Richard Tognetti (violin)
Nordic Chamber Orchestra
Christian Lindberg (conductor)
reviewed by Neville Cohn
By most accounts, Dvorak was a gruff, no-nonsense sort of character who didn’t suffer fools gladly. But insofar as the composition of his Violin Concerto is concerned, he demonstrated a forbearance that verged on the saintly. He’d been commissioned to write the work by Fritz Simrock, he of the famous firm of music publishers.
Dvorak, himself a violinist of ability, demonstrated humility in sending the score to Joseph Joachim, the greatest violinist of his day. In response to Joachim’s suggestions, Dvorak completely rewrote the work but when he sent the new version to Joachim, the latter took an incredible two YEARS to deliver his verdict.
His comments were largely negative. The work, he opined, was not yet ready for performance, the orchestration too dense. Had Dvorak at this point thrown up his hands in despair and abandoned the project, it would have been understandable. But, saint-like, he laboured on. Then, a Simrock employee found further fault. Here, though, Dvorak drew the line – and the concerto was finally published. Intriguingly, Joachim never ever played the concerto.
Soloist Richard Tognetti is in fine fettle here. In the opening allegro ma non troppo, he expresses Dvorak’s ideas in altogether convincing, toughly assertive terms. And how beautifully the soloist phrases the themes of the slow movement with notes clothed in tone of the most agreeable kind.
Throughout, conductor Christian Lindberg presides over events with understated authority. And the folksy, cheerful ideas of the finale, with their obeisance to some of Dvorak’s much loved Slavonic dances, could hardly have been better presented. I cannot imagine anyone failing to fall under the spell of this engaging music.
Dvorak’s Legends will never supplant his Slavonic Dances in the hearts and minds of an international constituency but they are still well worth an occasional airing. And they are beautifully played here.