The Slovak composer Eugen Suchoň (1908-1993) possessed a rich, distinctive voice that drew as much on the diatonicism of late-Romanticism and the modality of Slovak folk music as on Impressionism and chromaticism. But what most astonishes when listening to these three impressive large-scale orchestral works from the mid-1930s and mid-1950s is Suchonˇ’s subtle yet expansive orchestrations and fulsome narrative drive. It’s easy to be reminded that he did a lot of piano improvising for silent films.
Metamorfózy (Metamorphoses, 1953) is quasi-programmatic, the portrait of the artist around the time of World War II. Each of its five sections is exquisitely crafted but the final Allegro feroce, with its rushing strings and explosive brass and percussion, steals the show. The earlier Baladická Suita opens in a mood of bustling energy through which one can glimpse the gorgeous lyricism of the following Adagio, which in turn submits to a frenetic Allegro molto that is itself conquered by the final movement’s lush impressionism.
Completed in 1956, Symfonietta Rustica is adapted from parts of the composer’s Sonata Rustica for solo piano and is dominated by the spirit of folk song and dance. The Estonian National Symphony Orchestra under Järvi play this music as though they’d imbibed it with their mothers’ milk, and these are riveting performances. Chandos’ recorded sound is, as always, a marvel.