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Antonn DVOŘK (1841-1904)
Concerto in A minor for violin and orchestra Op.53 [32:15]
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
Fantasy in G minor for violin and orchestra Op.24 [23:19]
Liebeslied Op.7 No.1 (arr. for violin and orchestra by Stephan Koncz) [6:30]
Eldbjrg Hemsing (violin)
Antwerp Symphony Orchestra/ Alan Buribayev
rec. 2016, deSingel, Antwerp, Belgium
Hybrid SACD/CD Stereo/Surround 5.0; reviewed in surround
BIS BIS2246 SACD [63:02]

Two lovely pieces. The Dvořk is of course a widely performed repertoire piece but the Suk, though easily available on record, is by no means so well known. Stephan Koncz's arrangement of the first of Suk's Six Piano Pieces Op.7, the Liebeslied, is a very welcome filler. For the Suk the very thorough set of notes from Philip Borg-Wheeler is particularly useful and he provides lots of interesting background for the Concerto as well. Dvořk's Violin Concerto was dedicated to Joseph Joachim whose advice and guidance he accepted willingly. Unfortunately Joachim never did get round to performing the work in public (a study performance took place in the Berlin Hochschule fr Musik) and it was the outstanding Czech violinist František Ondřček who gave the premire on the 14th October 1883. He went on to play a key role in the success of the Concerto worldwide performing it throughout his career. Dvořk composed a work full of lyricism and confidence ending with a bouyant Furiant. It is a little unusual in form having the first two movements play without a break. As with all great music it gets better the more one listens so reviewing this has been a pleasure.

Suk's Fantasy is a substantial piece lasting over 20 minutes. It lives up to its name, consisting of a sequence of interrelated sections varying the material in a series of moods characteristic of a composer who was drawn as much to lyrical reflection as to liveliness. However it was written before the personal catastrophes that so overshadowed his final large scale orchestral pieces like Asrael and the late symphonic poems. The Fantasy does not exude any of their gloom.

With this disc Eldbjrg Hemsing enters not so much crowded territory but that occupied by one key recording, these same works performed by the grandson and great-grandson of the composers, the legendary violinist Josef Suk. Since he is accompanied by the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Vclav Neumann one simply has to accept that from a musical point of view the competition is overwhelming. Other prominent artists have also recorded this same coupling and of course many have recorded the works separately. All that said, when listened to side by side, Hemsing's performance of the Dvořk is as good as that of Suk and the orchestral accompaniment by the Antwerp Symphony is as spritely as one could wish. It is obvious that Kazakh conductor Alan Buribayev is fully inside this Czech style. These performers are exposed far more clearly by BIS' magnificent surround recording with every detail telling in a way that is simply not the case from my good but old Supraphon. The violin sound here is quite amazingly crisp and real, showing just how fine a violinist Hemsing is. She has the benefit of a 1754 Guadagnini which shines in her capable hands. A definite recommendation.

Dave Billinge

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