Hudební Věda

Josef Suk and Universal-Edition Wien. A Critical Edition of Mutual Correspondence

article summary

Lenka Křupková

The critical edition of correspondence between Josef Suk and the publishing house Universal-Edition Wien presents a collection of previously unpublished letters currently kept in the manuscript library of Wienbibliothek im Rathaus. The correspondence clarifies the circumstances surrounding the publication of Josef Suk’s Pohádka léta (A Summer’s Tale), a tone poem for large orchestra op. 29, the only composition by Suk issued by Universal-Edition. The edition contains letters originally written in German, translated into Czech and supplemented by critical comments. The edition itself is preceded by a study with an opening part presenting an overview of Suk’s cooperation with different publishers up to the founding of independent Czechoslovakia. The following section is focused on the specific terms of contract and the actual process of the publication of Pohádka léta. The author of the paper examines why there was no further cooperation between Suk and the renowned Viennese publishing house, despite the composer´s initial serious interest in such cooperation. Among other factors, she finds a possible answer to this question in the reception of the composition´s Vienna premiere in November 1910, by Tonkünstler-Orchester Wien, with Oskar Nedbal conducting. Although the critics appreciated the composition´s bold harmony and its sonic qualities, rather than acclaiming this particular work, they reserved most of their praise for the composer's earlier output. Especially the more conservative reviewers regarded his use of modern compositional techniques as an unfortunate deflection in the development of the composer's style, with Julius Korngold for example labelling Suk an “errant artist”. Obviously, the very attributes that were bringing Suk closer to Arnold Schoenberg, with whom the Universal-Edition began to cooperate simultaneously, would have been found most attractive by a publisher focusing on contemporary progressive music production. The most probable explanation for the termination of the relations between Josef Suk and the Universal- Edition appears to be the composer´s personal decision resulting from his dissatisfaction with the technical format of the published work which came out in the publisher´s inexpensive autograph series. Alongside Pohádka léta, the Universal-Edition published Vítězslav Novák´s symphonic poem V Tatrách (In the Tatras), in a rather costly and more presentable format. Its composer, a contemporary of Suk’s, was also a pupil of Dvořák, and Suk´s natural rival in this field of music.

Key words: critical edition; correspondence; Josef Suk; Universal-Edition Wien; A Summer’s Tale

Translated by Ivan Vomáčka