Magazine article Gramophone

Suk: Symphony, 'Asrael', Op 27

Magazine article Gramophone

Suk: Symphony, 'Asrael', Op 27

Article excerpt

Suk

Symphony, 'Asrael', Op 27 Essen Philharmonic Orchestra /Tomaa Netopil Oehms (F) OC1865 (60' * DDD)

Silk's great memorial symphony to his father-in-law Dvorak and his own wife is indelibly associated on disc with the Czech Philharmonic, its very singular sound world--most particularly among the brass and woodwinds--bringing this most mysterious of early 20th-century symphonic masterpieces into close proximity with nature. You need only sample Charles Mackerras's Czech Phil Supraphon recording, either in the scherzo or the fugal section of the finale, to hear how Tomas Netopil and his far mellower Essener Philharmoniker lack bite.

But that's only part of the story. Much of Asrael--an essentially non-programmatic work, although the title refers to the angel of death according to Islam, Sikhism and some Hebrew lore--is elegiac, the symphony's close recalling the latter part of Liszt's A Faust Symphony. Perhaps its most affecting passages are in the fourth-movement Adagio-, and although Netopil captures the music's signature solemnity, you need only turn to Vaclav Talich's premiere Czech Philharmonic version (Talich knew Suk well) to feel an added emotional swell. Suddenly it's as if the call across the years has vanished: Talich's Asrael is the only place to start if you really want to access the work's bared soul. …

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