Josef Suk: Serenade for String Orchestra in E flat major, Op. 6
Bohuslav Martinů: Concertino for Piano Trio and String Orchestra, H. 232
Antonín Dvořák: Serenade for String Orchestra in E major, Op. 22, B. 52
The Chamber Series at this year’s Dvořák Prague Festival will conclude with a special combination that could form the basis of a festival “all-star team”. Joining with the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra as soloists are the violinist Josef Špaček, the cellist Tomáš Jamník, and naturally the Chamber Series curator, the pianist Lukáš Vondráček. Josef Špaček will also provide the artistic direction for this musical society. The combined forces will perform the Concertino for Piano Trio and String Orchestra by Bohuslav Martinů – in it, the composer reveals himself to be a proponent of the inter-war avant-garde with a true grasp of Parisian modernism and its elegant lightness, hedonism, and sophistication. Surrounding the Concertino are two serenades for string orchestra – the first by Josef Suk and the last by Antonín Dvořák. In terms of the music itself, in both pieces there is more of Bohemia than Paris, where Martinů composed his Concertino, but their sunny atmosphere lets them go wonderfully together with Martinů’s work.
The Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra launched its artistic activities after two years of preparations in 2018. The ensemble was founded at the impetus of the former chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Jiří Bělohlávek, who viewed the creating of such a project as a necessity for the regular “hygiene” of orchestral players. The ensemble is not staffed with permanent members. The players rotate in various chamber groups consisting exclusively of members of the Czech Philharmonic based on the needs for the repertoire being performed, which ranges from music of the Baroque era to the works of contemporary composers. At its first performance, a special Christmas Concert in December 2018 with Baroque repertoire, the ensemble collaborated with a renowned early music specialists, the conductor Reinhard Goebel. Among the soloists with whom the ensemble has appeared so far are soprano Simona Šaturová, tenor Jaroslav Březina, harpsichordist Barbara Maria Willi, and vioilnists Jan Mráček and Jiří Vodička. The artistic supervisor of the project is the Czech Philharmonic concertmaster Josef Špaček.
The violinist Josef Špaček is one of the most prominent performers of his generation. He began his violin studies at the Prague Conservatoire, and at age 18 he was admitted to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. From 2009 he continued his studies at the Juilliard School in New York in the studio of Itzhak Perlman. Since 2011 he has held the post of concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic. He has appeared as a soloist in many important concert halls of Europe, the USA, Japan, and New Zealand, and he has collaborated with a number of illustrious conductors (Christoph Eschenbach, Manfred Honeck, Jiří Bělohlávek). He has appeared as a soloist with top orchestras around the world, including the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Konzerthausorchester in Berlin, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. He has won a number of international awards, including the title of laureate at the famed Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 2012. He has also made a highly esteemed recording of works for violin and orchestra by Dvořák, Janáček, and Suk on the Supraphon label. The violin he plays is the “LeBrun, Bouthillard” Guarneri del Gesù (1732).
Tomáš Jamník is one of the most prominent cellists on the Czech performance scene. He has been devoting himself to cello playing since the age of five, and after graduating from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under the tutelage of Prof. Josef Chuchro, he furthered his education in Leipzig and Berlin. At the age of twenty-one, he won the 2006 Prague Spring International Competition, where he also received several special prizes. In 2010 he won a competition that earned him a place at the renowned Karajan Academy in Berlin, at which he appeared as a member of the Berlin Philharmonic and of various chamber music groups of philharmonic players. Since 2011 he has been collaborating with such top musicians as Simon Rattle, Reinhard Goebel, and Leif Ove Andsnes. Together with the violinist Jan Fišer and the pianist Ivo Kahánek, he is a founding member of the Dvořák Trio. For the Supraphon label, he has recorded the complete works of Antonín Dvořák for cello and orchestra including the virtually unknown Concerto in A Major in a special arrangement based on an orchestration by Jarmil Burghauser. He performed it at the 2019 Dvořák Prague Festival.
Lukáš Vondráček, who turns 34 this year, is known internationally as one of today’s most distinctive Czech performers. He is followed by his reputation as a prodigy: he began playing piano at age two, and a year later he gave his first public performance. At age eleven he issued his first CD, and two years after that he gave his first concert tour of the USA. At thirteen he began his university studies, and at fifteen he made his debut with the Czech Philharmonic under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy. A highpoint of his artistic career so far was his triumph at the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 2016, where he became the first Czech winner in history. He has appeared in solo recitals at a number of famed concert halls including Carnegie Hall in New York, the Elbephilharmonie in Hamburg, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Konzerthaus in Vienna, and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. His appearances in the Czech Republic include this past January at the Municipal House in Prague with the Piano Concerto in F Minor by Frédéric Chopin. He is a long-time resident of Boston.
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.