Dvorák: Violin Concerto

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COMPOSERS: Dvorak
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata in F, Op. 57; Violin Sonatina in G, Op. 100
PERFORMER: Jack Liebeck (violin), Katya Apekisheva (piano); Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Garry Walker
CATALOGUE NO: 88697499632

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For all its apparent spontaneity, Dvorák’s Violin Concerto was one of his most revised works before it saw the light of day in 1883. Dedicating it to the great German violinist, Joseph Joachim, Dvorák was conscious that his new concerto would be the object of acute scrutiny, not least by Joachim’s close friend Brahms.

With this in mind, Dvorák repeatedly revised his score, taking on board Joachim’s suggestions and at one point writing to his publisher that not a single bar had been left untouched. The whole process took three years and yet his final version of the Concerto gives no impression of being laboured.

This slightly distant-sounding recording begins very promisingly with Jack Liebeck shaping the opening cadenzas with both passion and care for detail. Unfortunately, the thread of the first movement’s cogent musical argument is lost in the subsidiary material which sees both soloist and orchestra slowing markedly. This is a real pity since they deliver a remarkably fine performance of the slow movement, with exquisite playing from the horns and woodwind in particular, and a robust and appealing reading of the finale.

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The accompanying works comprise the rarely performed F major Sonata and the extremely familiar G major Sonatina. Liebeck, splendidly partnered by Katya Apekisheva, gives an excellent account of the former with no sign of the dithering that marred the first movement of the Concerto and an open-hearted, buoyant reading of the latter. A number of fine alternatives for the Concerto are available, including Suk’s classic account. Jan Smaczny