Suk: Ripening; Praga

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Suk
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Ripening; Praga
PERFORMER: Royal Liverpool PO/Libor Pesek
CATALOGUE NO: VC 7 59318 2 DDD
Suk’s Asrael Symphony has come to occupy a distinctive place in the catalogue with a number of recordings. Ripening, an orchestral work completed slightly over ten years later is less well known. In many ways it is Suk’s musical autobiography, a development to acceptance and maturity after personal tragedy. As in other works, Suk quotes from earlier pieces, but there is little sense of Ripening being a patchwork; the whole is a fluent process of gradual metamorphosis. At times Strauss and Debussy are brought to mind, even the density of later Scriabin, but Ripening is distinctive of a mature composer and presents a highly individual image of late Romanticism.

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Libor Pesek and the RLPO prepared for this recording with live performances. Their partnership has a way with Suk which respects the internal drama and communicates the intensity of this extraordinarily compelling music. There are moments where orchestral detail is neither as tidy nor as effortless as it might be, notably, if briefly, in the fugue, but I would not willingly exchange Pesek’s insight for cold perfection. With an exultant performance of the symphonic poem Praga and splendidly comprehensive notes from John Tyrrell, this issue is a must for any lover of late Romantic orchestral music. Jan Smaczny