Why did you decide to record the Dvořák Violin Concerto?
I first played the Dvořák Concerto four or five years ago and fell in love with it. I had to learn it in a very short time for a Radio 3 broadcast – I got a month’s notice. I decided that it was a piece I’d like to champion. I get the feeling that this piece has been a little neglected. Joseph Joachim [the virtuoso violinist to whom Dvořák dedicated the Concerto] didn’t ever play it. It’s a piece that seems to be problematic in how it’s put together, so I tried my best to play it in a way I thought might work.
What are the problems posed by the piece?
It’s quite a long concerto and technically very demanding. The last movement is very long. [But] I would say there aren’t any problems if you play it in a way that comes naturally. I have been to live performances where it hasn’t quite made sense. I think perhaps it doesn’t work when people don’t explore the piece enough. That approach works with some pieces – they’re so perfectly written that they don’t need anything doing to them – I think this concerto needs a little manipulation to balance everything out in terms of colour and nuance.
And you’ve followed the Violin Concerto with Dvořák’s Sonata and Sonatina…
Everyone plays the Sonatina as a child; people consider it to be a child’s piece and don’t take it much further than that. The Sonata is never played at all and people say it’s not a very good piece. But I hate preconceptions so I learnt it and really like it. I thought the three would make a compelling disc of pieces that aren’t played so often.
Do you have a favourite moment on the disc?
I love the two slow movements in the Sonata and Sonatina. That’s another example of where the pieces need a tiny bit of manipulation. If you go by what’s written it’s all the same tempo and feels a bit stodgy. We [Liebeck and pianist Katya Apekisheva] played around with some of the tempi just to move things on a bit, and I think it’s worked really nicely. I don’t know why but I always seem to enjoy the slow movements of pieces. Not because they’re easy or anything! It’s the opportunity to sing and be expressive.
And what’s next?
My second disc out with Sony is going to be the Brahms sonatas. A lot of people say, well don’t you want to wait until you’re 64, with a pot belly and a beard, before you record Brahms? I always feel like I’m ready now. And maybe it’s interesting to see the progress. You can have someone at 27 playing the sonatas and then someone at 40, it doesn’t necessarily mean the recording at 27 was a lesser recording. It’s from a different time of your life. And I’m happy with the Dvořák. I just hope that people enjoy it.
Interview by Rebecca Franks
CD: Dvořák: Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53 – Finale: Allegro giocoso ma non troppo
Audio clip: Dvořák: Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53; Sonata in F, Op. 57*; Sonatina in G, Op. 100*
Jack Liebeck (violin), *Katya Apekisheva (piano); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Garry Walker
Sony Classical 88697499632
To buy this disc from HMV, click here
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