The Dvorák violin concerto had a tortuous genesis. In 1879, Dvorák was commissioned to write it, and decided to dedicate it to the great violinist Joseph Joachim, a close friend and musical adviser. Joachim was not happy with it. Dvorák tore up the score and started again.
Revision followed revision before Joachim was finally content. Ironically, it appears that even though Dvorák spent more than two years on revisions, Joachim never performed the concerto in public. The publisher who had commissioned the work wasn’t happy either. He wanted a clean break between first and second movements, instead of the beautiful bridging passage which seamlessly links the two.
Unlike with Joachim, here Dvorák stuck to his guns. The Dvorák has never become one of the grand concert hall staples, such as the Brahms or Bruch, Beethoven or Sibelius. But our own “living treasure” Richard Tognetti gives a persuasive argument here that it should be. It is a thoughtful piece rather than flamboyant, but abounding in lyricism and with the Slavic dance rhythms which mark so much of Dvorák’s work.
Tognetti is in top form and his 1743 Guarneri del Gesu violin helps give this a true Kreislerian warmth.
The ten short orchestral pieces which make up Legends were originally composed for two pianos, but were later orchestrated by Dvorák for concert performances. At times atmospheric, sometimes languid and mysterious, these miniatures are often performed individually but make better sense when heard together as here. The Nordic Chamber Orchestra sounds as if formed just to perform these works.