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RECORDING OF THE MONTH

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Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841 - 1904)
Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 53 (1884)
Romance in F Minor Op. 11 (1877)
Joseph SUK (1874 - 1935)

Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 24 (1902)
Josef Suk (violin)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Karel Ančerl

Part of the Karel Ančerl Gold Edition remastered in 24 bit sound
Rec. Rudolfinum Hall, Prague, August 1961. ADD
SUPRAPHON SU 3668-2 [69:16]

 

I first purchased this version of the Violin Concerto and Romance on a mono Supraphon vinyl disc back in the early 1960s when I was at University. I was completely bowled over by the freshness and vivacity of the playing, as well as the rustic nature of the woodwind, and not so impressed by the gritty surfaces of the disc about which not much could be done.

When it at last reached CD, I purchased it and was delighted to find that the surfaces had quietened significantly, but that the recording had taken on a raucous tone which, whilst it could be tamed by judicious filtering, was rather put out of court when compared with other versions. Supraphon has now remastered the Concerto and Romance, and has added the Suk Fantasia. What makes this disc an absolutely essential purchase is the remastering through which Supraphon has managed to improve the sound quality above all expectations. Gone is the raucous sound, thus allowing us to enjoy the mastery of Dvořák’s grandson-in-law, and the accompaniment of the Czech Philharmonic inspired by its conductor Karel Ančerl.

Ančerl took over the Czech Philharmonic in 1950, in rather strange circumstances. His was a political, rather that a musical appointment. It was done without the agreement of the orchestra, which no doubt caused the young conductor some considerable difficulties. These were soon overcome, and the Czech Philharmonic became, under Ančerl’s leadership, one of the finest of the aristocratic European orchestras. Together they recorded a wide repertoire and Supraphon has left us in their debt by planning the release of the whole of their Ančerl recordings on a series of 42 CDs many of which are now available. Others remain to be released. All have been or are to be remastered. As a memorial of Ančerl’s work they form a wonderful tribute to one of the finest of Eastern European conductors.

Making up the rest of the disc is Joseph Suk’s memorable performance of his father’s Fantasia in G minor for violin and orchestra. This is an equally arresting performance as the Concerto. In the latter work, the opening is just as dramatic a start as any in the catalogue, preparing us for a performance, which combines drama and delicacy balanced perfectly by soloist and orchestra alike. In this performance, the then characteristic tone of the Czech woodwind instruments matched with the superb string section sounds absolutely right. Ančerl’s ability to conjure up the necessary rustic atmosphere to point up the soloist’s superb rendition is also a vital contribution to the proceedings. The slow movement is a study in tenderness and both soloist and conductor are in complete accord with the composer’s inspiration. The energy of the finale has to be heard to be believed. These are competitive performances; eat your hearts out. Throughout, the wonderful acoustic of the Rudolfinum, enhances the performances, making listening an absolute joy.

Suk’s technique cannot be faulted and I cannot imagine anyone not being totally bowled over by this performance. Dvořák’s Violin Concerto is not generally reckoned to be as good as the major violin concerti by other composers. In this performance Dvořák need fear no competition.

Well done Supraphon – you have a winner here, and what should be a well deserved best-seller.
John Phillips

 

 



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