LABELS: Toccata Classics
WORKS: Song Transcriptions for Violin/Viola and Piano: Gypsy Songs, Op. 55; Love Songs, Op. 83; Biblical Songs, Op. 99 etc
PERFORMER: Josef Suk (violin, viola), Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: TOCC 0100
With its avowed commitment to recording unjustly neglected repertory it may seem rather strange for Toccata Classics to be featuring works by such a mainstream figure as Dvorák. Yet with a few notable exceptions the great composer’s songs are hardly well-known outside the Czech Republic, so the opportunity to hear these evocative and melodious miniatures in affectionate and warmly recorded performances from these great musicians should not be passed up lightly.
The transcriptions made by Dvorák’s great-grandson Josef Suk remain entirely respectful to the composer’s original vocal lines,
the only deviation being that the tessitura is often moved up an octave in the second or third verse of a strophic song. The Gypsy Songs that kick-start the programme, including the ubiquitous ‘Songs my mother taught me’, present some particularly fiery gems, and a deep vein of longing runs through the Op. 83 Love Songs.
For the later Biblical Songs Suk employs the more mellow and honeyed tones of the viola, which is an apposite decision given the music’s intimacy. I find the final song from the 11th of the Op. 32 Moravian Duets, in which Suk double-tracks both parts on the viola, particularly captivating. Erik Levi