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Summer Tale/Fantastic Scherzo

Josef Suk Audio CD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 35.36
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1. Pohádka Léta (A Summer Tale), Tone Poem For large Orchestra, A, Op. 29: Voices Of Life And Consolation
2. Pohádka Léta (A Summer Tale), Tone Poem For large Orchestra, A, Op. 29: Midday
3. Pohádka Léta (A Summer Tale), Tone Poem For large Orchestra, A, Op. 29: Intermezzo
4. Pohádka Léta (A Summer Tale), Tone Poem For large Orchestra, A, Op. 29: In The Power Of Phantoms
5. Pohádka Léta (A Summer Tale), Tone Poem For large Orchestra, A, Op. 29: Night
6. Fantastic Scherzo for orchestra, Op 25

Product Description

Amazon.ca

A powerful coupling which no lover of late-romantic orchestral spectacle will want to miss. A "musical poem" was how Josef Suk described his 1907-9 masterpiece A Summer's Tale, the second in the series of four large-scale compositions he penned after the double-whammy of the deaths of his father-in-law Dvor´k and wife Otylka. Both the opening movement ("Voices of Life and Consolation") and fourth-movement scherzo ("In the Power of Phantoms") show that the demons so painfully and movingly exorcised in A Summer Tale's predecessor, the shattering Asrael Symphony of 1905-6, have not been entirely banished after all, engendering a lingering unease that not even the wonderfully serene final movement ("Night") can quite dispel. The remaining two movements--the unforgettable heat-haze of "Noon" and melancholic strains of "Blind Musicians"-- are scored with breathtaking originality and imagination. Not surprisingly, Sir Charles Mackerras and the Czech PO prove hugely eloquent advocates of Suk's heartwarming inspiration, and if Libor Pesek's outstanding RLPO version on Virgin Classics is by no means outclassed, Mackerras has the sizeable advantage of a spick-and-span performance of the adorable Fantastic Scherzo (1903-4). The Decca recording is truly demonstration-worthy in its sumptuous realism. --Andrew Achenbach

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Massive and Mahlerian July 29 2003
Format:Audio CD
Josef Suk should be far better known, especially when promoted by terrific recordings like this one. Anyone who admires the vast landscapes of Strauss or Mahler should respond to Suk's equally compelling terrain.
The main draw here is "A Summer's Tale," a gigantic tone poem that perfectly harnesses the resources of a huge orchestra -- in this case, the glorious Czech Philharmonic. Sir Charles Mackerras, long an advocate of composers like Janacek and Martinu, here shows that Suk should also be as well-known as either of these.
The filler, the "Fantastic Scherzo," is performed with equal commitment and fervor. (To my ears, the piece needs a new title; it's a little more laid-back and congenial than the word "scherzo" normally indicates.)
Decca's recording is clear, warm and detailed, and only adds to the impact. This is an exceptional recording of seldom-played repertoire, and can't be recommended highly enough. (NB: For those interested in hearing another outstanding version of "A Summer's Tale," a Virgin recording with Libor Pesek and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is also quite marvelous.)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great music by a neglected composer Nov. 16 2001
By Paul
Format:Audio CD
This was my first exposure to the music of Josef Suk and I was really quite amazed at the quality of much of the music here. "Voices of Life" starts off with a quiet but building intensity , invoking a dramatic sense of something "emerging" from darkness and night. "Noon" is a beautifully orchestrated evocation of, well, noon, with the strings shimmering and radiating with warmth. "Blind Musicians" is a short piece but the sadness it expresses seems endless. "In the Power of Phantoms" is a phantasmogoric nightmare. The final movement is solid; eventful and exciting, but resolving everything with a quiet and noble affirmativeness. I did have some slight reservations about how the whole thing is "put together". The three middle movements bear no relation to each other or the outer movements. The "filler" piece, "Fantastic Scherzo" is a little repetative, and in some places feels "stitched" together, but it features some truly exquisite melodies and striking orchestration. I think any classical music lover will enjoy this disc. That's too broad to be useful. Well, let's just say there are moments in these pieces that remind me of Mahler, Smetana and Dvorak. Maybe that helps. Oh, if you're already familiar with this piece, then you'll should be very happy with this recording. It is impeccably recorded, and both the Czech players and Mackarras have an easily apparent affinity for this music.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enticed by Fantastic Scherzo, Moved by A Summer Tale Sept. 1 2004
By Timothy Kearney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Like many classical music lovers, I was more familiar with Joseph Suk's biography than I was with his music. His happy years as a husband with a famous father-in-law (Antonin Dvorak) and the loss he felt when his wife died is a somewhat well known tale, as is the darkness of his music after he was widowed. Yet with the exception of his march "Toward a New Life" and perhaps his "Serenade for Strings," which is often paired on recordings with his father in law's work of the same title, I did not know any of his music. Then our local classical station, WCRB began playing "Fantastic Scherzo" with some regularity. I mistakenly thought it was a piece by Dvorak until I heard the announcer state the work's title. I decided this work is a must have, and so I purchased the recording.

