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Dvorak: Songs My Great Grandfather Taught Me / Suk, Ashkenazy

Suk / Ashkenazy
Release Date: 04/13/2010 
Label:  Toccata Classics   Catalog #: 100   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Vladimir AshkenazyJosef Suk
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

If you know the songs, or even if you don’t, I think you’ll love these transcriptions.

These delightful transcriptions reach to the heart of Dvorák’s songfulness and, unmediated by interpolations or unnecessary curlicues, present them simply and aptly in a new, wholly worthwhile medium. Some may argue that they aren’t ‘necessary’ but one can counter this line with the idea that they are useful, the composer’s songs not being hugely promoted either in the concert hall or on record, though it’s true that there have been some notable recital discs.
 
The transcriptions have been undertaken by Josef Suk I – the Suks are a dynasty as much as the waltzing Strausses – and this august exponent of the
Read more Czech repertoire proves to have a light and felicitous touch with his transcriptions. He doesn’t waste notes, nor does he meddle. He is at his most interventionist in the Gypsy Songs where he gives the piano some more work to do, but even here discretion is the watchword. [We now undestand that he left the piano parts of these transcriptions untouched]
 
The essence of the songs is their rich communicative spirit. The first of the Gypsy songs, My Song of Love Rings through the Dusk, is a case in point no less than the canonic Songs My Mother Taught Me (where the piano part is more difficult than it sounds). Give the Hawk a Fine Cage is the last of the seven, vital and engaging. One notes that Suk has filled out the piano parts here and there, and they are played with princely refinement by none other than Vladimir Ashkenazy. This is luxury casting all round.
 
They play two of the Op.73 set, including the lovely Dobrou noc. This is particularly susceptible to a straightforward transcription, and in its artless beauty and tender refinement it makes a marvellous concert closer in vocal form and would do in this form too. Suk and Ashkenazy, one notes, don’t hang about; they play it directly and unsentimentally. The Op.83 Love Songs mix melancholy with charm and glee. The seventh is full of dappled lyricism. The Op.82 No.1 song finds Suk bringing greater bow weight to bear, his tone stronger and heavier than heretofore.
 
For the Biblical Songs he exchanges violin for viola. He has been noted as a violist for many years. The most famous setting is the fourth, The Lord is my Shepherd, and from its brief recitative onwards we are treated to a most soulful but not glutinous reading. Just as good is the Bohemian rhythm of the fifth, I will sing a new song. The most stoic setting, it always seems to me, is that of Psalm 61, Hear My Cry, O God. The melody of No.9 is unveiled with a fine viola cantilena. To end we have one of the Moravian duets in which Suk duets with himself, on violin, to charming effect. Is it still called overdubbing?
 
This is a delightful release, attractively recorded, and with a good booklet note from Tully Potter. Suk’s vibrato has inevitably slowed over the years – he was 80 when he made these recordings – and is less vibrant in the lower strings now, but his sense of delicacy and refinement and colour are still there. He remains a marvel.
 
If you know the songs, or even if you don’t, I think you’ll love these transcriptions.
 
-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Biblical Songs, Op. 99/B 185 by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano), Josef Suk (Viola)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1894; USA 
2.
Zigeunermelodien (7), Op. 55/B 104 by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano), Josef Suk (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880; Bohemia 
3.
In folk tone, Op. 73/B 146: no 1, Good night, my darling by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Josef Suk (Violin), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; Bohemia 
4.
In folk tone, Op. 73/B 146: no 3, Nothing can change by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Josef Suk (Violin), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1886; Bohemia 
5.
Liebeslieder, Op. 83/B 160 by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Josef Suk (Violin), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; Bohemia 
6.
Lullaby, B 194 by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Josef Suk (Violin), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1895 
7.
Moravian Duets (9), Op. 32: no 6, The maid imprisoned by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Josef Suk (Violin), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1876; Bohemia 
8.
Lieder (4), Op. 82/B 157: no 1, Leave me alone by Antonín Dvorák
Performer:  Josef Suk (Violin), Vladimir Ashkenazy (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1887-1888; Bohemia 

