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"I was saved by music," wrote Czech composer Josef Suk about his 'Asrael' Symphony, a work born out of tragedy and the loss of his teacher Antonín Dvorák in 1904. While composing the first part of a funeral symphony named after the biblical angel of death, who leads souls of deceased to the land of eternal blissfulness, Suk also lost his wife, and Dvorák's favourite daughter, Otilie. Suk's greatest work remains a masterpiece of the late-Romantic repertoire conducted in a masterful and intense performance, by Vladimir Askenazy. First SACD of this repertoire.
Josef Suk: Asrael, Op. 27
Part I: I. Andante sostenuto
Part I: II. Andante
Part I: III. Vivace
Part II: IV. Adagio
Part II: V. Adagio e maestoso
7th February 2009
“Finished in 1906, Josef Suk's symphony Asrael is one of the world's more neglected masterpieces. It's tumultuous, high-protein music, rich in grief yet life-enhancing, inspired by two deaths in the composer's family: first his father-in-law, Dvorák, then his wife. Ashkenazy's special feeling for Central European repertoire is much in evidence, and there's no Scandinavian cold about the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra”
28th Jan 2009
“If Asrael is Suk’s masterpiece, then here’s a recording to match it”
22 Feb 2009
“Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Helsinki orchestra give a searing account of this neglected masterpiece”
“As Rafael Kubelík's uniquely powerful (and idiomatic) Bavarian Radio tape… currently elusive, there's certainly room for Ashkenazy's marginally fleeter, cleaner, texturally airier conception. He holds together the sometimes disjunct finale with skill, avoiding any hint of lassitude or bombast; the understated optimism and luminosity of the coda I found most moving.”
“Ashkenazy stresses the lyricism as well as the anguish of Suk's score; this is a performance of great dignity and nobility, with fine attention to detail, especially in the often complex woodwind writing. …the recording sound is outstanding: the effect of the first movement's coda, for instance, with its keening violins, minatory brass fanfares and remorseless bass drum beats, is overwhelming.”
8th March 2009
“Ashkenazy and the Helsinki Philharmonic find their way through this sprawling landscape of grief with an impressive sensitivity but it's a long, painful journey to the calm of the C major resolution.”
“As Rafael Kubelík's uniquely powerful (and idiomatic) Bavarian Radio tape (see below) is currently elusive, there's certainly room for Ashkenazy's marginally fleeter, cleaner, texturally airier conception. He holds together the sometimes disjunct finale with skill, avoiding any hint of lassitude or bombast; the understated optimism and luminosity of the coda is most moving. This hybrid SACD, a live recording from which applause has been excised, comes with helpful booklet-notes by Jan Smaczny. Helsinki's Finlandia Hall may look better than it sounds but its acoustic presents no problems to this production team.”
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