SUK Josef, Mediation on the Old Czech Chorale
Josef Suk, a student of Antonín Dvořák and later his son-in-law, was a composer with a distinct artistic voice and strong ties to Czech musical heritage. His composition, the “Meditation on an Old Czech Chorale,” pays homage to the Bohemian patron saint, St. Wenceslas, and was written when a member of the Bohemian String Quartet to supplement the obligatory playing of the Austrian national anthem (after 1914) with a more distinctively Bohemian piece, and prayer for the wellbeing of the Czech people.
The “Meditation on an Old Czech Chorale’” is a single-movement for string quartet, which was later expanded into a version for string orchestra, adding a double bass line, and later still adapted for violin and organ. Suk‘s use of the violin as the leading voice enhances the expressive nature of the piece, allowing for moments of spiritual contemplation. The work commences with a solemn and tender introduction, featuring the initial statement of the hymn melody. Through subtle variations, this simple melody moves from serene introspection to intense and soaring passages as a recurring motif. The piece reaches a climax with the violin in its highest register, conveying a profound yearning. It gradually fades away, into tranquility.