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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 | Caprices and Laments: No Way A Clarinet Is Going To Let This Music End Without A Howl

By Norman Lebrecht on January 8, 2021

Clarinettist Maximiliano Martín joined here by the symphony orchestra of his native Tenerife in three works that truly cover the gamut of human emotion.
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Bavarian Radio Chorus Will Need To Brush Up When Sir Simon Rattle Arrives

By Norman Lebrecht on January 15, 2021

The Bavarian Radio Chorus offers an unexpected, untaxing and altogether enjoyable collection of Elgar choral works.
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LEBRECHT LISTENS | Pianist Bertrand Chamayou Is One To Watch For 2021

By Norman Lebrecht on January 1, 2021

The beauty of this compilation by the French pianist Bertrand Chamayou is that it leads the ear down unexpected paths.
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