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8.223130 - SUCHON : Metamorphosis / Suite Balladesque

Eugen Suchoň (1908–1993)
Metamorphosis (Metamorfozy) • Ballad Suite (Baladicka Suita), Op. 9


Slovakia is a region of considerable importance in the history of European music. Since 1918 and the dismemberment of the Habsburg Empire, a part of Czechoslovakia, its earlier history was also closely associated with that of Vienna, while serving as a meeting-point for the cultural cross-currents from Hungary and from Germany. Of the older generation of Slovak composers, three have been of considerable importance, Alexander Moyzes, Ján Cikker and Eugen Suchoň, the first as a symphonist, the second as a composer of opera and the third as a musical personality of striking individualism.

Eugen Suchoň occupies an unassailable position among Slovak composers. Born in West Slovakia in 1908, the son of a choirmaster, he studied piano and composition at the Academy of Music in the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, the city where Ernö von Dohnányi and Bartók had had their schooling. In 1931 he entered the master class of Vítêzslav Novák, a pupil of Dvořák, at the Conservatory in Prague, returning to Bratislava in 1933 as professor of theory at the Academy. He was subsequently to occupy a series of important positions in the Slovakian musical establishment, as professor of music education and as professor of theory at the University of Bratislava.

Suchoň’s earlier compositions were traditional in cast, firmly within a wider European context, but later influenced by a more national idiom, building always on a foundation of impeccable craftsmanship. There were to be further developments in his style, marked by the monumental historical opera Svatopluk in 1959, with the composer’s own modified use of the twelve-note that had led the composers in neighbouring Vienna into quite other regions of musical experiment.

“Metamorphosis” (Metamorfozy) was written in 1953 and is described by the composer as variations on original themes, in the form of a symphonic suite for full orchestra. The work is in five sections, the first three linked, and suggests a parallel with events in Czechoslovakia in the present century, leading from the relative tranquility of the pre-war period to music of greater passion, followed by a third section recalling the events surrounding the Munich Agreement and the betrayal of the country to Germany. The second principal section, marked Larghetto, and of rich thematic diversity, returns to the serenity of the opening, followed by a final movement of triumph. The whole work offers music of considerable power and intensity, making subtle use of traditional forms, with its third movement Scherzo and Trio and final movement in a modified sonata form.
Suchoň’s “Ballad Suite” (Baladicka Suita), completed in 1935, shows the composer’s early formal command and technical virtuosity. The work starts dramatically enough, before moving to a more idyllic mood, which quickly grows in intensity. The second part is more elegiac in character, leading to a third part, which seems about to lead to some Slovak dance that turns instead to the excited agitation of the opening. The Suite, which is no mere collection of isolated movements, as the title might have suggested, ends with a ballad thematically derived from what has gone before, a summary both of its moods and of its musical content.

Keith Anderson

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