Josef Suk: Ripening; Symphony No. 1

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Ripening, the successor to the Asrael Symphony and A Summer Tale, is a voluptuous late-Romantic extravaganza, and it's very well performed here. Jirí Belohlávek often seems a trifle soft-edged, but here he galvanizes his large forces and produces an interpretation full of conviction. The textures are very intricate, the individual parts challenging. There are a few points, such as the solos for trumpet, or the big fugue about two-thirds of the way through, where you might miss the rhythmic bite and bright sonorities of the Czech Philharmonic, but otherwise there's very little to carp at.

The performance of the symphony is even finer: this is hands down the best version currently available. Most others sound tame in comparison. The first movement finally has the energy that until now has remained largely latent, its rhythmic vigor exploited to the full. The fact is, Belohlávek knocks a good six or seven minutes off of the work's typical timing, and it's all to the good. Also, in this stylistically simpler, Dvorák-influenced piece, the orchestra sounds at its very best. The SACD sound is really excellent--warm, spacious, and detailed. After a very tepid Asrael for this same label, it's good to hear everyone back in top form.

--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: CHSA 5081

  • UPC: 095115508121

  • Label: Chandos

  • Composer: Josef Suk

  • Conductor: Jirí Belohlávek

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: BBC Symphony Orchestra, New London Chamber Choir