melancholy probably from the 2 tragedies he suffered two years before. It evokes all kinds of tone pictures in my mind and beautiful dark evenings under the stars at night. Jiri Belohlavek conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra and brings out these atmospheric works very well. Maybe not as well as others such as Pesek and the Liverpool. The beauty of the recording venue, The Watford Colosseum, is captured perfectly by the Chandos engineers with just the right amount of reverberation and ambiance which is subtlety helped by the rear channels. I must say this was a great discovery. Highly recommended.
Great sound and fine performances. 4 Oct 2014
By Timothy E. Scheurer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
The surround sound is stunning and, for me, a real discovery.
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