Suk: Meditation on the Old Czech Hymn St Wenceslas, Op. 35a

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Smetana,Suk
LABELS: Sacconi Records
WORKS: Suk: Meditation on the Old Czech Hymn St Wenceslas, Op. 35a smetana String Quartet No. 1 in E minor (From My Life); Dvorák String Quartet No. 12 in F, Op. 96 (American)
PERFORMER: Sacconi Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: Sacconi Records SACC104


Suk’s Meditation on the Old Czech Hymn St Wenceslas is a minor masterpiece. Beginning with soulful counterpoint it concludes on a sweetly optimistic note. Perhaps this reflects the fact that it was composed at the outbreak of the First World War, when Czech sadness over the conflict was tempered by hopes for future political independence from Austria. The Sacconi Quartet’s performance, aided by a rich recorded sound, is ideal: quietly intense without resorting to sentimentality.


While neither the performance of Smetana’s First String Quartet or Dvoπák’s American seem to be candidates to replace such strong benchmark recommendations as, respectively, the Lindsay Quartet and the Prazak Quartet, they are distinctive readings that repay careful listening. The strikingly dramatic first movement of the Smetana is strong on rhetoric with some particularly fine viola playing. The Scherzo is amiable rather than infectious, but in the slow movement and finale they find a deep tragic vein, entirely appropriate in a work that commemorates a life cruelly scarred by deafness. There is clear relish for the American’s abundant lyricism – and more memorable viola playing – in its first movement. I could have done with more intensity in the slow movement, but their performance of the Scherzo captures its volatile ebb and flow delightfully, and the finale certainly has the requisite levels of energy.
Jan Smaczny