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Josef Bohuslav FOERSTER (1859-1951)
Violin Concerto No. 1 in C minor op. 88 (1910-11) [31:22]
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor op. 104 (1925-26) [33:47]
Ivan Ženatý (violin)
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jiří Bĕlohlávek
rec. live, public concert, Barbican, London, 8 December 2007 (1); BBC Maida Vale studio, London, 4-5 December 2007 (2). DDD
world premiere complete recording
SUPRAPHON SU3961-2 [65:23]
Experience Classicsonline

Foerster's gently emphatic muse has gradually returned to the listening public's attention. The Fourth Symphony has been recorded some four times, most recently as part of MDG's complete sequence of the five symphonies. His operas Eva and The Lantern have been recorded by Supraphon over the years.
The present disc is one of a series of BBC-Supraphon collaborations. We have seen them before with various Martinů items and the presence of Bĕlohlávek as principal conductor of the BBCSO bodes well for more, I hope.
Foerster is not one for excoriating passions. For him, on the heard evidence, we are not addressing a Tchaikovskian disciple of the passions. No Francesca da Rimini here. Foerster is more attuned to Dvořák. The symphonies are agitated and exuberant but the intensity never goes beyond the heat of Dvorak's Seventh and Eight symphonies or Othello; nothing wrong with that. The pleasing First Violin Concerto can best be cross-referenced close to the Dvořák Violin Concerto with cross-fertilisation from say the Delius Concerto. The lyrical-meditative is in the ascendant. The finale is a sweetly gracious dancing figure which might have escaped from some summery flower festival. The audience's warm applause is included in the case of No. 1. The note-writer tells us that this Concerto is closely linked to his opera The Unvanquished in which the central character is a composer and violinist - so autobiographical elements may be expected. The work is dedicated to Jan Kubelik who premiered the work in Chicago with Frederick Stock on 12 October 1910.
The Second Concerto was premiered in Brno by Karel Hoffmann on 19 January 1927. In fact, the work having emerged eight years after the end of the Great War, I detect a deeper emotional note. This is Brahms meets Delius. We hear a rhapsodic tender and spontaneous flowing grace rather like Bruch. The finale has the same playful countenance as the equivalent in the first concerto. The work has the same mien as the still puzzlingly unrecorded Violin Concerto by Haydn Wood.
Two cantabile late romantic violin concertos which avoid the emotional hothouse.
Rob Barnett


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