1906: Suk: Asrael Symphony in C minor, age 32

Mr. Peabody Says:

Suk’s greatest inspiration came from Dvorak, one of his teachers. He married Dvorak’s daughter, Otilie, in 1898. They had one child, a son, also named Josef, that same year. However, in the span of 14 months around 1905, not only Dvorak died but also Otilie, who was only 27.

Jiří Bělohlávek

  1. Andante sostenuto
  2. Andante
  3. Vivace
  4. Adagio
  5. Adagio e maestoso


  • piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets in Bb (A, Eb), bass clarinet,
    2 bassoons, contrabassoon
  • 6 horns (horns V and VI ad lib), 3 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, tuba
  • timpani, triangle, cymbals, bass drum, harp
  • strings.

The inspiration of  Suk’s “Asrael Symphony”:

Suk began to compose his funeral symphony at the beginning of 1905, about eight months after Dvořák’s death. The composition was titled after Asrael (Azrael), known as the angel of death in the Old Testament. Suk completed the sketches of three movements less than a half year later. On 6 July 1905, while Suk was in the middle of the work, his wife Otilie died. Although the composition was to be also a celebration of Dvořák’s life and work, the desolated composer rejected the optimistic tone of the rest of the work. Suk himself recalled:

The fearsome Angel of Death struck with his scythe a second time. Such a misfortune either destroys a man or brings to the surface all the powers dormant in him. Music saved me and after a year I began the second part of the symphony, beginning with an adagio, a tender portrait of Otilka.

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