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Josef SUK

(*4.1.1874, Křečovice - ✝29.5.1935, Benešov)

Czech composer and pedagogue, member of the Czech Quartet

His father, a schoolmaster and choirmaster, taught him the first piano, violin and organ lessons. In 1885 he entered the Prague Conservatory. He studied the violin with Bennewitz, chamber music with Wihan and later composition with Dvořák, whose daughter Otilka he married in 1898.

While still at the Prague Conservatory, he and three of his fellow students founded the Czech Quartet in 1892, of which Suk was second violinist. He stayed its member for 40 years until 1933, which happened to be the entire duration of its existence.

In 1922 Suk became professor of composition in the Prague Conservatory. He trained composers including Bořkovec, Ježek, Martinů and many more. In 1924-1926 and 1933-1935 Suk was a rector of the conservatory. He received an honorary doctorate from Brno University. He died May 29, 1935 in Benešov.

Josef Suk is with Vítězslav Novák regarded as the leading composer of the modern Czech school and besides Novák as the most prominent pupil of A. Dvořák.

His early works were based on the Romantic style and influenced by Brahms and Dvořák but later he found a very modern way of his own. He enriched his composition style with impressionistic sounds, he also applied a modern modality and other new procedures. He surpassed Dvořák particularly in his complicated polyphony, in his later works approaching atonality.

Suk's work is always very personal, he used self-quotations and many personal symbols. His greatest work, deeply felt second symphony Asrael (1905) is affected by the death of Dvořák and of his wife. In the symphonic single-movement pieces Zrání (Ripening, 1912-1917) he expressed his own growth through the pain of life's tragedies, and in Epilog (Epilogue, 1920-1929, rev. up to 1932) his awareness of his own mortality.

Only few of his works were inspirated by folk music or nationalism - the symphonic march V nový život (Towards a New Life, 1920), which won him an award at the 1932 Olympics at Los Angeles, the patriotic symphonic poem Praga (1904), Pod Blaníkem (Beneath Blaník, 1932) and the chamber composition from 1935 Sousedská (Czech folk dance) are some of them.

The best known of Suk's orchestral works is Serenade for Strings in E Major, 1892). Then he wrote Symphony in E Major (1897-99), symphonic poem Pohádka léta (A Summer's Tale, 1907-09), the orchestral suite Radúz and Mahulena (1897-98) after Julius Zeyer and the suite Pohádka (Fairy Tale, 1899-1900) from the Radúz and Mahulena music.

Suk wrote relatively little chamber works. Foremost amongst these are the Four Pieces (1900) for violin and piano and the Fantasy (1902-03) for violin and orchestra, a one-movement concerto in Romantic tradition.

Suk composed also a piano trio, piano quartet, 2 string quartets, piano quintet and other chamber music.

Suk was also a fine pianist, he wrote more piano music: The Suite (1900), the programmatic suites Jaro (Spring, 1902) and Letní dojmy (Summer Impressions, 1902) which illustrate his very personal Romantic piano style as its O matince (About Mother, 1907), written after the death of his wife. His more classical piano works are Ukolébavky (Lullabies, 1910-12) and O přátelství (About Friendship, 1920). He also wrote the suite of ten short pieces Životem a snem (Things Lived and Dreamt, 1909).

Of great value, although not numerous, are his choral works. He wrote many songs for voice and piano, Pod jabloní (Beneath the Apple Tree, 1911-12) for contralto, chorus and orchestra and Křečovická mše (The Křečovice Mass, 1888-90).

Biblography:

J. Berkovec: Josef Suk (1874-1935): život a dílo (Life and works) (Prague, 1956, 2/1962, Engl., Ger., Fr. and Russ. transl. 1968)
J. Doubravová: Sound and Structure in Josef Suk's Zrání - International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music (1977, 73-87)

Discography:

Orchestral

A Fairy Tale (No. 1 from Raduz a Mahulena, Op. 16)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Libor Pešek
CD Supraphon

A Fairy Tale (from "Raduz and Mahulena") | Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 17
Ivana Tomaskova - violin, Renata Ardasevova - piano
CD Multisonic

A Fairy Tale No. 1 from Raduz and Mahulena | Towards a New Life (Festival March)
Ivan Zenaty - violin (A Fairy Tale)
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Bohumil Kulinsky / Vaclav Smetacek (Humoresque)

