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“Together with the Czech Philharmonic, Josef Suk is his country’s best known signboard for classical music.” Berliner Morgenpost on the violinist’s 70th birthday.

Josef Suk, the legendary Czech violinist—also violist, chamber musician and conductor—was born in Prague in 1929. He was both the grandson of the composer of the same name and the great-grandson of Antonín Dvořák. In his home country he carried the title of National Artist.

The violinist’s extraordinary talent was spotted early by Jaroslav Kocian who tutored him until his death in 1950. Suk first appeared on concert platforms at the age of eleven. His Prague début in 1954 rapidly led to an international career. Before long he was recognized as the heir to the best tradition of the Czech violin school and his 1959 tour with the Czech Philharmonic covered three continents and was one of the greatest expressions of Czech music the world had until then ever heard.

In addition to a dazzling career as a soloist, esteemed for his refined tone, deep sense of lyricism (expressed unforgettably for example in his peerless Martinů interpretations) and commitment to the music he plays, he also showed an extraordinary affinity for chamber music. He was for some years the first violin of the Prague Quartet, and founder of the Suk Trio.

This affinity yielded extraordinary fruits, especially through his partnerships with pianist Jan Panenka and the harpsichordist Zuzana Ruzickova—and from 1973 he was a frequent additional player with the Smetana Quartet, playing second viola.

Suk played on rare instruments built by Antonio Stradivari (1729), Giuseppe Guarneri “del Gesu” (1744) and Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (1758).

Josef Suk had a long and distinguished career in the recording studio, winning the Grand Prix du Disqueno less than six times as well as the Wiener Floetenuhr Prize and the Edison Prize. For Naxos, he recorded two volumes of violin concertos by Benda with the Suk Chamber Orchestra.

Josef Suk died on 6 July 2011.

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