My primary interest in the recording is "Fantastic Scherzo." Sir Charles Mackerras brings out the entire flavor this sumptuous and dreamy piece has to offer. It surprises me that the work is not a more popular concert piece and is not available on more recordings, yet I cannot imagine that the work would be significantly better handled by any other conductor.

Since I purchased the disc primarily for "Fantastic Scherzo," I was not all that interested in "A Summer Tale," at least at first. One day while driving, I decided to give it a listening to, and was amazed at its beauty and complexity. While "Fantastic Scherzo" is a lighter work, reminiscent of his famous father-in-law, "A Summer Tale" reflects other early twentieth century musical influences, particularly Mahler. Listeners will see a variety in the styles of the various movements. As one can except from a conductor such as Mackerras, he explores the work's nuances and subtleties well and is in complete control of the orchestra.

Recordings such as this show that Suk deserves more attention than he often receives. Since most record labels are somewhat skittish (a mild understatement) about releasing new recordings, we may not find all that many new recordings of Suk's work in the near future, but at least we have this recording to give us a glimpse of what we are missing.
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great music by a neglected composer Nov. 16 2001
By Paul - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This was my first exposure to the music of Josef Suk and I was really quite amazed at the quality of much of the music here. "Voices of Life" starts off with a quiet but building intensity , invoking a dramatic sense of something "emerging" from darkness and night. "Noon" is a beautifully orchestrated evocation of, well, noon, with the strings shimmering and radiating with warmth. "Blind Musicians" is a short piece but the sadness it expresses seems endless. "In the Power of Phantoms" is a phantasmogoric nightmare. The final movement is solid; eventful and exciting, but resolving everything with a quiet and noble affirmativeness. I did have some slight reservations about how the whole thing is "put together". The three middle movements bear no relation to each other or the outer movements. The "filler" piece, "Fantastic Scherzo" is a little repetative, and in some places feels "stitched" together, but it features some truly exquisite melodies and striking orchestration. I think any classical music lover will enjoy this disc. That's too broad to be useful. Well, let's just say there are moments in these pieces that remind me of Mahler, Smetana and Dvorak. Maybe that helps. Oh, if you're already familiar with this piece, then you'll should be very happy with this recording. It is impeccably recorded, and both the Czech players and Mackarras have an easily apparent affinity for this music.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Massive and Mahlerian July 29 2003
By Bruce Hodges - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Josef Suk should be far better known, especially when promoted by terrific recordings like this one. Anyone who admires the vast landscapes of Strauss or Mahler should respond to Suk's equally compelling terrain.
The main draw here is "A Summer's Tale," a gigantic tone poem that perfectly harnesses the resources of a huge orchestra -- in this case, the glorious Czech Philharmonic. Sir Charles Mackerras, long an advocate of composers like Janacek and Martinu, here shows that Suk should also be as well-known as either of these.
The filler, the "Fantastic Scherzo," is performed with equal commitment and fervor. (To my ears, the piece needs a new title; it's a little more laid-back and congenial than the word "scherzo" normally indicates.)
Decca's recording is clear, warm and detailed, and only adds to the impact. This is an exceptional recording of seldom-played repertoire, and can't be recommended highly enough. (NB: For those interested in hearing another outstanding version of "A Summer's Tale," a Virgin recording with Libor Pesek and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is also quite marvelous.)
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual late Romantic repertoire May 30 2008
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The first thing to say about this lovely CD is that it showcases a world class orchestra in truly sumptuous sound. Mackerrras and the Czech Philharmonic could not be more subtle, expert and nuanced in their performance of this unusual, complex music; it's as close as you can get to a concert hall experience without actually being there. Suk's inventive orchestration and epic scale are both sensitively and thrillingly realised here by virtue of the wide range of dynamics in the recorded sound; particularly striking is the way the shimmering of the Czech strings - beautifully in tune - are caught, especially in the opening movement of the "Summer Tale". In addition to the influences of Dvorak and Czech folk in general, and the more obvious echoes of Strauss' tone poems and Mahler's Angst-laden symphonies, you will also hear similarities to the sound world of French Impressionist school; Suk often creates an atmosphere redolent of Ravel and Debussy. (I also hear some pre-echo of Respighi's tone poems, too; the colour of the effects Suk generates with his large orchestra and use of snarling brass have something to do with it.)

