Suk: Asrael, Op 27; Pohádka (Fairy Tale), Op 16

Reviewed on Fri 16 Aug, 2019

Sumptuously engineered, Bĕlohlávek's is an enormously rewarding Asrael that merits a place alongside those all-time greats from Talich, Kubelík, Ančerl and Mackerras.

Here is the third and final recording of Suk's masterly Asrael under the baton of the late-lamented Jiří Bĕlohlávek (his second with the Czech Philharmonic). It's an extraordinarily powerful and deeply nourishing document, possessing a tremendous grip, supreme assurance and devastating emotional clout that give it the edge over his previous live offering from the 2008 Prague Spring Festival with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (excellently recorded by Czech Radio and issued by Supraphon, paired with Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem). Not only does Bĕlohlávek ensure that the first movement's apex hits home with hair-raising impact (the violins at fig 57 or 13'52” truly fff molto espressivo as marked), he draws playing of ravishing tenderness and songful compassion in the trio section of the central scherzo and the ensuing Adagio – and what memorably consolatory glow he distils in the symphony's sublime epilogue. Sumptuously engineered, Bĕlohlávek's is an enormously rewarding Asrael that merits a place alongside those all-time greats from Talich, Kubelík, Ančerl and Mackerras. Set down almost exactly a year later, in October 2015, this partnership's performance of the entrancing Pohádka (Fairy Tale) again brings much to cherish, not least leader Jiří Vodička's raptly expressive solo contributions in the outer movements. Not to be missed! The two discs, in case you were wondering, retail for the price of one.
–Andrew Achenbach