Libor Pesek / Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Suk: Asrael Symphony; A Summer's Tale

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There are many better performances of Josef Suk's relatively popular Asrael Symphony; for example, Vaclav Talich's with the Czech Philharmonic, or Rafael Kubelik's with the Bavarian Radio Symphony. There is even a better performance of Suk's much less popular A Summer's Tale, with Charles Mackerras and the Czech Philharmonic. But that is no reason not to try these magnificent performances by Libor Pesek and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic from 1990 and 1994. Pesek had already recorded A Summer's Tale along with many of the Czech fin de siècle master's other orchestral works for Supraphon before taking over the English orchestra and landing a contract with Virgin, and his readings here are full of both experience and affection. It is obvious that the Liverpool musicians are not Czech: the supple singing tone typical of Czech playing is nowhere in evidence. But the English players do deliver fully professional and deeply passionate performances that need take second place to no orchestra in terms of commitment. While Pesek is no Talich, neither is anyone else, and his reading of Asrael is still enormously moving, especially in its Adagio. Pesek's take on A Summer's Tale is ideally paced and often deeply touching, as in the coda to "Night," the work's final movement. Recorded in warm, full digital sound, this may not be the first Suk recording for the neophyte to try, but it should interest anyone who loves Suk.

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