• Geoffrey Dean

Boston Symphony Cellist-Composers: August Suck

Updated: May 28

Listen to Suck's Tarantella here





Originally from Bremen, Germany, August Suck (“Sook”; March 16, 1837-Aug. 18, 1921)/1/ was a member of the Boston Symphony cello section for the orchestra’s first four seasons (1881-4)./2/ Two years after his German solo debut in 1852, Suck joined his violinist brother Frederick in Boston. Both brothers were selected for the 30-member orchestra of the new Boston Theatre, and the 17-year-old August played what was literally the first publicly-heard note at the theatre, because Rossini’s William Tell Overture, with its famous opening cello solo, was the first piece on that inaugural program. August Suck’s association with the theatre spanned a half-century, with an interruption during the Civil War years, when he studied with A. F. Servais at the Brussels Conservatory, conducted an orchestra in Leipzig, and concertized in Sweden and Switzerland./3/ Upon his return to Boston, Suck performed cello solos by Romberg and Servais on Boston Orchestral Union concerts “in a highly artistic and acceptable manner.”/4/


Suck was the cello teacher at the Boston Conservatory from its 1867 inception, and was also on the teaching staff of the Boston Music School and the New England Conservatory./5/ A Practical Violoncello Instruction Book, a compilation of existing pedagogical materials published in 1879, was a collaboration between Suck and another resident Boston cellist, original BSO first cellist Wulf Fries (“Freeze”)./6/ Long before the formation of the BSO, Fries and Suck had often shared a stand in orchestral and oratorio concerts of the Harvard Musical Association, the Handel and Haydn Society, and other Boston musical organizations./7/ Suck’s occasional forays into longer-term chamber music associations include his stint as the original cellist of the Listemann Quartet, founded in 1869, which prompted the comment that “Mr. Suck, we all know, next to Mr. Fries, is unsurpassed among our violoncellists.”/8/

Williams College emeritus cello professor Douglas B. Moore owns the original manuscripts to a number of August Suck's cello works, and has prepared their first modern editions of the Cello Concerto in D Minor, Six Caprices for cello solo, and the Tarantella featured here./9/ Dated 1879, the Tarantella may have been intended as a concert piece for Suck’s students, and might have been performed from manuscript. It lies very comfortably on the cello and achieves a bravura flair without any formidable technical challenges. The accompaniment is unobtrusive and easily sightreadable for the experienced pianist. Perhaps most importantly, the Tarantella is a lot of fun to play! To explore Suck’s cello music, go to Dr. Moore’s “Play Moore Cello” website.


NOTES


1. “Noted Cellist To Be Buried Tomorrow” in Boston Globe, April 21, 1921, p. 3

2. M. A. DeWolfe Howe, The Boston Symphony Orchestra: An Historical Sketch (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1914), p. 249

3. see note 1

4. “Orchestral Union. The Afternoon Concert of Wednesday, the 20th…” in Dwight’s Journal of Music, March 30, 1867, p. 7

5. “Musical Conservatories” in Dwight’s Journal of Music, Feb. 16, 1867, p. 399

6. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1049277356

7. “The Harvard Symphony Concerts” in Boston Globe, Dec. 7, 1879, p. 3

8. “Quartet Matinees” in Dwight’s Journal of Music, Feb. 27, 1869, p. 407

9. “Music by August Suck” at http://www.playmoorecello.com/index.php/buy-arrangements/music-by-august-suck, last accessed on June 5, 2021

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