Hyperion Records

Elegy in D flat major, Op 23
1902; 'under the impression of Zeyer's Vyšehrad'; originally for string sextet with harp and harmonium; written for the memorial of Julius Zeyer (1841-1901)

'Dvořák: Piano Trios Nos 1 & 2' (CDA67572)
Dvořák: Piano Trios Nos 1 & 2
Track 5 on CDA67572 [5'10]

Elegy in D flat major, Op 23
The beautiful Elegy, Op 23, dating from 1902, was written for a memorial event celebrating the life of Julius Zeyer (1841–1901). Zeyer was a writer of novels and epic poems steeped in the history and legends of Bohemia. His influence on Suk was second only to Dvorák’s, and was made stronger by its association with the happiest years of his life around the time of his marriage to Otilie. In 1897–8 Suk composed incidental music for Zeyer’s dramatic fairy-tale Radúz a Mahulena, from which a suite became popular. Two years later Zeyer asked Suk to write music for his next play, Pod jabloní (‘Under the apple-trees’).

The Elegy is subtitled ‘Under the impression of Zeyer’s Vyšehrad’. This is an epic poem written in 1880 and set in Czech antiquity, Vyšehrad being the ancient fortress on a rock overlooking the river in Prague, which figures prominently in Czech national legends (it had already given the title to the first movement of Smetana’s orchestral cycle Má vlast in 1875). The Elegy was originally written for the unusual combination of string sextet with harp and harmonium, but was then re-scored for piano trio. If the harp and harmonium gave a romantic sense of the antique, the version for piano trio gives full voice to Suk’s rich lyricism. A yearning phrase is repeated and developed by violin and cello. There is a brief, passionate interruption, and the melody returns again. A second interruption acknowledges Suk’s great mentor Dvorák with a glancing reference to a phrase from his recent opera Rusalka before the melody winds its way to a peaceful conclusion.

from notes by Robert Philip © 2008

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