There is always a lurking demon in Suk's music which almost undermines the sinuous melodies; this is not the unalloyed delight of Suk's charming "Serenade" - which was written as a result of Dvorak effectively advising his future son-in-law to "lighten up"! Dvorak's subsequent death, swiftly followed by that of his daughter, Suk's wife did nothing to help mitigate Suk's predilection for melancholy; the immediate result was the grand and gloomy "Asrael" symphony. The earlier "Fantastic Scherzo", written during Suk's happiest years, is more overtly and typically Czech in its rhythmic vitality and singing meolodies (especially the most prominent and frequently recurring one).

All in all, a superb record of fascinating music slightly off the beaten track in demonstration quality sound.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but not the best recording available Oct. 23 2012
By Mogulmeister - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
No one learning "A Summer's Tale" from Mackerras' recording with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra would be led astray by this performance, which is very good. But as good a performance as this is, this is not a *definitive* performance, and there actually is both a better and definitive performance available: Libor Pesek's recording with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, available individually or coupled with Pesek's performance of Suk's Asrael Symphony: Josef Suk: A Summer's Tale, Op.29 or Suk: Symphonie Asrael; A Summers Tale.

On the plus side, Mackerras puts across a convincing performance in outstanding sound. The commitment to the music is absolute, and the playing is gorgeous. I would argue that Mackerras' performance of the fourth movement is the best available. But compared overall to the magnificent (and I would argue, definitive) Pesek performance, overall the Mackerras falls just a bit short.

What Pesek brings to the table is a world-weariness and other-worldliness that Mackerras hints at only intermittently. I think the overall arch of the music is cleaner and clearer in Pesek's performance, and the symphonic structure emerges unambiguously.

Most important of all, however, is the ending. Suk wrote what is arguably one of the greatest endings to any symphony ever written. In Pesek's performance, the ending is magical, ethereal, and deeply moving, all at the same time. Mackerras has a different conception of the ending, and one which I would argue is not only a lot less effective, but also a lot less coherent considering all that came in the work before it. Mackerras seems to me to be bringing an "assertive affirmation" to the ending, whereas in Pesek's performance, Pesek seems to bring instead "resigned hope." They're very different conceptions of how the work should end, and I find Pesek's conception not only a lot more convincing, but infinitely more moving and of a piece with all that came before it. Mackerras' ending almost comes out of left field, so to speak, and emotionally seems to be "tacked-on" and not organic, unlike Pesek's.

As I said at the beginning of this review, someone learning this work from Mackerras' performance will not go half wrong. But if you want to experience the maximum of what Suk has to offer in this symphony and to go right to the very core of this incredible music, Pesek will take you there. Unfortunately, Mackerras doesn't.
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