The Dvorak Violin Concerto has never enjoyed first rank status amongst the Romantic violin concertos, although it is blessed with an abundance of soaring melodies and a truly catchy last movement. The problem stems from the dedicatee, the violinist Joseph Joachim who was uncomfortable with the work’s atypical form.
He insisted on a number of changes, yet even after four years of painstaking revisions, he declined to perform it, leaving the premiere to the Czech violinist Frantisek Ondricek. Even more neglected is the Violin Sonata in F major Op. 57, a work I have wondered about but have never heard and which I found tuneful and attractive. Fortunately the final work, the Sonatina in G, is better known, largely due to Fritz Kreisler’s arrangement of the slow movement, which was hurriedly sketched on a shirt sleeve during Dvorak’s visit to Minnehaha Falls in Minnesota. Written alongside the New World Symphony and the American String Quartet, it is a modest work intended by Dvorak “for young people and grown-ups too”.
The violinist, Jack Liebeck, is a polished fiddler with a real gift for lyrical playing. He has a deep “in the string” sound which is intensely sweet even when he plays passionately, and there is a clear personality at work, although he could be more free at times. It may his youth or English reserve that constrains him, but I feel with age and experience his interpretations might bloom even more. Someone to watch.