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Josef SUK: Scherzo Fantastique, Opus 25 - Part 1 of 2

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Published on Apr 6, 2008

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Josef Suk (January 4, 1874 -- May 29, 1935) was a Czech composer and violinist.

Suk was born in Křečovice. He studied at Prague Conservatory from 1885 to 1892, where he was a pupil of Antonín Dvořák. In 1898, he married Dvořák's eldest daughter, Otilie Dvořáková (1878--1905), affectionately known as Otilka. He formed the Czech Quartet with three of his fellow students — Suk played second violin with them for most of his life. From 1922 he taught at the Prague Conservatory where his pupils included Bohuslav Martinů and Rudolf Firkušný. He died in Benešov.

From the evidence of the Fantastic Scherzo, Opus 25, Josef Suk would seem to have been destined to follow an artistic path much like that of his father-in-law and teacher, Antonín Dvorák. It is a 15-minute work, brilliantly scored for full Romantic orchestra. Its style is not that close to that of Dvorák. Suk's harmonic language is a little more modern, something like that of the pre-Impressionist French composers such as Chabrier and Fauré. Nor was Suk as interested in evoking Czech musical folklore in his music. The work is in the typical scherzo rhythm of dotted triple-time groups, rather close in spirit to Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice. It has less of the grotesquerie, mostly being good-spirited. The closest thing to it in mood among Dvorák's works is the Carnival Overture, though in sound and technique it is more like the late Dvorák tone poems such as The Wood Dove. There are, indeed, times when the Suk work picks up something of the dark-edged mood of those Dvorák fantasies. But on the whole it is a beautifully scored, light-hearted and untroubled look at a fairy-like world.

It is also uncharacteristic of the direction Suk's work would take (and thus unlike any later works of Suk's the reader might know). The year after it was composed, Dvorák died, and soon after that Suk's own wife (Dvorák's daughter) died. The grief and the questions about death raised by these shattering losses transformed the scope and purpose of his music. But that was in the future; the listener of this work gets the last music Suk was to write untouched by the most tragic side of life.

(We appreciate Both Wikipaedia's and All Music Guide's contributions in the descriptions here)

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