Two symphonic poems by Suk are performed here by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek, who also brought us the highly acclaimed recording of the composer’s First Symphony and Ripening, which was Disc of the Month in the magazine BBC Music.
A Summer’s Tale is a highly personal work, rich and imaginative, not to mention brilliantly orchestrated in late romantic style. The work followed the heartfelt and sorrowful outpouring of the Asrael Symphony of 1905 – 06, composed in memory of his father-in-law, Antonín Dvořák, and wife, Otilka.
In the words of the composer: ‘After wild fleeing I find consolation in nature’. The jubilation of the opening ‘Voices of Life and Consolation’ is thought to emphasise nature’s healing powers and the composer’s putting a positive face to the world after the bleakness of Asrael. ‘Midday’ depicts the all-embracing heat of noon, while the Intermezzo, ‘Blind Musicians’, expresses compassion for those who can never appreciate the beauty that surrounds us. The storm and wild longing of ‘In the Power of Phantoms’ give way finally to the mystical calm of ‘Night’.
The Symphonic Poem Prague is likewise strongly personal and atmospheric, speaking of the history and mystery of Suk’s home city, its troubles and its triumphs. The opening section conjures up a picture of the early morning mists rising from the Vltava, the river flowing through the city. The mists begin to lift and the ancient fortress of Vyšehrad emerges high above on its rock. Gradually the mists disperse and Prague appears in all its glory in the sunlight. The mood then darkens, now speaking of past troubled times; but the work ends on a jubilant note, in a triumphant blaze of glory.