Czech composer and violinist Josef Suk was born in 1874 and from an early age was taught piano, organ and violin by his father, a choral director in Krecovice, Bohemia. Young Josef entered Prague Conservatory the age of 11 and stayed on there to study with the great Antonín Dvorák, becoming his best student. The two men developed a close relationship and Suk married Dvorák’s daughter, Otilie. A son was born in 1902 at this very happy time in Suk’s life, when he wrote several solo piano works including the six piano pieces of Op 7 featuring his beautiful ‘Song of Love’, which became a standard recital piece. Sadly, when Dvorák died in 1904 and Otilie a year later, their deaths had a devastating impact on Suk. His early Romantic style work was replaced by more introspective and complex compositions infused with emotion. The early works on this new CD channel something of the same life-affirming Czech spirit that was also characteristic of Dvorák, though they also reveal considerable individuality in both melodic writing and structure. There is also a strong tendency toward expressive melancholy well before the dual tragedies of the deaths of his wife and father-in-law. As well as the passionate Song of Love, Suk’s Op 7 collection includes his early Capriccietto (originally called ‘Melody’), two waltz-like Idylls, a brief Humoresque, Recollections, and Dumka, greatly influenced by Dvorák’s style. The CD opens with the joyful Spring and also includes three Summer impressions (first performed in Berlin by Artur Schnabel, who Suk described as ‘one of the world’s greatest pianists’) as well as the concluding five Moods—impressive pieces that are a delight to listen to yet place considerable demands on the performer. Pianist Jonathan Plowright here makes a persuasive case for a composer whose music is at last emerging from the shadows.