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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Suk's Asrael Symphony Gets A New Interpreter

By Norman Lebrecht on May 24, 2019

Josef Suk: Asrael (Decca)

★★★★☆

🎧 iTunes | Spotify | Amazon

The symphonic monument Asrael, written in memory of the composer’s wife Otilie and her father Antonin Dvorak, embodies for Czech musicians what Verdi’s Requiem does for Italians — a summit of national loss and hope. Unlike the Verdi Requiem, it has never caught on outside its heartland. Its great interpreters on record have all been Czech — Talich, Ancerl, Kubelik, Pesek and now Jiri Belohlavek. To the latest interpreter, the heritage must have weighed particularly heavy since he knew he was mortally ill and this recording would stand as his legacy.

Never a flamboyant conductor, Jiri Belohlavek goes for large dynamic contrasts in the opening movement, pushing the Czech Philharmonic to the edge of its comfort zone. The third movement Vivace sounds more Mahlerian than ever (did Mahler always dance best in Czech?) and the two adagio finales reach deep into the human soul to find consolation for great loss.

There is magnificence in this music and in this approach to it. I would not wish to place this performance above the four I have already recommended since each adds a contemporary historical dimension to the work, reflecting the Czech people under Nazi rule, Communism, liberalism and present-day corruption and confusion. With Belohlavek, the personal dimension rings out loud and clear. Like the composer, he finds a way to accept the implacability of fate, oblivious to political conditions. A companion CD contains Suk’s sunnier Fairy Tale.

LUDWIG VAN TORONTO

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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Ludwig Van Toronto

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Uri Caine’s ‘The Passion Of Octavius Catto’ Is Reviving Eclecticism

By Norman Lebrecht on May 22, 2020

Philadelphia composer Uri Caine's The Passion of Octavius Catto revives eclecticism in a convincing performance by the Catto Freedom Orchestra and the Philadelphia Choral Ensemble.
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SCRUTINY | Mundane Mysteries Is An Adventure In Theatre By Phone

By Paula Citron on May 20, 2020

Theatre by phone becomes an adventure over six days with Outside the March Theatre's The Ministry of Mundane Mysteries.
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Please Don’t Tell Me You’ve Never Heard Of Otto Zykan

By Norman Lebrecht on May 8, 2020

The magnificent Heinrich Schiff premieres Viennese composer Otto M. Zykan's work for a musical conversation at a level we just don’t hear anymore.
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