DVORÁK: Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53. TCHAIKOVSKY: Violin
Concerto in D, Op. 35.
Pavel Sporcl, violinist; Czech Philharmonic Orch/Vladimir Ashkenazy
(Dvorak)/Jirí Belohlavek, cond.
SUPRAPHON SU 3621-2 131 (F) (DDD) TT: 70:07
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From the cover and album art, Pavel Sporcl may not only
be the Czech Republic’s hottest young artistic property, he could
outrank Joshua Bell in sex-appeal and Kennedy in charismatic chutzpah
the bad-boy Brit?). As a U.S. resident from 1991-96 he studied with Dorothy
DeLay and Itzhak Perlman, and plays the violin with a virtuosity that
can do everything but enkindle conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy in the Dvorák
Violin Concerto. The Czech Phil plays with its vaunted sonority and sweet
solidity of tone, but the music itself is surely the composer’s
nadir among concerted works – it goes on and on and on, no thanks
to dedicatee Joseph Joachim’s chronic, yea compulsive meddling.
It needs conducting by someone with Smetana or Martinu in his blood,
and while Ashkenazy keeps pace he does not share the spirit. The performance,
as a result, takes four minutes longer than the usual 29+. Oddly, there
are few comparable couplings, and none in the digital era on the level
of Sporcl and the Czech Phil (but there is a six-disc set on EMI Classics
entitled “The Art of Nathan Milstein” that includes both,
accompanied by William Steinberg and the Pittsburgh Orchestra in the
late ‘50s, when Milstein was in a class with Heifetz, Oistrakh
and Kogan, and a lot else besides).
Where this disc glitters – which www.AllMusic.com says was released
in 2001, except the Tchaikovsky wasn’t recorded until September
22, 2003 – is in the Tchaik, with finale uncut no less. Jiri Belohlávek
replaces Ashkenazy on the podium as interim custodian until Zdenek Macal’s
arrival as principal conductor, and how he does galvanize the orchestra
behind his soloist! Sporcl is liberated, with a rich caloric tone and
center-of-the-target intonation in an impassioned reading yet never expressively
mushy, with a fast tempo in the vivacissimo sections of the finale that
might have challenged Heifetz in his prime to match. I haven’t
paid attention to the music since BMG/RCA (r.i.p.) remastered the classic
Heifetz/ Reiner/Chicago performance and coupled it with Brahms’,
but I found myself playing this one twice, irritating sequences
or none in the finale. Supraphon’s recording, in Dvorák
Hall of the historic Rudolphinum, is state-of-the-art, although roars
at the conclusion of each concerto suggest live recordings. The soloist,
finally, has a website for those who find the disc’s photo art
tantalizing: http://www.sporcl.com. Be advised, however, that it’s
in Czech, and you can’t copy any of the photos on stateside floppies
or ZIP-discs. Be further advised that _porcl wears a bandana, featuring
black and white diamonds most recently, and there’s only one picture
of him, from 1997 alongside Isaac Stern, with his red hair uncovered.
Perhaps he has balded – or maybe it’s just promo, Kennedy-style.
But my, how he plays the Tchaik finale with a panache I haven’t
heard maybe ever.
R.D. (May 2004)