Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2007 by Fred Flaxman

Program 118
"The Sweet Sounds of Suk, Part 2"


MUSIC:
Suk: Humoreske, performed by Risto Lauriala, piano [Naxos 8.553762, track 2] [under the following]

The music in the background is one of several delightful piano pieces by the Czech composer, Josef Suk, that you’ll hear if you stay with me for the next hour. You’ll also hear the composer’s most famous orchestral piece, his Serenade for Strings. This is Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and these are “The Sweet Sounds of Josef Suk, Part 2.”

MUSIC: finishes at end of the piece

I mentioned in “The Sweet Sounds of Josef Suk, Part 1” a few facts about the composer that I’m going to repeat now for those who missed the first part, and for others whose memories may be fading.

Josef Suk lived from 1874 until 1935. He studied at the Prague Conservatory from 1885 until 1892, where he became the favorite pupil of Antonin Dvorak. In 1898 he married Dvorak’s daughter. Both Dvorak and his daughter died six and seven years later, which devastated Suk and sent him into a depression.

Suk is probably not better known as a composer because he did not compose that much. In fact I think I’m probably getting the best of Suk into these two hours. But the best is very pretty, as you’ll hear in a moment.
During his lifetime, Suk was better known as a musician and teacher than as a composer. He formed the Czech Quartet with three of his fellow students at the Conservatory and played second violin with them for most of his life. Starting in 1922 he also taught at the Prague Conservatory. His pupils included Bohuslav Martinu and Rudolf Firkusny.

Suk’s Serenade for Strings was written in 1892, just after graduating from the Conservatory. It was influenced by Dvorak, of course, and by a chap you may also have heard of named Johannes Brahms. In fact it was Brahms who recommended that Suk compose this Serenade.

We’ll hear a performance by the Cappella Istropolitana, which is based in Bratislava, Slovakia, conducted by James Brooks-Bruzzese.

MUSIC: Suk: Serenade for Strings, Op. 6, performed by the Cappella Istropolitana conducted by James Brooks-Bruzzese [Summerfest “Echoes of Habsburg, tracks 11, 12, 13, 14] [27:50]

Josef Suk’s Serenade for Strings, Opus 6. You heard the Cappella Istropolitana, conducted by James Brooks-Bruzzese.

From Opus 6 we move up one notch to Opus 7, which is a series of beautiful, romantic piano pieces. From that collection we’ll hear Song of Love and Idyl in F Minor, both played by Antonin Kubalek on a Dorian compact disc.

Kubalek, who was born in 1935 in northern Bohemia, began his musical studies in Prague at age 11, one year after an injury resulted in his visual impairment. His musical development was helped greatly by his exceptional memory, which he developed intentionally as a means of learning scores in spite of his impaired eyesight.

In the 1950s and 60s he concertized widely throughout Eastern Europe, recorded extensively, and was a professor at the Prague Conservatory. In order to broaden his repertoire and seek continual creative challenges, he vowed never to repeat a concert program, and for more than a decade he honored that commitment.

In 1968 Kubalek left Czechoslovakia and emigrated to Canada where he reestablished his career, performing frequently with the Toronto Symphony and other orchestras. He has the distinction of being the only artist to have made a recording on which the late Glenn Gould served as producer.

MUSIC: Suk: Song of Love, Op. 7, No. 1, performed by Antonin Kubalek, piano [Dorian DOR-90121, track 23] [6:47]

MUSIC: Suk: Idyl in F Minor, Op. 7, performed by Antonin Kubalek, piano [Dorian DOR-90121, track 1] [6:47]

Josef Suk’s Song of Love and Idyl in F Minor, both played by Antonin Kubalek. Suk was only 18 when he wrote Song of Love, and it became such a big hit that numerous arrangements were made of it for other instruments.

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 2.”

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

Next we turn to Suk’s music for violin and piano. His opus 17, composed in 1890, consists of four pieces for that combination of instruments. We’ll listen to two of them now as performed by Suk’s grandson and namesake, Josef Suk, with Jan Panenka on the piano.

MUSIC: Suk: Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 17: II Appassionato, performed by Josef Suk, violin, and Jan Panenka, piano [Supraphon DC-8033, track 4] [4:00]

MUSIC: Suk: Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 17: IV Burlesca, performed by Josef Suk, violin, and Jan Panenka, piano [Supraphon DC-8033, track 6] [3:05]

Two of Josef Suk’s Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 27, performed by Josef Suk, the composer’s grandson, on the violin, and Jan Panenka on the piano.

We’ll conclude this second hour of “Sweet Sounds of Josef Suk” with some more of his delightful piano pieces, this time played by the Finnish pianist, Risto Lauriala.

First we’ll hear Humoreske, then Recollections.

MUSIC: Suk: Humoreske, performed by Risto Lauriala [Naxos 8.553762, track 2] [1:35]

MUSIC: Suk: Recollections, performed by Risto Lauriala [Naxos 8.553762, track 3] [3:47]
Two piano pieces by Josef Suk performed by Risto Lauriala. You heard Humoreske and Recollections.

That brings to an end this hour of Compact Discoveries: “The Sweet Sounds of Suk, Part 2.” We heard his Serenade for Strings, two pieces for violin and piano, and four of his piano pieces.

MUSIC: clip from Suk: Serenade for Strings, Op. 6, performed by the Cappella Istropolitana conducted by James Brooks-Bruzzese [Supraphon 11 1532-2 131, track 5] [under the following]

I’m Fred Flaxman hoping also that you enjoyed these selections 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 lots 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 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 and program ends at 58:00


 
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