Sound Samples

Zigeunermelodien, Op. 55, B. 104 (arr. J. Suk): No. 1. Mein Lied ertont, ein Liebespsalm (I chant my lay, a hymn of love)
Zigeunermelodien, Op. 55, B. 104 (arr. J. Suk): No. 2. Ei, wie mein Triangel wunderherrlich lautet (Hark, how my triangle)
Zigeunermelodien, Op. 55, B. 104 (arr. J. Suk): No. 3. Rings ist der Wald so stumm und still (Silent and lone the woods around)
Zigeunermelodien, Op. 55, B. 104 (arr. J. Suk): No. 4. Als die alte Mutter (Songs My Mother Taught Me)
Zigeunermelodien, Op. 55, B. 104 (arr. J. Suk): No. 5. Reingestimmt die Saiten (Tune the strings, oh gypsy)
Zigeunermelodien, Op. 55, B. 104 (arr. J. Suk): No. 6. In dem weiten, breiten, luft'gen Leinenkleide (In his wide and ample, airy linen vesture)
Zigeunermelodien, Op. 55, B. 104 (arr. J. Suk): No. 7. Horstet hoch der Habicht auf den Felsenhohen (Cloudy hieghts of Tatra)
In Folk Tone, Op. 73, B. 146 (arr. J. Suk): No. 1. Dobru noc, ma mila (Good-night, my darling)
In Folk Tone, Op. 73, B. 146 (arr. J. Suk): No. 3. Ach, neni, neni tu, co by me tesilo (There is nothing here to comfort me)
Love Songs, Op. 83, B. 160 (arr. J. Suk): No. 1. O nasi lasce (About Our Love)
Love Songs, Op. 83, B. 160 (arr. J. Suk): No. 2. V tak mnohem (From the Heart)
Love Songs, Op. 83, B. 160 (arr. J. Suk): No. 3. Kol domu (The House)
Love Songs, Op. 83, B. 160 (arr. J. Suk): No. 4. Ja vim (Hope)
Love Songs, Op. 83, B. 160 (arr. J. Suk): No. 5. Nad krajem vevodi (The May Night)
Love Songs, Op. 83, B. 160 (arr. J. Suk): No. 6. Zde V Lese U Potoka (By the Stream)
Love Songs, Op. 83, B. 160 (arr. J. Suk): No. 7. V Te Sladke Moci (The Enchantment)
Love Songs, Op. 83, B. 160 (arr. J. Suk): No. 8. O duse draha (The Singing Swan)
4 Lieder, Op. 82, B. 157: No. 1. Lasst mich allein (Leave Me Alone) (arr. J. Suk)
Lullaby, B. 194 (arr. J. Suk)
10 Biblical Songs, Op. 99, B. 185 (arr. J. Suk): No. 1. Oblak a mrakota jest vukol Neho (Clouds and Darkness)
10 Biblical Songs, Op. 99, B. 185 (arr. J. Suk): No. 2. Skryse ma a paveza ma Ty jsi (Thou art my hiding-place)
10 Biblical Songs, Op. 99, B. 185 (arr. J. Suk): No. 3. Slys, o Boze, slys modlitbu mou (Give ear to my prayer)
10 Biblical Songs, Op. 99, B. 185 (arr. J. Suk): No. 4. Hospodin jest muj pastyr (The Lord is my shepherd)
10 Biblical Songs, Op. 99, B. 185 (arr. J. Suk): No. 5. Boze! Boze! Pisen novou (I will sing a new song)
10 Biblical Songs, Op. 99, B. 185 (arr. J. Suk): No. 6. Slys, o Boze, volani me (Hear my cry)
10 Biblical Songs, Op. 99, B. 185 (arr. J. Suk): No. 7. Pri rekach babylonskych (By the rivers of Babylon)
10 Biblical Songs, Op. 99, B. 185 (arr. J. Suk): No. 8. Popatriz na mne a smiluj se nade mnou (Turn thee unto me)
10 Biblical Songs, Op. 99, B. 185 (arr. J. Suk): No. 9. Pozdvihuji oci svych k horam (I will lift up mine eyes)
10 Biblical Songs, Op. 99, B. 185 (arr. J. Suk): No. 10. Zpivejte Hospodinu pisen novou (O sing unto the Lord a new song)
Moravske dvojzpevy (Moravian Duets), Op. 32, B. 62: No. 11. Zajata (The Maid Imprisoned) (arr. J. Suk): Moravian Duets, Op. 32, B. 62: No. 11. Zajata (The Maid Imprisoned) (arr. J. Suk)

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