LABELS: Oehms Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Suk
WORKS: Asrael Symphony
PERFORMER: Essener Philharmoniker/Tomas Netopil
CATALOGUE NO: OC 1865
Suk did not have the range or global reach of his teacher and father-in-law, Dvorák, yet he forged a distinctive style, often tinged with melancholy, that owes little to Dvorák’s style. Completed in 1906, the five-movement Asrael Symphony is perhaps his greatest single work; it was composed in response to the twin personal tragedies of Dvorák’s death in 1904 followed a year later by that of his daughter, Suk’s wife, Otilie. The result is a work of epic proportions, at times disturbing, and in the cathartic final movement, deeply moving.
Tomas Netopil understands the pace of Asrael and seizes the ample dramatic opportunities with relish. The orchestral detail, particularly from the woodwind, is impressive; but there are often places where the texture is too loose, notably in the scherzo middle movement, and occasionally the ensemble is less than unanimous. The recorded sound is revealing, but lacks resonance. Overall, while there is much to enjoy in this performance it doesn’t approach Vaclav Talich’s magisterial vintage recording of 1952 nor Mackerras’s 2007 performance on Supraphon.