SUK Piano Music (Plowright)
This disc of early piano music offers a different side from Suk the maximalist, with works such as Asrael and Ripening. And it sounds as if Jonathan Plowright has thoroughly enjoyed his foray into the world of the character piece – a million miles away from his superb Brahms series for BIS. If collective titles along the lines of Summer Impressions or Spring might smack of Walter Carroll, let me reassure you now that this is music of great inventiveness, full of flights of imagination and no small degree of virtuosity.
The first number of the Spring suite bursts in with quasi-orchestral textures before giving way to more lyrical sentiments, with a delicately fluttering ending. This is followed by ‘The Breeze’, with its gently skittering rhythms, the mood shifting again for the pulsating ‘Awaiting’, so full of hope and yearning. In the suite’s final number, ‘Longing’, Suk proffers first a tumbling melody and then proceeds to fleck it with ornamentations of the utmost tenderness, before building to a climax that reminds us that these are miniature in scale only, certainly not in musical ambition, and Plowright’s skills as a colourist are heard to great effect.
The modally inclined ‘At Noon’ from Summer Impressions opens innocently enough, the right hand repeating an interval of a fourth and then a fifth, but the way Suk harmonises it is extraordinarily potent. After this, ‘Children at Play’ is delightfully unpredictable and full of spirit – faintly Bartókian in its jumpy rhythms, though gentler in its harmonic language. ‘Evening Mood’ initially calms matters, though it rises to an emotional storm at its centre, with Suk conjuring a sense of both the epic and the intimate during its six-minute duration.
Space precludes listing every gem but other highlights are the musical-box delicacy of the ‘Humoresque’, the gorgeous languor of the two Idylls from Op 7, which are seductively harmonised, and the sheer playfulness of the Capriccio from Moods. Plowright’s affection for this music is palpable at every turn and he’s given a warmly immediate recording. Terrific notes from Jan Smaczny complete this veritable box of delights.