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Czech violinist Josef Suk dies aged 81

Friday, 08 July 2011

Josef Suk, the Czech violinist whose lineage stretched back to Dvořák, has died at the age of 81. Suk was Dvořák's great grandson, and the grandson of Josef Suk, the violinist and composer.

Born in Prague in 1929, Suk studied violin with Jaroslav Kocian and made his public debut in 1940. After Kocian's death in 1950, Suk studied at the Prague Academy and became leader of the orchestra at the Prague National Theatre. Retaining a strong interest in chamber music, he led the Prague Quartet in 1951–2 and in 1952 founded the Suk Trio with cellist Josef Chuchro and pianist Jan Panenka.

In 1959 he began to establish an international reputation when he appeared as soloist with the Czech Philharmonic on its world tour. He made his British debut at the BBC Proms in 1964, performing concertos by Mozart and Dvořák. Suk formed a trio with cellist Janos Starker and pianist Julius Katchen for two years before Katchen's death in 1969, and in 1974 he founded the Suk Chamber Orchestra.

Praised for his warm, silken tone, Suk won acclaim for his recordings of unaccompanied Bach, of the Beethoven, Dvořák and Berg concertos, and of the Brahms Sonatas with Katchen. Suk played on violins including the 'Libon' Stradivari of 1729 and the 1744 'Prince of Orange' Guarneri 'del Gesù'. From the early 1970s, he also played the viola, both in chamber ensembles and in solo performances.

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