Felix Mendelssohn–Bartholdy: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Overture, Op. 21
Antonín Dvořák: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A Minor, Op. 53, B. 108
Georges Bizet: Symphony No. 1 in C Major
The concerts of the orchestra of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields under the baton of its musical director, the violinist Joshua Bell, demonstrate a quality that can be regarded as first class in the context of chamber music. Since the death of its legendary chief conductor Neville Marriner, the orchestra has continued its rich history of recording with studio-quality performances. At the heart of their festival appearance will be a performance of Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, which is a key repertoire item – it is a work that bears repeating when played by top artists. As a violinist and conductor, Bell takes a detailed approach. As he himself says, he persuades the orchestra to view even Beethoven’s symphonies as large string quartets. Besides Dvořák’s Violin Concerto, they will also give transparent performances of Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which intricate interplay alternates with moments of pure joy. The concert will conclude with Georges Bizet’s Symphony in C Major, his only work in the genre, which bears eloquent witness to the talent of the man who composed the passionate opera Carmen.
The Academy of St Martin in the Fields is a chamber orchestra founded in 1959 in London by conductor Neville Marriner, who was also its president until his death in 2016. The ensemble’s unusual name is taken from the London church where it gave its first public concerts. With its polished ensemble playing, perfection of style, and highly cultivated sound, during its more than 60 years of existence it has established itself as one of the world’s best chamber orchestras, and it has long been unparalleled in its interpretations of Mozart’s music, in particular. It gives concerts regularly across most of Europe, with illustrious conductors and soloists. One of the world’s most-recorded ensembles, it has more than 500 recordings to its credit on several different labels. Its best-selling album remains the soundtrack to Miloš Forman’s film Amadeus. Its present music director is the violin virtuoso, Joshua Bell.
Praised for his remarkable range of colours, his confident and concentrated stage presence, his virtuosity, and technical poise as well as the beauty of his tone Josef Špaček has gradually emerged as one of the leading violinists of his generation. His performances of a wide range of repertoire demonstrate his “astonishing articulation and athleticism” (The Scotsman) and “a richness and piquancy of timbre.” (The Telegraph).
He appears with orchestras including the Orchestre de Paris, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, the Bamberger Symphoniker, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique du Capitole de Toulouse, the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI Torino, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, the Symfonieorkest Vlaanderen and the Kammerakademie Potsdam.
Josef Špaček collaborates with eminent conductors such as Jakub Hrůša, Semyon Bychkov, Manfred Honeck, Valery Gergiev, Thomas Adès, Krzysztof Urbański, James Gaffigan, James Conlon, Maxim Emelyanchev, the late Jiří Bělohlávek, Petr Popelka, Thomas Søndergård, Cornelius Meister, Michael Sanderling, David Zinman, Eliahu Inbal, Tomáš Netopil, Pietari Inkinen, Marc Albrecht, Aziz Shokhakimov, Christian Vasquez, Jahja Ling and Lio Kuokman.
He equally enjoys giving recitals and playing chamber music and is a regular guest at festivals and in concert halls throughout Europe (among others at the Rudolfinum in Prague, the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ in Amsterdam, the Kronberg Academy, the Evian Festival, the Kaposfest and at Schloß Elmau), Asia and the USA (among others at Kennedy Center, Washington D.C., 92Y in New York, La Jolla in San Diego, the ChamberFest Cleveland and the Nevada Chamber Music Festival).
In the summer of 2021 he made highly successful debuts at the Verbier Festival and Leif Ove Andsnes' Rosendal Festival.
His chamber music partners include Gil Shaham, Kian Soltani, James Ehnes, Clemens Hagen, Julian Steckel, Gerhard Oppitz, Noah Bendix-Balgley, Máté Szücs, Miroslav Sekera, Tomáš Jamník, Federico Colli, Sharon Kam, Kristóf Baráti, Zoltan Fejervari and Suzana Bartal.
In April 2022 Supraphon released Josef Špaček's latest CD recording on which he is joined by cellist Tomáš Jamník. It features works for violin and cello by Janáček, Martinů, Schulhoff and Klein, including a transcription of Janáček's string quartet no. 1 for violin/ cello duo. His previous Supraphon release is a highly praised recording of the violin concertos of Dvořák and Janáček, coupled with the Fantasy of Suk, with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek. The Sunday Times wrote: “The violinist’s individual, deeply considered and virtuosic account of Dvorak’s solo part is the highlight of this keenly conceived programme”, adding that “in this repertoire, Špaček is second to none today.” It was the “Recording of the week” of The Sunday Times, Recording of the month & of the year of MusicWeb International and it received 5* in Diapason. Other recordings to date are a recital disc with works for violin and piano by Smetana, Janáček and Prokofiev with pianist Miroslav Sekera (Supraphon), works for violin solo and violin and piano by H.W. Ernst (Naxos) and an early CD with the complete Sonatas for Solo Violin by Eugène Ysaÿe.
Josef Špaček studied with Itzhak Perlman at The Juilliard School in New York, Ida Kavafian and Jaime Laredo at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and with Jaroslav Foltýn at the Prague Conservatory. He was laureate of the International Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels and won top prizes at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in New Zealand, the Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition in Denmark and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York.
He served as concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the youngest in ist history. The orchestra named him “Associate Artist” as of January 2016. He held this post until the end of the 2019/20 season and has since devoted himself exclusively to his solo career.
Josef Špaček performs on the ca. 1732 “LeBrun; Bouthillard” Guarneri del Gesù violin, generously on loan from Ingles & Hayday.
He lives in Prague with his wife and their three children. In his spare time he enjoys cycling.
The Rudolfinum is one of the most important Neo-Renaissance edifices in the Czech Republic. In its conception as a multi-purpose cultural centre it was quite unique in Europe at the time of its construction. Based on a joint design by two outstanding Czech architects, Josef Zítek and Josef Schultz, a magnificent building was erected serving for concerts, as a gallery, and as a museum. The grand opening on 7 February 1885 was attended by Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, in whose honour the structure was named. In 1896 the very first concert of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra took place in the Rudolfinum's main concert hall, under the baton of the composer Antonín Dvořák whose name was later bestowed on the hall.