Program 117
"The Sweet Sounds of Suk, Part 1"


MUSIC:
Suk: clip from opening of Serenade for Strings, First Movement, performed by Cappella Istropolitana, conducted by James Brooks Bruzzese [Echoes of Habsburg at Summerfest , track 11] [under the following]

Do you have any idea who wrote this beautiful, romantic music? If you guessed Dvorak, you would be incorrect, but about as close as you can get to being right while still being wrong!

The music is the opening of the Serenade for Strings by Josef Suk [YO-zef Sook], who lived from 1874 to 1935. He was not only Dvorak’s favorite pupil, but also his son-in-law, having married Dvorak’s daughter.

MUSIC: fades out

Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and our theme for the next hour is “The Sweet Sounds of Josef Suk, Part 1.” We’ll hear Suk’s complete Serenade for Strings in Part 2. During this hour we’ll start with Suk’s very successful opus one, his Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello. Then, in case you think that was just beginner’s luck, we’ll move on to his equally beautiful opus two, his Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello. After that we’ll jump ahead to his opus 23 and listen to his romantic, melodic Elegy for Piano, Violin and Cello. And we’ll conclude the hour with the scherzo movement from Suk’s Quintet for Piano, two violins, viola and cello.

All of this music comes from one compact disc, a real compact discovery for me, called “Josef Suk Chamber Works, Volume 2.” It is on the Supraphon label, which is made in the Czech Republic. The recording features the Suk Trio and the Suk Quartet. Let’s get started with the Piano Quartet right now, and I’ll tell you more about Joseph Suk later on. The pianist is Jan Panenka [Yan Pa-NEN-ka].

MUSIC: Suk: Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello in A Minor, Op. 1, performed by the Suk Quartet with Jan Panenka at the piano [Supraphon 11 1532-2 131, tracks 5, 6 and 7] [21:41]

Josef Suk’s Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello in A Minor, Opus 1. You heard the Suk Quartet with Jan Panenka on the piano. The cellist in the Suk Quartet is Michaela Fukacová [Meesh-a-ella Fu-KA-shova]. Jan Talich [Yan TAL-ich (guteral “ich”)] is the violist. And Josef Suk is the violinist.

Knowing that this is an all-digital, modern recording, how is it possible that Josef Suk, the composer and famous violinist who died in 1935, is the violinist on this CD? Well, I’ll give you one hint: Antonin Dvorak was this Josef Suk’s great-grandfather. Talk about having music in your blood!

More about Josef Suk, the composer, after this piece of his, the Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in C Minor, Opus 2. This is from the same Supraphon compact disc, although this time it’s the Suk Trio rather than the Suk Quartet.

MUSIC: Suk: Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in C Minor, Op. 2, performed by the Suk Trio [Supraphon, tracks 1,2 and 3] [15:30]

Josef Suk’s Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in C Minor, Op. 2, performed by the Suk Trio.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and this hour is devoted to “The Sweet Sounds of Josef Suk, Part 1.” All the music you are hearing is from the same Supraphon compact disc, which was generously supplied for this program by ArkivMusic.com.

[optional one-minute break not included in total timing]


Josef Suk was greatly influenced by his teacher and father-in-law, Antonin Dvorak, and he suffered tremedous personal loss from the deaths of both Dvorak in 1904 and his own wife just one year later, after only about seven years of marriage. This resulted in his nervous breakdown. When he recovered he completed his second symphony, which he dedicated to the memory of his wife and father-in-law. But I prefer his chamber music to the orchestral pieces I’ve heard, with the exception of his Serenade for String Orchestra, which I’ll play for you in “The Sweet Sounds of Suk, Part 2.”

Suk’s Elegy for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op. 23, which we’ll hear next, is a shortened version of a piece of the same name composed for a larger number of instruments in 1902, two year’s before Dvorak’s death. It was written to commemorate the death of a poet, writer and dramatist: Julius Zeyer [YU-lee-oos ZAY-er]. It is performed here, once again, by the Suk Trio.

MUSIC: Suk: Elegy for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op. 23, performed by the Suk Trio [Supraphon 11 1532-2 131, track 4] [6:36]

Josef Suk’s Elegy for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op. 23, performed by the Suk Trio.
Josef Suk is probably not better known as a composer because he didn’t compose all that much: only 37 works of his have opus numbers. During his lifetime he was equally, if not more, famous as second violinist in the Czech String Quartet for four decades. As if that weren’t enough to do, in 1922 he was appointed professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory. So he seemed to keep happy, or at least not suffer as much from the loss of his wife and his father-in-law, by keeping so busy he didn’t have time to think about it.

And, speaking of time, we’ll have just enough of it to conclude this hour with the scherzo movement from Suk’s Quintet for Piano, Two Violins, Viola and Cello. Pavel Stepán [SHTAI-fahn] is the pianist with the Suk Quartet.

MUSIC: Suk: Quintet for Piano, Two Violins, Viola and Cello, performed by the Suk Quartet and pianist Pavel Stepán [Supraphon 11 1532-2 131, track 10] [5:48]

The Scherzo movement from Josef Suk’s Quintet for Piano, Two Violins, Viola and Cello. Pavel Stepán was the pianist with the Suk Quartet.

That brings to an end this hour of Compact Discoveries, which I call “The Sweet Sounds of Suk, Part 1” but which could have been called “The Sweet Sound of Suk-sess,” if I weren’t so serious about this gorgeous music. In any case, I could only fit in about half of the music I wanted to in this hour, which is the raison d’être or excuse for Part 2. I’ve saved Suk’s most famous piece for the second hour, his Serenade for Strings. And you’ll also hear some romantic, melodious piano music as well as two beautiful pieces for violin and piano. I hope you’ll be listening!

MUSIC: Suk: clip from “Intermezzo - Folk Dance” from Fairy Tale “Pohádka,” Op. 16, performed by the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie conducted by Alun Francis [SPO 999 576-2, track 3] [under the following]

I’m Fred Flaxman hoping also that you enjoyed the selections in this hour and that you’ll let me hear from you about this or other Compact Discoveries programs. I can be reached through the Compact Discoveries website: www.compactdiscoveries.com. The website is the place to go for complete information on these programs, including scripts and playlists. You’ll also find there a whole bunch of Compact Discoveries articles, a list of public radio stations carrying the program, links to those stations’ websites, and listener reaction. The website is also the place to visit to provide your ideas for themes for future programs.

I’d like to thank ArkivMusic.com for supplying the music for this hour, and Wilma Anyzova [Vilma aNEEjova] of the cultural section of the Czech Embassy in Washington, D.C., for her help with Czech pronunciation.

Compact Discoveries is distributed internationally by the Public Radio Exchange, and Compact Discoveries programs can be streamed on demand at their website: www.prx.org. This program was produced in Weaverville, North Carolina. It was made possible by the financial support of members of public radio station WXEL-FM, West Palm Beach, Florida.

MUSIC: fades out at 57:30

ANNOUNCER: Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Books, publishers of The Timeless Tales of Reginald Bretnor, selected and edited by Fred Flaxman. Samples and ordering available at bretnor dot com, b-r-e-t-n-o-r dot com.... and by... Educate Yourself for Tomorrow, an on-line guide to 37 different Liberal Arts courses for personal development, including “Mozart and the Evolution of Western Music.” On the web at onlinehumanities.com.

PROGRAM ENDS AT 58:00

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