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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$ 28.95
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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.
20 of 20 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
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous music in excellent performances and sumptuous sound May 28 2009
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This is a truly marvelous disc. A Summer's Tale was completed in 1909 and is cast in five movements and dressed in a magically shimmering, evocative and almost impressionistic musical language. Suk subtitled it `musical poem', but it is more a (sort of) symphonic suite than a coherent single work. It is none the worse for it, and who can fail to be entranced by the utterly enchanting, almost otherwordly "Noon", containing some of the most inspired and enthralling music I have heard in a long time - or the woeful, dark conversations between instrumental groups (particularly fine use of the cor anglais) in `Blind Musicians'. Overall, this is an extremely appealing work, and - I'd be willing to say - something of an overlooked masterpiece; mysterious and fantastic-sounding and genuinely memorable music of halflights and shadows, often breathtakingly beautiful, but with a surging, smoldering emotional power underneath.

The coupling here, the Fantastic Scherzo from 1903, is another gem, full of life and swagger and with a delightful and memorable second subject. Now, there are apparently alternative versions under Gielen and Pesek (at least), which I have not heard, but this recording under Mackerras is superb. The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra is outstanding, and the textures and colors they create truly marvelous (just listen to the woodwind contributions); lucid and lush and nuanced, and Mackerras' pacing and shaping of this music is no less compelling. The Fantastic Scherzo is performed with élan as well.

Another asset is the superb recorded sound, with a richness and space and perspective rarely matched on record, with a huge dynamic range (a little too much so for some listeners, I'll grudgingly admit). All in all, this is something of a must - urgently recommended.
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