Though he was a student and successor of Dvorák and himself the teacher of Martinu, Josef Suk's contribution to the continuity of the Bohemian music tradition is often overlooked and his compositions find their way to the concert stage with disappointing rarity. This Chandos SACD features two important works of Suk, one from early in his career and one demonstrating his more mature, developed style. The First Symphony, begun when Suk was only 23 years old, was interrupted by the composition of the incidental music Raduz and Mahulena. The symphony's final two movements seem to have benefited from the experience of writing incidental music as they seem more driven with a clearer sense of purpose. The Op. 34 Ripening is a symphonic poem in which Suk sets out to put listeners through the breadth of human emotion following the suffering he felt after the death of two loved ones. The work is scored for a massive orchestra, as well as an off-stage female chorus. Ripening seems especially well-suited for the spaciousness and careful sound imaging the SACD layer offers its listeners. Performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the New London Chamber Choir, Suk's compositions are packed with moving emotional content delivered with authoritative refinement, brilliant balance within the orchestra, and especially clear, rich sound quality. Listeners who are unfamiliar with Suk's worthwhile compositions would do well starting with this album.
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