Antonín DVORAK (1841-1904)
Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53. Mazurek, Op.
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20. Carmen Fantasy, Op.
Akiko Suwanai (violin);
Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván
Philips 464 531-2
This is a remarkable record. I have little hesitation in placing the performance
of the Dvorák as a first choice. The remaining items on the disc are
despatched with a stunning command of the violin, coupled with much innate
Initially, the photo of Suwanai on the back cover of the booklet rang all
sorts of alarm bells. She is depicted as some sort of Asian doll. Publicity
departments of record companies have had a lot to answer for in the past,
and here their chosen image seems to run contrary to the aural evidence of
the disc, which shows a musician of considerable maturity (the absolutely
stunning front cover is infinitely more tasteful).
The Sarasate pieces that open the disc are the stuff of virtuosos, but even
here Suwanai imbues them with a compulsive musicality which means they never
degenerate into mere kitsch. Her technique is more than equal to their formidable
demands, but possibly what remains in the mind most is her ability to thin
her sound to a magical thread at exactly the right moment. The Carmen
Fantasy is gripping, the effect of the whole enhanced immeasurably by
Fischer's shadow-like accompaniment.
Dvorák's Mazurek provides much more than a bridge to the world
of his Violin Concerto: Suwanai shows her affinity to the Bohemian world
here whilst simultaneously relishing the technical challenges. But it is
the Concerto that ensures this disc's lasting place in my library. She loses
nothing to the competition (most notably, perhaps, Josef Suk with Ancerl
on Supraphon SU19282). The rapport between Fischer and Suwanai is at its
height here: they project the musical argument in the most ardent, committed
terms. Suwanai is remarkably sweet-toned throughout, showing the more lyrical,
yearning side of her nature perfectly in the slow movement. The finale's
pointed furiant rhythms bring the piece to a spirited, lively close.
I cannot recommend this disc highly enough. The recording is clear and well
balanced, capturing every nuance. For those new to Dvorák's Violin
Concerto, this record will come as a revelation. A friend of mine (whose
musical judgement I trust) heard Suwanai in Japan several years ago and described
her as typical of the Oriental, technically perfect but musically lacking
school. It would appear that Akiko Suwanai has grown up.