Notes and Editorial Reviews
Interest in conductor Kirill Petrenko has naturally increased since the announcement that he would be taking over from Simon Rattle as Music Director of the Berlin Philharmonic, so it was smart of CPO to box up their series of tone poems by Joseph Suk, led by Petrenko with the orchestra of the Komischen Oper Berlin. Interestingly, his discography to date is very sparse: this set, the Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto on Channel Classics, and one or two other items. We are very, very far from the time when conductors were chosen at least partly on the basis of their bringing a major label contract in tow. Maybe this is a good thing, at least to the extent that musical considerations receive greater weight in the selection process.
Petrenko’s Suk is very good, for the most part, but there is a lot of competition in this repertoire and these versions are not first choices. The Asrael Symphony is well paced, exciting, and aptly intense. It’s not Petrenko’s fault that the orchestra is not the Czech Philharmonic, and the climax at the end of the first movement, or the spooky scherzo, haven’t quite the same power or bite as in versions by Talich, Neumann, Mackerras, or Pesek. The latter still offers the standout version of A Summer Tale (on Supraphon, not Virgin), followed by Mackerras on Decca, both with the Czech Phil, while Ripening, an odd piece exceeded in strangeness only by Epilog, which Petrenko did not record, perhaps makes the strongest impression if only on account of its eccentricity.
That said, Tale of a Winter’s Evening is very nice to have–it’s an attractive early piece even less familiar than Ripening, and Liadov’s The Enchanted Lake makes a good but kind of irrelevant filler for A Summer Tale. The sonics are excellent. So for those curious about Petrenko this will be a good set to have available, although your ability to judge his work will depend on how well you know your Suk. After all, this isn’t exactly a Beethoven cycle. Still, this only means is that when Petrenko takes over his new position we will have something to look forward to. I would be very surprised if he turned out to be less interesting that Simon Rattle.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com