Suk: Piano Quintet in G minor; Things Lived and Dreamt, etc

Kiveli Dorken (piano), Christian Tetzlaff (violin), et al (Ars Produktion)

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CD_ARS38298_Suk

Suk
Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 8; Things Lived and Dreamt, Op. 30*
*Kiveli Dorken (piano), Christian Tetzlaff (violin), Florian Donderer (violin), Timothy Ridout (viola), Tanja Tetzlaff (cello)
Ars Produktion ARS38298   68:11 mins

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Suk’s reputation has blossomed wonderfully in the last 30 years and deservedly so. Unlike his Czech predecessors and contemporaries he did not compose opera; thus, to a large extent his reputation rests on a handful of remarkable orchestral works, piano and chamber music.

As well as being a fine violinist, Suk was also an accomplished pianist. His collection of ten pieces for piano, Things lived and dreamt, from 1909 which he himself premiered, have at times a distinctly Impressionist quality and range from whimsical irony to heartfelt emotion, notably in the fifth commemorating his son’s recovery from illness and the elusively elegiac tenth. Kiveli Dörken consistently captures the mood in these evocative and fascinating pieces, if not always with the last ounce of delicacy. Similarly, the recording, while certainly serviceable, tends to make the sound a little hard.

Composed in 1893, a year after he had graduated from Dvořák’s composition class at the Prague Conservatory, Suk’s Piano Quintet is impressive from many points of view. Although he was close to Dvořák, whose son-in-law he became in 1898, the musical influences seem closer to the work’s dedicatee, Brahms, who was already taking a friendly interest in the young composer.

Dörken and the quartet respond well to the heroic aspects of the Quintet’s first movement, and there is much to admire in the Adagio. They also capture the breezy nature of the scherzo, although I could have done with more character in the aspiring secondary melody for the viola.

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Jan Smaczny