Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Review: This Fairy Tale has a happy ending

Suk: Fairy Tale / Fantasy in G Minor / Fantastic Scherzo
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
JoAnn Falletta, conductor

This new release features three orchestral works by Czech composer Josef Suk, son-in-law to Antonin Dvorak. JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra turn in solid performances of these works, and produce a disc that rewards repeated listening.

Suk’s Fantasy in G minor for violin and orchestra, Op. 24 starts the program. Michael Ludwig shines as the soloist, bringing just a hint of Slavic expression (for want of a better term) to the music. Although Suk didn’t use Czech folk music in his compositions, this performance leaves no doubt as to his nationality.

The centerpiece of the release is Suk’s Fairy Tale, Op. 16. Although influenced by Richard Strauss, Suk took a different path. His orchestration is just as brilliant and exotic as Strauss, but without the latter’s brashness and aggressiveness. Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic hit the right tone just about all the way through the work. The soft passages are tenderly beautiful, the dramatic ones authoritative without being bombastic. In this recording one can understand why the Fairy Tale is one of Suk’s most popular works.

The final work on the album, the Fantastick scherzo, Op. 25, trips lightly along. Falletta keeps the music moving along, while lingering over the introspective sections long enough for the listener to savor them.

Particularly striking is how well-recorded this release is. Suk’s music is as much about orchestral coloration as it is about structure. The Buffalo Philharmonic has a warm, inviting sound that really adds to the performance of these works.

Recommended for the performances, and a real bargain for the price.

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