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.