Dvorák, Suk

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WORKS: Violin Concerto in A minor; Romance, Op. 11. Fantasy, Op. 24
PERFORMER: Pamela Frank (violin)Czech PO/Charles Mackerras
CATALOGUE NO: 460 316-2


For once the orchestra is the decisive factor in a concerto. Dvorák’s for violin has a diffuse beginning to thank for most of its problems. Making a unified experience is hard, and the work is played less often than its beauties deserve. The Czech Philharmonic with Mackerras leaps into action with such springy rhythms and onward momentum that the solo entries initially reduce the excitement: clean and lyrical, short on fire. But this is a slow burner. Decca’s sound catches the glow of the strings and the ring of the horns. The touch is light, the slow movement more andante than adagio, and the effect of Frank’s fine lines and unforced singing tone is cumulative. Certainly the tempo pays off in relieving Dvorák’s stodgy scoring when the orchestra takes the big tune, and it allows a lovely final expansion. The finale keeps steady and dances to its brilliantly tautened end. Both the other pieces suit Frank’s poise and subtle dynamics. The Romance lilts across the depths; you just sense darker overtones. With Suk they are inescapable, but the music’s unpredictable sequence of events draws sparkle and imagination, and the playing is properly more vigorous. In sum these performances succeed as totalities, grounded in characteristic orchestral colour and firm direction, confident to let the music speak and inspiring strong affection. The classic coupling remains grandson Suk’s with the same orchestra, made three decades ago, but for comparable directness and modern sound the Czech Philharmonic helps make the new issue a better alternative than even Accardo. Robert Maycock