EUGEN SUCHOŇ: Metamorfózy; Balladická Suita; Symfonietta Rustica – Estonian Nat. Sym. Orch./ Neeme Järvi – Chandos CHAN 10849 [Distr. by Naxos], 63:38 (4/28/15) ***1/2:
I admit I had never heard of Slovakian composer Eugen Suchoň until this very fine release and that is really too bad. Suchoň was actually one of the best-known and most influential Slovak composers from the latter half of the twentieth century; the composer just died in 1993.
Suchoň studied at the Bratislava Academy and, much as many composers from that time and place sought to incorporate the echoes of traditional Slovak folk music into his works with bold orchestrations and his own harmonic template. In fact, in listening to these works that genre of composition comes through loud and clear. If one did not know that these works were written by Suchoň it would easy to think that this was some Dohnanyi or even some Suk or Kodaly.
This gives the listener a framework in which you will not be disappointed. Succhoň’s writing in these colorful orchestral works is bold and attention- getting, maybe even a bit ‘cinematic.’ (There are moments in the Balladic Suite that sounded almost like Korngold.) The Suite was one of the composer’s best known but also earliest works and clearly channels the sounds of his culture in a sweeping way; again almost as if it were film music.
The Metamophoses came about later, in 1953, and its own large scale and sweeping nature (the largest work in this set) was in specific response to the turmoil surrounding Suchoň’s countryside just before the second world war. I found the many beautiful wind solos throughout both of these pieces to be a highlight.
Lastly, the Symfonietta rustica is an orchestral transcription of three fairly short works written for the composer’s pianist wife Herta. In this three- movement sinfonietta there is more modal writing and the “rustic” feel implied in the title than in the other two works here; conjuring up more feelings of similarly centered works, such as the early Bartok and Dohnanyi catalogue. All three of these works are quite entertaining and give us a good glimpse into the output of this important – if not as well known outside of eastern Europe – composer. I am glad to have made this discovery. The Estonian National Symphony under the esteemed Neeme Järvi sounds wonderful and Chandos audio engineering is at its usual high standard.