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Remembering Josef Suk (1929-2011)

Laurie Niles

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Published: July 14, 2011 at 4:35 AM [UTC]

As many of you know, Czech violinist Josef Suk died July 6 in Prague, at age 81. Here is some history about this violinist, and we also welcome any remembrances that members may have of him. Suk was a grandson of the composer by the same name, Josef Suk, and he was also the great-grandson of composer Antonín Dvorák.

Suk did not know his famous great-grandfather. His grandfather, the well-known composer who was a member of the Bohemian Quartet who had once been a student of Dvorák, had married, Dvorák's daughter, Otilie, in 1898. Their son, Suk's father, pursued a career in engineering.

Josef Suk

Photo courtesy of Prague Music Performance Institute and Festival

The younger Suk was born in Prague and showed early signs of musical talent, performing in public by age 11. He was a student of the Czech violinist Jaroslav Kocián.

He was a member of the Prague Quartet and founded the Suk Trio, named after his grandfather.

Among his recordings: Songs my Great-Grandfather Taught Me, which contains transcriptions by (the younger) Josef Suk of 30 Dvorák songs, performed with pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy and released in February 2010. Also is a recording of the Brahms Sonatas, released in 2001 but clearly recorded well before that. Here is another list of recordings with Josef Suk.

Here is a performance of the Dvorák Violin Concerto, with Josef Suk and the Czech Philharmonic, conducted by Václav Neumann:




From Julian Stokes
Posted on July 14, 2011 at 7:53 AM

Strange coincidences. Two weeks ago I happened to be talking with a friend about how much difference the performer makes to how we feel about a piece of music. She related to me how she'd always known Bruch's work from a record in her father's collection. The violinist on that disc was Josef Suk. Many years later someone played her the same piece, this time played by Yehudi Menuhin, and she'd hated it. This was  the first time I'd heard of Suk. And then a few days later I read his obituary in the paper.

Thanks to the modern miracle of sound recording it's not too late to become acquainted with his work.

From carlos majlis
Posted on July 14, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Suk recorded several violin sonatas from unknown czech composers. Very few know those works. I've by Viteslav NOVAK, Oskar NEDBAL, Josef FOERSTER, Pavel BORKOVEC and Jaromir PODESVA.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on July 14, 2011 at 12:34 PM

Here is another list of Suk's recorded legacy:

I often listen to his recording of the Beethoven concerto, with Boult and NPO.

From Shahar Rosenthal
Posted on July 14, 2011 at 1:35 PM

 Josef Suk was a great inspiration, and top class musician. Thank you for this great article and videos, remarkable playing!


From Ray Randall
Posted on July 15, 2011 at 5:05 AM

Agree with Shahar. ThNKA.

From Karis Crawford
Posted on July 15, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Funny enough, I just had a strange coincidence regarding Suk as well.  I just performed his grandfather's pieces for violin and piano Op. 17 in a recital a few weeks ago and had to do some research for program notes.  I managed to find a recording on YouTube of Suk Jr. performing the pieces and he impressed me with his ability to play the fast movements *particularly* fast!  It's cool to hear about a son who has played music from previous generations, especially of a relation as close as his grandfather!  He will be missed I'm sure.

From Richard Conviser
Posted on July 19, 2011 at 1:06 AM

I was in Prague in April 1995 to pick up a violin made for me by Jan Spidlen, and during that trip I was able to visit with his violinmaker father, Premysl Spidlen, as well.  The family took me to a concert by Josef Suk at a country estate outside Prague, and I remember his exquisite rendering of the Bach Sonata #3 in E major for violin and klavier, one of my favorites.  I got to meet him after the concert and found him most gracious.

From jerry davis
Posted on July 19, 2011 at 2:24 AM

Josef Suk is one of my most inspirational violinists. I think his Mozart concerto no 4 and 5 recordings are the best I have heard. His Beethoven concerto is also excellent

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