CD Multisonic

A Fairy Tale, Op. 16 | Suite from Raduz and Mahulena
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Bohumil Kulinsky
CD Multisonic

A Fairy-tale | Suite, Op. 16 | Praga, Symphonic Poem for Large Orchestra, Op. 26
Petr Skvor - violin (in Fairy-tale)  
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Libor Pesek
CD Supraphon

A Summer Tale, Tone Poem for Large Orchestra, Op. 29  
Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale "St. Wenceslas" for String Orchestra, Op. 35a
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Karel Sejna
CD Supraphon

Asrael
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Vaclav Neumann
CD Supraphon

Asrael
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Vaclav Talich
2 CD Supraphon

Asrael (Symphony for Orchestra), Op. 27
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Rafael Kubelik
CD Panton

Fantasia in G minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 24 (1902)
Josef Suk - violin  
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Karel Ancerl  
Golden Harmony Award 2002

CD Supraphon

Fantasic Scherzo for Orchestra, Op. 25
Prague Symphony Orchestra, Jiri Belohlavek
CD Supraphon

Fantasy in G minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 24
Ivan Zenaty - violin  
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Bohumil Kulinsky
CD Multisonic

Fantasy in G minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 24
Gabriela Demeterova - violin  
Prague Symphony Orchestra, Libor Pesek
CD Supraphon

Jaro / Springtime, Op. 22a (1902), Pohádka léta / Summertime Tale, Op. 29 (1907-1909)
Czechoslovak Radio Prague Orchestra, Josef Hrncir
CD Český rozhlas

Love Song, Op. 7 No. 1, Serenade in E flat Major
Prague Symphony Orchestra, Vaclav Smetacek - 1973 (Love Song)  
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Josef Vlach - 1962 (Serenade)

CD Supraphon

Meditation on the Old Bohemian Chorale "St. Wenceslas", Op. 35a
Suk Chamber Orchestra, Josef Suk
CD SKO

Meditation on the Old Czech Choral "St. Wenceslas", Op. 35
Czech Chamber Orchestra, Ondrej Kukal
CD Waldmann

Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale "St. Wenceslas" for String Orchestra, Op. 35a
Legend of the Dead Victors, Commemoration for Large Orchestra, Op. 35b
Towards a New Life, Festive Sokol March, Op. 35c

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Rafael Kubelik
CD Supraphon

Praga, Dramatic Overture, Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale Saint Wenceslas  
Legend of Dead Victors, Towards a New Life
Prague Symphony Orchestra, Petr Altrichter
CD Supraphon

Praga, Op. 26, Symphonic Poem, A Fairy Tale [Pohadka], Op. 16, Suite for Orchestra
Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, Alun Francis
CD CPO

Ripening, Symphonic Poem
Czech Philharmonic Chorus and Orchestra, Karel Ancerl  
Live recording (1963, 1964)
CD Multisonic

Serenade for String Orchestra, Asrael, Ripening, A Fairy-tale
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Vaclav Talich
13 CD Supraphon

Serenade for String Orchestra in E flat major, Op. 6
Suk Chamber Orchestra, Josef Suk
CD Supraphon

Serenade for String Orchestra in E flat major, Op. 6
Prague Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra, Jiri Belohlavek
CD Supraphon

Serenade in E flat major for String Orchestra, Op. 6,  Love Song [Píseň lásky], Op. 7 No. 1
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Libor Pesek (Serenade)  
Gabriela Demeterova - violin, Collegium of Czech Philharmonic, Jan Chalupecky (Love Song)

CD Supraphon

Symphony in E major, Op. 14
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Vaclav Neumann
CD Supraphon

Towards a New Life
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Vaclav Neumann
CD Supraphon

Towards a New Life, Op. 35c (ceremonial march)
Prague Symphony Orchestra, Zdenek Macal
CD MusicVars

Chamber

Bagatelle, Village Serenade, Love Song
Josef Suk - violin, Josef Hala - piano
CD Lotos

Elegy (under the impression of Zeyer's Vysehrad), Op. 23
Academia Trio (Jaroslav Matejka - cello, Pavel Safarik - violin, Petr Jirikovsky - piano)
CD MusicVars

Evening Mood from Summer Moods for piano, Lullaby [Ukolébavka]
Josef Suk - violin, Josef Hala - piano
CD Supraphon

Fantasy-Polonaise op. 5 [Fantazie-Poloneza], Humoresque in C major [Humoreska C dur], Moods op. 10 [Nalady], Piano Pieces op. 12 [Klavirni skladby], Village Serenade [Vesnicka serenada]
Pavel Stepan - piano
CD Supraphon

Four Pieces for Violin and Piano
Ballad for Violin and Piano, for Cello and Piano, for String Quartet a. o.

