Still in his mid-twenties, Jakub Hruša is a conductor to look out for. A pupil of Jirí Belohlávek, he has built up a formidable career in Europe and America. Here he draws superb playing from the orchestra which Belohlávek founded.
Dvorák’s American Suite can easily seem square and uninspired but Hruša directs a magical performance.
The descending opening phrase immediately brings echoes of a spiritual. It is fresh and rustic-sounding, growing more magnetic as it is repeated in melodic ostinato. The Trio brings a brisk idea like a Slavonic Dance, and the lively second-movement Allegro offers a lyrical Trio. The Moderato third movement echoes a polonaise or polacca in its light and jaunty dotted rhythms. The fourth movement is a warmly lyrical Nocturne opening with a lovely oboe theme, while the vigorous finale brings folk-like accented repeated chords again with oboe prominent, slowing down before a final brisk pay-off.
The two items by Josef Suk are given similarly fresh and inspired performances. Suk was still in his teens and a pupil of Dvorák when in 1892 he completed his Serenade for Strings, and it remains one of his most delightful works. There are many echoes of Dvorák, not least in the long third-movement Adagio; but already Suk was beginning to reveal a distinctive voice, and the writing for strings throughout is astonishingly assured for a teenager.
The Scherzo fantastique is darker and more distinctive, inventive in its contrasted sections, with a swinging episode in triple-time lightening the mood with a waltz-like episode. Again Hruša’s performance could not be more winning, and the Supraphon recording is full and vivid.