SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

JOSEF SUK: Suite “Pohadka” Op. 16; ANTONIN DVORAK: Ceska Suite in D Major Op. 39 – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Zdenek Macal – Exton

Both suites get affectionate idiomatic readings from the Czech players.

Published on August 6, 2010

JOSEF SUK: Suite “Pohadka” Op. 16; ANTONIN DVORAK: Ceska Suite in D Major Op. 39 – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Zdenek Macal – Exton

JOSEF SUK: Suite “Pohadka” Op. 16; ANTONIN DVORAK: Ceska Suite in D Major Op. 39 – Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Zdenek Macal – Exton stereo-only SACD  OVCL-00296. 53:27 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:

Just recorded in Prague in 2007, it may seem a bit surprising this SACD is only stereo and not multichannel, but remember it is mainly for the Japanese market, and in the Far East there is even less interest in surround sound for music than in North America. While we’re on sonics, they’re excellent – this being an original DSD recording and the Prague studio having good acoustics. Warmth and clarity characterize the sound. There is a separate booklet insert in English. (We are pleased that these Exton/Octavia SACDs and CDs – previously only available direct from Japan – are now distributed in the U.S. so we can review some of them.)

The pairing of the two suites is sensible since the two composers were very close. Dvorak was a teacher of Suk and Suk married Dvorak’s daughter Otylka. Prior to his marriage Suk has created incidental music for a play in Prague titled “Raduz and Mahulena” – a lyrical drama set in ancient Slovakia.  The drama was not getting productions outside of Czechoslovakia, so in 1900 Suka arranged the music as a concert suite with the English title “Fairy Tale.” It is in four movements telling the story of the two tender lovers. A major element depicts the curse Mahulena’s mother places on Raduz, and the third movement is funeral music for the death of Raduz’ father.

Dvorak composed his Czech Suite earlier, intended to create a successor to his two Serenades.  Three of its five movements make use of dance rhythms and thus echo the composer’s popular Slavonic Dances. The suite has varied instrumental coloring, especially of the wind section, and is full of memorable Dvorak tunes. The finale is subtitled “Furiant” and uses the strong rhythms of the Bohemian dance for a dramatic conclusion to the suite. Both suites get affectionate idiomatic readings from the Czech players.

 - John Sunier




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