Josef Suk - violin, Marek Jarie - cello, Josef Hala - piano, Jan Panenka - piano, Ivan Klansky - piano etc.  
Suk Quartet

CD Supraphon

Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 17
J. Novakova - violin, J. Hala - piano
CD Panton

Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 17
Pavel Sporcl - violin, Michal Rezek - piano
CD Clarton

Four Pieces, Op. 17 for violin & piano
Louis Persinger - piano, Ruggiero Ricci - violin, Ernest Lush - piano
2 CD Decca

Jaro/Spring, Op. 22a, Píseň lásky/Love Song, Op. 7, No. 1, Idylky/Small Idylls, Op. 7, No. 4
Igor Ardasev - piano
CD Supraphon

Life and Dream, Op. 30, Lullabies, Op. 33, Episodes
Pavel Stepan - piano
CD Supraphon

Love Song, Op. 7 No. 1, Humoresque, Op. 7 No. 2, Mother, Op. 28
Ivan Moravec - piano
CD Supraphon

Love Song, Op. 7, No. 1
Josef Suk - violin, Josef Hala - piano, Ales Barta - organ
CD Lotos

Love Song, Op. 7, No. 1
Prague Symphony Orchestra, Vaclav Smetacek
CD Supraphon

Love Song, Op. 7, No. 1, Village Serenade, An Album Leaf, Bagatelle, Violin solo from the fairy-tale Raduz a Mahulena, Melody, Evening Mood
Josef Suk - violin, Josef Hala - piano
CD Lotos

Meditation on the Ancient, Czech Chorale, "St. Venceslaw" Op. 35a
New Vlach Quartet (Jana Vlachova - 1st violin, Ondrej Kukal - 2nd violin, Petr Verner - viola, Mikael Ericsson - violoncello)
CD MusicVars

Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale "Saint Wenceslas", Op. 35
Janacek String Quartet (Jiri Novotny - violin, Vitezslav Zavadilik - violin, Ladislav Kyselak - viola, Bretislav Vybiral - cello)
CD Amabile Melody

Raduz and Mahulena
Josef Suk - violin, Josef Hala - piano
CD Lotos

Piano Quartet in A minor, Op. 1
Bohemia Quartet
CD Panton

Piano Quartet in A minor, Op. 1
Kubelik Trio (Shizuka Ishikawa - violin, Karel Fiala - cello, Kvita Bilynska - piano)  
Josef Suk - violin
CD GZ

Piano Quartet in A minor, Op. 1, Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 8
Jan Simon - piano, Josef Suk, Pavel Sporcl - violins, Karel Untermuller - viola, Jiri Barta - cello
CD Lotos

Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 2
New Prague Trio (Arnost Strizek - piano, Jiri Klika - violin, Jan Zvolanek - cello)
CD Panton

String Quartets
Suk Quartet
CD Supraphon

Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in C minor, Op. 2; Elegy for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op. 23; Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello in A minor, Op. 1; Quintet for Piano, 2 Violins, Viola and Cello in G minor, Op. 8
Suk Trio (Trio, Elegy), Jan Panenka - piano (Quartet), Josef Suk - violin (Quartet), Suk Quartet (Quintet)
CD Supraphon

Vocal

Mass in B flat major
Marie Matejkova - soprano, Ilona Satylova - alto, Jiri Vinklarek - tenor, Michael Mergl - bass  
Miluska Kvechova - organ  
Prague Radio Chorus  
Plzen Radio Orchestra, Stanislav Bogunia

2 CD Radioservis

Ten Songs, Op. 15
Bambini di Praga  
L. Cermakova, J. Saroun - piano accompaniment  
Bohumil Kulinsky

CD Multisonic