Dvorák * Janácek * Suk

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Janacek,Suk
LABELS: Nimbus
ALBUM TITLE: Dvorák * Janácek * Suk
WORKS: Dvorák: Violin Concerto; Janácek: Violin Concerto ‘The wandering of a little soul’; Suk: Fantasy in G minor, Op. 24
PERFORMER: Josef Spacek (violin); Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Jirí Belohlávek
CATALOGUE NO: SU 4182-2

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This is a boldly imaginative gathering of Czech works for solo violin and orchestra. Suk’s Fantasy from 1903 is a terrific blend of storm and stress with soulful introspection, passion and charm in fruitful alternation. Rather too long to be a curtain-raiser, the Fantasy is not quite long enough to count as a full blown concerto which perhaps counts against its becoming part of the standard repertoire outside the Czech lands. Josef Spacek, with Jirí Belohlávek’s wonderfully attentive orchestral accompaniment, produces a near-ideal interpretation. Janácek’s Concerto – with its intriguing title, The Wandering of a Little Soul – is, in fact, a reconstruction from sketches. Janácek had intended for a violin concerto in 1926, but the material was diverted into the opera From the House of the Dead. Leos Faltus and Milos Stedron’s realisation of the work is attractive, if somewhat lightweight, but with an incisively dramatic reading, Belohlávek and Spacek make the best of this curiously shaped piece.

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The Dvorák, which is likely to be the main event for most listeners, is by any standards given a handsome performance. In a well-balanced recording, there is a wealth of orchestral detail to savour in the first movement. And yet, particularly in the secondary material, there is sometimes a lack of energy. Many will warm to Spacek’s soft-grained tone, especially in the slow movement; the finale, while flawless in tone, doesn’t really sweep the listener away. Isabelle Faust’s magical performance, again with Belohlávek, though with the Prague Philharmonia Orchestra (on Harmonia Mundi), remains a clear front runner. Jan Smaczny