S0406. JOSEF SUK, w.Neumann Cond. Czech Phil.: Violin Concerti Nos. 1 & 2; Viola Rhapsody-Concerto (both Martinu). (Czech Republic) Supraphon 3967, recorded 1974-89. - 099925396725
“I am overwhelmed on all counts by this Supraphon reissue. It is made even more attractive by the inclusion of this composer’s Rhapsody Concerto with Suk playing the viola….This is an absolute ‘must-have’.”
- Carl Bauman, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/August, 2009
"There have been and still are some notable new recordings and re-issues coming out to commemorate Bohuslav Martinu, but this one is one of the best, and also a re-issue of crucial importance because the violinist Josef Suk was the one to premiere the Violin Concerto #1 in 1973, under the baton of Georg Solti. Composed in 1933 but then mislaid for 40 years, it is a work bustling with rhythmic energy, lyricism and a mature grasp of the medium. The violinist Samuel Dushkin, for whom this work was written, kept demanding that technical modifications be made to showcase his virtuosity. However, he never had the chance to perform it because the composer suddenly left for the United States and mislaid the score in the process. This important concerto has two outer movements full of spiky harmonics similar to Bartok and a beautiful central slow movement where the violin sings high above the orchestral fabric below.
The Concerto #2 was written ten years later for the Russian violinist Mischa Elman. It is a much darker and emotional work, in many aspects resembling a symphony. The Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola and Orchestra which rounds out this fine CD was composed in 1952, and displays an even greater maturiy and skill, and showcases the instrument's dark tone and lyrical nature perfectly.
What really makes these performances stand out is that both Josef Suk and Václav Neumann are champions of Czech music and master interpreters of the music of Bohuslav Martinu. They bring to the score a shared heritage and instinctive understanding of what lies behind the notes. If you are unfamiliar with this composer, this is a good entry point. If you are versed in this music, this recording deserves a place in your collection."
- Jean-Yves Duperron
“Josef Suk, a Czech violinist who was known for his warm-toned interpretations of works by Mozart, Beethoven, Debussy and Janacek as well as for his lineage was a great-grandson of Dvorak and a grandson of the turn-of-the-century violinist and composer also named Josef Suk. Tall, elegant and silver-haired, Mr. Suk, at the height of his career, projected a thoughtfulness and an authority in his music-making that more than compensated for his disinclination to wrap his performances in technical flashiness. When he made his New York debut, playing the Dvorak Violin Concerto - later one of his signature pieces - with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in February 1964, Harold C. Schoenberg wrote in THE NEW YORK TIMES that Mr. Suk had a big sound and precise intonation, and that he ‘played with strength, with assurance and with all the rhythm that this seldom-played but attractive concerto needs’. In New York, Mr. Suk was a frequent guest of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center from the 1970s through the 1990s, often appearing in programs that drew heavily on Czech music, to which he brought a measure of authenticity.
Josef Suk was born in Prague on Aug. 8, 1929, and gave his first public performance, as a child prodigy, in 1940. His main teacher, from childhood through 1950, when he was studying at the Prague Conservatory, was Jaroslav Kocian. After Mr. Kocian’s death, Mr. Suk continued his studies at the Prague Academy and led the orchestra of the Prague National Theater from 1953 to 1955. At the same time, he was performing with the Prague String Quartet as first violinist and with the Suk Trio, which he formed in 1952 with Jan Panenka, the pianist, and Josef Chuchro, the cellist.
Though Mr. Suk had performed in Paris and Brussels in 1948, he began his mature touring career in 1959, making his British and American debuts in 1964. He started the Suk Chamber Orchestra in 1974 and was its conductor and artistic director until 2000. He also began performing as a violist in the early 1970s. Mr. Suk’s devotion to chamber music led him to form other alliances, some short term but several for extended projects. Among them were a duo with the harpsichordist Zuzana Ruziekova and a trio with the pianist Julius Katchen and the cellist Janos Starker.”
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 8 July, 2011