Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks - BRSO

Josef Suk – Symphony No. 2 »Asrael«

CD: Jakub Hrusa – Suk © BR-KLASSIK Label

The young Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša and the BRSO played Josef Suk’s “Asrael” Symphony in October 2018 at concerts in the Munich Philharmonic Hall, which is now being released on this CD.

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“In the Czech generation of composers after Antonín Dvořák, Josef Suk was probably the one who travelled the furthest in terms of style, and certainly, next to Leoš Janáček, the one who retains the highest claim to international standing”, wrote the musicologist Ludwig Finscher in the classic encyclopaedia “Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart”. The music of Suk – violinist, composer and one of the most important Bohemian symphonists – is still relatively rarely heard in Western European concert halls, a situation that should definitely change. With this recording of his second symphony, “Asrael”, BR-KLASSIK makes a strong case for Suk’s impressive and compelling music.

In 1891, Josef Suk, having started out as a violinist, became a master student of the world-famous Dvořák. He was regularly invited to the composer’s country house, where he fell in love with his teacher’s daughter and married her. The “Asrael” symphony was written after Dvořák’s death, and the death soon afterwards of Suk’s own wife gave the work a new direction – it is dedicated to both of them. The title of Asrael refers to the angel of death from Islamic-Persian mythology: he is a mysterious companion of the human soul from this world to the next. Suk developed his own musical language in which the solo violin is often involved (as here in the gentle central section of the Andante): The violin was indeed his instrument, and until 1933 he played in the “Bohemian String Quartet”. With the “Asrael” symphony he consciously took up the tradition of a “fate symphony” – associated since Beethoven’s Fifth with the key of C minor moving at the end into radiant C major. Ever since its premiere on February 3, 1907 at the Prague National Theatre, “Asrael” has ranked as Suk’s most important symphonic work – and as a visionary glimpse into the future.

This performance by the young Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša makes a compelling case for Suk’s work. Since 2016, Hrůša has been chief conductor of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, as well as first guest conductor of the London Philharmonia Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic. He conducts the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in this performance of Suk’s “Asrael” symphony, which was recorded for the current CD at concerts in October 2018 in Munich’s Philharmonie im Gasteig.

Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Jakub Hrůša conductor

1 CD highprice
Product number: 900188
Total Time: 62’43 min.

  • A strong case in favour of Suk’s “Asrael” symphony – a masterpiece of the early 20th century that urgently needs to be rediscovered
  • This CD documents the first collaboration between the young Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša and the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
  • Live recording of three concerts performed in October 2018, featuring the impressive acoustics of Munich’s Philharmonie im Gasteig