Franz Suk – Fantasy op. 24
Antonin Dvořák – Violin Concerto op. 53, Romance op. 11
Christian Tetzlaff, violin
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
John Storgårds, conductor
This recording is original for at least two reasons: the first is that it brings together three compositions written by father and son-in-law (Josep Suk had married Antonin Dvořák’s daughter); the second, is that the three compositions, Fantasy, Concert and Romance, are the only works dedicated to solo violin by both composers. Actually, Dvořák wrote also a Mazurka, op. 49, which is not presented here, but Suk limited himself to Fantasy.
Dvořák’s Romance, op. 11, is the last of the pieces of the album, but it was the first to be written, in 1877, at the request of music director of the Prague Interim Theatre for the annual concert for the pension’s fund of the theatre’s chorus and orchestra. In this piece, Dvořák joined new ideas and existing materials, taken from the String Quartet in F minor (op. 9). The composition of the Concerto was far more complex and requested many changes to satisfy the violinist Joseph Joachim, who in the end never played it in public. The first public performance took place on the 14th October 1883 in Prague, conducted by Dvořák himself, while his friend František Ondříček, who replaced Joachim, played the violin part.
Josep Suk, lesser known than his father-in-law, has never given a strong national character to his compositions and he tried instead to find his own compositional freedom between the overwhelming figures of Dvořák and Smetana. The Fantasy for violin and orchestra (op. 24), composed in 1902 and performed for the first time six years later, does not correspond to the classical violin concerto and actually it would be difficult to adapt it (as many have tried to do) to a scheme clearly characterized by three movements (fast-slow-fast), because it changes time constantly, without respecting any standard.
In the present recording, the three compositions are performed by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by John Storgårds, with Christian Tetzlaff as violin soloist. Tetzlaff plays beautifully, with a secure technique and a prodigious virtuosity, and the sound of the violin is also beautiful, because it is not too shrill and is rather mellow. On the part of Storgårds, it would have better a little more tension, especially in Dvořák’s Concerto, making the whole thing more incisive, but his performance is still very good and his direction remains sumptuous, clean and shiny. The best part is, in my opinion, the final movement of the Concerto (Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo), where the orchestra plays with exquisite taste, as you can hear right from the beginning.