Suk: A Summer’s Tale; Prague
Chandos CHSA 5109***
Josef Suk’s symphonic poem Prague immediately post-dates the first big tragedy of his life: the loss in 1904 of his teacher and father-in-law, Dvorak. He lost his wife a year later, and the two blows heavily influenced his orchestral masterpiece, the Asrael Symphony (1905-06), named after Islam’s angel of death. That symphony led to an orchestral cycle designed to follow “an entire human life, contemplation of death and horror, throughout which sounds the song of earthlylove, all reaching a conclusion in the excited singing of an emancipated human race”.
A Summer’s Tale (1907-09), which Suk called a “musical poem,” is the lightest of the works in the cycle, though it’s hardly what you would call cheerful. Bright or sombre, it outclasses, even in Jiri Belohlavek’s sympathetic hands, the forced late-romantic orchestral grandeur of the representation of Prague.