, February 2000
This bargain price Naxos disc contains a unique, though perfectly natural, coupling: tales of two seasons contrasted with each other.
In A Summer's Tale shadows chase across the moon. If you are expecting a sunny and happy summer fields essay you are in for a surprise. This is quite turbulent music replete with storms: an extension of the drama of the Asrael symphony - a work which preceded it. Much of the writing has a Straussian plethora of detail with darkling passages that could easily have strode out from the pages of Mahler 7. Bax's Garden of Fand is pre-echoed in the first movement (2.35).
This is overall a work of sumptuous exploration and the Slovak players handle it all with aplomb. Time after time shadowy disquieting figures now well known to us from Asrael wheel across the summer skies. The sprawling work is less about contentment on a summer hillside amongst the hay than the awareness that Autumn comes and behind Autumn, Winter.
There are two full price versions (Supraphon and Virgin) of A Summer's Tale both conducted by Libor Pesek. There is no competition at bargain price and there is no other similarly coupled CD at any price. In fact the final work: the Shakespeare-based A Winter's Tale is not available in any other recording and is almost certain to be a recording premiere. A snowy chill ruffles the pages of this atmospheric work which sometimes reeks, most agreeably, of Brahms, occasionally Wagner and more often of Smetana (Ma Vlast) and Dvorák (Symphonies 7 and 8).
Decent notes by the indefatigable Keith Anderson.
This disc very well worth adding to your collection; especially at such a modest price.