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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

PRIMER | 5 Reasons Not To Miss 'Rite Of Spring' At Luminato This Week

By Ludwig Van on June 18, 2019

A Peacock Princess brings a new Rite of Spring to Toronto audiences at Luminato this year.
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THE SCOOP | Toronto Consort Appoints Two New Members

By Michael Vincent on June 11, 2019

The Toronto Consort has announced Cory Knight (tenor) and Esteban La Rotta (plucked instruments) will be joining the core ensemble as Artistic Associates.
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SCRUTINY | Unlikely Pairing Of Orff And Korngold Hits The Spot In TSO Revival

By Joseph So on June 21, 2019

Jonathan Crow comes to the rescue. Runnicles' baton goes flying. Let's just say it was an exciting night of music making at the TSO with Orff's Carmina Burana and Korngold's Violin Concerto.
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