Josef Suk (1929-2011)

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Czech violinist and great-grandson of Dvořák, has died at the age of 81

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The renowned Czech violinist Josef Suk has died at the age of 81.

He came from a formidably musical family: Suk’s grandfather was the composer and violinist Josef Suk (1847-1935) and his great grandfather, on his mother's side, was Antonín Dvořák.

The young Suk was given his first violin at the age of 6 by his composer grandfather, who died shortly afterwards and never heard his grandson play.

Suk studied at the Prague Conservatoire where he learnt with Jaroslav Kocián and gave his first public performance at the age of 11. He remained a pupil of Kocián's for several years and later in life Suk kept his teacher's death mask in his sitting room.

In 1951 he established the Suk Trio, which particularly focused on Czech repertoire, including Dvořák, Smetana and Suk although his main passion lay in giving solo performances. Czechoslovakia’s communist government made travelling difficult but did allow Suk on foreign tours with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and in 1961 he was given an official post as a soloist with the orchestra.

His one and only performance at the Proms was in 1964 when he joined the BBC Symphony Orchestra to perform his great-grandfather’s Violin Concerto and Mozart’s G major Concerto.

Among his recordings are the Sonatas and Partitas of Bach and concertos by Bartók and Berg. As recently as last year he released a disc called Songs My Great-Grandfather Taught Me of works by Dvořák with pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy.

In 1999 he was awarded his country’s highest medal for merit and was also a National Artist in the Czech Republic. He is survived by his wife, Marie.

Alice Gräfin Grote