Violin virtuoso Josef Suk - one of the finest lyricists of the 20th century

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Josef Suk is a Czech violinist famous for his interpretations of lyrical works by Mozart, Dvořák, Tchaikovsky and his own grandfather Josef Suk.

Josef Suk,  photo: Bundesarchiv,  Bild 183-47198-0003 / CC-BY-SA 3.0
Josef Suk was as born in Prague on Aug. 8, 1929 into a family of musicians. He was the grandson of composer and violinist Josef Suk and great-grandson of the famous Czech composer Antonín Dvořák. He lived up to the family name, giving his first public performance, as a child prodigy, in 1940.

However he later admitted his famous lineage was something of a burden.

“I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to live up to what was expected of me. The great commitment of upholding the family tradition lay heavily on my shoulders throughout my career. It may have opened some doors, but on the other hand it also brought a lot of stress."

His mentor, from early childhood through his years at the Prague Conservatory, was his teacher Jaroslav Kocián who taught him since the age of seven and lived to see the start of his promising career.

After Kocián’s death, Josef Suk continued his studies at the Prague Academy and led the orchestra of the National Theatre. At the same time, he performed with the Prague String Quartet as first violinist and with the Suk Trio, which he formed in 1952. He made his international debut in Paris and Brussels in 1948, and performed in Great Britain and the US in 1964. At the time he was a soloist with the Czech Philharmonic. Over the next decade he cooperated and made many recordings with the world's leading orchestras, conductors and interpreters winning prizes for his recordings of Debussy's and Janáček's sonatas, for the Dumky Trio by Antonin Dvořák and for the complete collection of Mozart's violin concerts with the Prague Chamber Orchestra. His recordings sold over one million albums.

Suk also had a passion for chamber music. As a student he was the primarius of the Prague quartet and in 1951 he founded the Suk Trio, named after his grandfather Josef Suk. The Suk Trio played many concerts both at home and abroad and recorded many compositions including the entire collection of Beethoven's sonatas and Shostakovich's sonata for viola.

In 1974, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of birth of his grandfather Josef Suk, he founded the Suk Chamber Orchestra, which he led until 2000. Josef Suk died on 6 July 2011, aged 81. He is buried in Prague, at the Vyšehrad Cemetery.