Dvorak - Violin Concerto, Romance; Suk - Fantasy
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Cat No: ODE12795
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 26th February 2016
WorksRomance in F minor, op.11
Violin Concerto in A minor, op.53
Fantasy in G minor, op.24
ArtistsChristian Tetzlaff (violin)
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Dvořak’s Violin Concerto is a work which the composer worked and reworked probably more than any other composition. This technically demanding work for the soloist was originally dedicated to Joseph Joachim who, however, never played it in public. Nevertheless, after its publication by Simrock in April 1883 its fame spread like wildfire and it was adopted into the repertoire of countless leading violinists, to widespread acclaim from public and critics alike. Dvořak’s Romance, op.11 is a delightful work written a few years before the concerto and arranged for violin and orchestra by the composer.
Josef Suk, Dvořak’s pupil and later his son-in-law, was a remarkable violinist. It is surprising that the wonderful Fantasy, op.24 written in 1902 – a neglected gem in the violin repertoire – is his only concertante work for the violin. This work requires a wide spectrum of violin technique such as double-stopping, playing on open strings, and virtuoso runs, which demand a delicate grasp of voice and sequence.
1Suk - Fantasy in G minor, op.24
2Dvorak - Violin Concerto in A minor, op.53 - I. Allegro ma non troppo
3Dvorak - Violin Concerto in A minor, op.53 - II. Adagio ma non troppo
4Dvorak - Violin Concerto in A minor, op.53 - III. Allegro giocoso ma non troppo
5Dvorak - Romance in F minor, op.11
Tetzlaff’s latest account of the Dvořák Concerto reaps the benefits of long experience: he knows every nook and cranny of this music, which he negotiates with a deft hand and a wide tonal palette. While never losing sight of the overall lightness of mood, he knows when to dig in a little more to the textures, bringing out the passion of the opening movement, and the drama of the hymn-like Adagio’s central minor-key section (aided by some exquisite wooodwind and horn playing). The finale is a real delight, properly giocoso for the rondo theme, but with nicely contrasted episodes in between. There’s a taut muscularity to the Tetzlaff’s tone that with any other performer might sit ill with Dvořák’s music, but he knows exactly when and how best to deploy it (the minor-key gypsy-like theme in the third movement is a case in point), and it raises the stature of the work as a whole.
The Romance then provides the loveliest of foils to close the disc, in a performance of melting delicacy and poise. It’s music of real depth, but with an easy, folk-like manner that speaks directly to the soul, and orchestra and soloist seem perfectly attuned to conveying this with playing of limpid loveliness. Even against some very strong competition in the catalogue, this new disc makes an immensely strong impression.
So, too, does another Dvořák disc, on the Pentatone label and with Czech forces (see here). Rising star Jakub Hrůša (principal conductor designate of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra) conducts the PKF-Prague Philharmonia in the composer’s five self-standing overtures. Two of them, My Home and Hussite, were written for performance with plays, and have strongly patriotic subjects which the Prague musicians know how to tap into without overdoing things. These are robust but carefully-honed performances, which comfortably withstand repeated listening.
It’s the other three works, however, that provide the real meat here: the ‘Nature, Life and Love’ trilogy of the early 1890s. Bound together by a recurring theme said to represent the composer himself, In Nature’s Realm, Carnival and Othello represent a transitional phase between the non-programmatic world of the symphonies and the detailed narratives of the late symphonic poems. Where Hrůša’s performances really make their mark is in the loving care with which they’ve been prepared: there may have been more characterful performances, but few if any which so consistently bring out the sheer beauty of Dvořák’s writing. Even with the Prague Philharmonia’s smaller forces, there’s a radiant bloom to the sound which enhances both the high spirits of Carnival and the high drama of Othello. In a far from crowded market, this new release will be warmly received by Dvořák lovers.
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