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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reviewed: Gramophone 3 - 1993, John Warrack, 16 Feb 2007
M Rabson "MartinR" (LONDON, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Suk: Fairy Tale / Serenade for Strings (Audio CD)
Reviewed: Gramophone 3/1993, John Warrack

Only the Serenade has really become popular among Suk's works, and for that the gramophone is largely responsible. A dozen or so versions can be found in the catalogue, often coupled to the Serenade, Op. 22, of his teacher and father-in-law Dvorak. This is not surprising, as the influence is clear not only in the lucid craftsmanship but in the nature of the invention, especially in the cheerful second movement. There is, perhaps a further piece of direct influence, in that Dvorak had told the melancholic young man to ''drop once and for all his eternal minor key'' and compose something cheerful. Belohlavek and the Czech Philharmonic respond with a pleasantly light touch, keeping the Adagio reflective and not attempting to make it into a tragic utterance.

The so-called Pohadka, or Fairy Tale, is a suite from the music to rather an odd mythological drama by Julius Zeyer, a writer who greatly impressed Suk. Though composed only some seven years later, it inhabits a different world, one much affected by Richard Strauss. The orchestration has a Straussian glamour, though it is somewhat simpler, and there are harmonic sideslips and turns of phrase that could almost have come out of the near-contemporary Heldenleben. Yet the manner is essentially simpler, and has at its centre the lyricism which makes the Serenade such a delightful piece. Dvorak thought it ''music from heaven''.

They are both attractive works, and if not perhaps Suk at the peak of his achievement (which is where the Asrael Symphony finds him), they are considerably more sympathetic than some of the pieces in which his reach is greater than his grasp. Belohlavek has recorded the Pohadka before, with the Prague Symphony Orchestra (on Supraphon, 11/91Šnla) and with the composer's grandson Josef Suk playing the important concertante violin solo. The recording is clearer this time round in its handling of some of the orchestral effects, and Belohlavek seems to have lost none of his affection for the work.'

John Warrack
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasing, skilfully written and uncomplicated to appreciate, 2 April 2013
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Suk: Fairy Tale / Serenade for Strings (Audio CD)
This disc, well recorded in 1992, features two early works by Josef Suk. The Serenade is the better known but the Fairy Tale suite is a most attractive piece, somewhat more embedded into the romantic styles current at that time - Richard Strauss for example. The music is not so involved dramatically or orchestrally and has a generally lighter touch. Dvorak was Suk's father-in law at the time of the Fairy Tale and Suk was his favourite pupil at the time of the Serenade. Dvorak was enthusiastic about both works and with good reason.

The Fairy Tale suite is in four movements and was originally written as incidental music for a stage play. However, as Suk became more and more involved with the plot, the music eventually outgrew the play and was later re-arranged to form this separate suite where each movement is like a mini tone poem. This is a very persuasive performance by an orchestra and conductor deeply sympathetic to the Czech idiom and the performance carries considerable conviction.

Much the same can be said of the playing in the Serenade. This is a lighter work and is often paired with the Dvorak string Serenade which may well have been Suk's model. It follows Dvorak's advice to apply himself more to major keys rather than the minor keys which Suk had previously favoured. This resulted in a predominately happy work which has been Suk's most popular work ever since.

Suk's finest work, the Asrael symphony, is a much more serious work and was written following the death of both Dvorak and then Suk's wife, Dvorak's daughter, both at an early age and within a year of each other. None of that experience touches either of the works on this disc which provide an altogether happier listening experience.

In conclusion I would suggest that if this program appeals, then this disc deserves to be seriously considered for purchase as it is a very fine effort indeed by all concerned.
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Suk: Fairy Tale / Serenade for Strings
Suk: Fairy Tale / Serenade for Strings by Josef Suk (Audio CD - 1992)
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