Antonín Dvořák: String Quartet No. 8 in E major, Op. 80, B. 57
Leoš Janáček: String Quartet No. 1 after Tolstoy's ‘Kreutzer sonata’
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A major K. 581, ‘Stadler Quintet’
The name of clarinettist Sharon Kam evokes memories of her performances at the 2018 Dvořák Prague festival, where she curated the Chamber Series. Hailing from Haifa, Israel, she dazzled audiences with several outstanding concerts. This year, she will be a guest of the Schumann Quartet, whose aim is to add to the Dvořák Collection with a performance of his String Quartet No. 8 in E Major. The piece feels as though Antonín Dvořák, who at the time of writing it was firmly standing on his own feet as a composer, had cast his mind back to Franz Schubert and was sorrowfully paying homage to his dearly departed friend.
In his String Quartet No. 1, Leoš Janáček revived a musical theme that had previously been used by Russian author Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy borrowed the name of Beethoven’s masterpiece – the Kreutzer Sonata – and used it as the title of his scandalous novella about a marital break-up. Much later, Janáček sought inspiration from Tolstoy’s work by creating a piece of music full of fierce passion ending in bloodshed, as only he could do. To finish the Chamber Series of the festival, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major will provide a pleasantly gentle, glowing conclusion.
“Personal and profound” (BBC Music Magazine), “With no ifs or buts, the ‘Schumanns’ are among the best quartets in the world” (Süddeutsche Zeitung) and certainly “one of the most exciting string quartets of the present day” (Fono Forum).
The Schumann Quartet has reached a stage where anything is possible, because it has dispensed with certainties. This also has consequences for audiences, which from one concert to the next must be prepared for all eventualities: “A work really develops only in a live performance,” the quartet says. “That is ‘the real thing’, because we ourselves never know what will happen. On the stage, all imitation disappears, and you automatically become honest with yourself. Then you can create a bond with the audience – communicate with it in music.” This live situation will gain an added energy in the near future: Sharon Kam, Fabian Müller, Anna Lucia Richter, Anna Vinnitskaya, und Jörg Widmann are among the quartet's current partners.
A special highlight of the 22/23 season will be a concert tour to Singapore, followed by concerts in Adelaide, Australia. The quartet will also perform twice at the Concertgebouw Amsterdam and three times at the Wigmore Hall in London. In Europe, the quartet will embark on a major tour with Anna Vinnitskaya in April 2023, during which they will perform Robert Schumann's Piano Quintet in Brussels, Hamburg, Berlin, Geneva and elsewhere. Not to forget the ensemble's return to very familiar venues such as the Mozartfest Würzburg and the Schubertiade in Schwarzenberg/Hohenems.
Its album “Intermezzo” (2018 | Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Schumann und Reimann with Anna-Lucia Richter) has been hailed enthusiastically both at home and abroad and received the award “Opus Klassik” in the category quintet. It is celebrated as a worthy successor to its award-winning “Landscapes” album, in which in which the quartet traces its own roots by combining works of Haydn, Bartók, Takemitsu and Pärt. Among other prices, the latter received the “Jahrespreis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik”, five Diapasons and was selected as Editor's Choice by the BBC Music Magazine. For its previous CD “Mozart Ives Verdi”, the Schumann Quartet was accorded the 2016 Newcomer Award at the BBC Music Magazine Awards in London. In 2020 the quartet has expanded its discography with "Fragment" and his examination of one of the masters of the string quartet: Franz Schubert. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the radio, the quartet will dedicate itself to a very special project: An album of pieces around and from 1923. Together with the Bavarian Radio, they will record works by Alban Berg, Leoš Janáček, Ernst Krenek and Aaron Copland.
The three brothers Mark, Erik and Ken Schumann have been playing together since their earliest childhood – meanwhile violist Veit Hertenstein completes the quartet. The four musicians enjoy the way they communicate without words. Although the individual personalities clearly manifest themselves, a common space arises in every musical work in a process of spiritual metamorphosis. The quartet's openness and curiosity may be partly the result of the formative influence exerted on it by teachers such as Eberhard Feltz, the Alban Berg Quartet, or partners such as Menahem Pressler.
Awards, CD releases – it is always tempting to speculate on what factors have led to many people viewing the Schumann Quartet as one of the best in the world. But the four musicians themselves regard these stages more as encounters, as a confirmation of the path they have taken. They feel that their musical development over the past two years represents a quantum leap. “We really want to take things to extremes, to see how far the excitement and our spontaneity as a group take us,” says Ken Schumann, the middle of the three Schumann brothers. They charmingly sidestep any attempt to categorize their sound, approach or style, and let the concerts speak for themselves.
And the critics approve: “Fire and energy. The Schumann Quartet plays staggeringly well [...] without doubt one of the very best formations among today’s abundance of quartets, […] with sparkling virtuosity and a willingness to astonish” (Harald Eggebrecht in Süddeutsche Zeitung).
Sharon Kam is one of the world’s leading clarinet soloists and has been working with renowned orchestras in the United States, Europe, and Japan for over 20 years.
Mozart’s clarinet masterpieces have been an object of artistic focus for Ms. Kam since the beginning of her career. At the age of 16, she performed the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in her orchestral debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and Zubin Mehta. A short time later, she performed the Clarinet Quintet with the Guarneri String Quartet in Carnegie Hall, New York.
As part of Mozart’s 250th birthday celebrations at the National Theatre in Prague, her interpretation of the Mozart concerto was televised live in 33 countries and is available on DVD. In the same year, she was able to realize her long-time dream of recording the Concerto and the Clarinet Quintet using the basset clarinet. Contributing to the widely praised disk were eminent string players Isabelle van Keulen, Ulrike-Anima Mathé, Volker Jacobsen and Gustav Rivinus, as well as the Haydn Philharmonie.
As a passionate chamber musician, Sharon Kam regularly works with artists such as Christian Tetzlaff, Enrico Pace, Daniel Müller-Schott, Leif Ove Andsnes, Carolin Widmann and the Jerusalem Quartet. She is a frequent guest at festivals in Schleswig-Holstein, Heimbach, Rheingau, Risør, Cork, Verbier, and Delft, as well as the Schubertiade festival.
An active performer of contemporary music, she has premiered many works, including Krzysztof Penderecki’s Concerto and Quartet and concertos by Herbert Willi (at the Salzburg Festival), Iván Erőd and Peter Ruzicka (at Donaueschingen).
Highlights in the 2022/23 season include concerts with the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra, the Orchestre à vent de la Musique de l' Air, the hr Symphony Orchestra, and concerts with her trio colleagues Enrico Pace and Julian Steckel.
Sharon Kam feels at home in a variety of musical genres – from classical to modern music and jazz – a fact reflected in her diverse discography. She received the ECHO “Instrumentalist of the Year” award two times: in 1998, for her Weber recording with the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig and Kurt Masur, and in 2006, for her CD with the Leipzig Radio Orchestra featuring works by Spohr, Weber, Rossini and Mendelssohn. Her “American Classics” CD with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by her husband Gregor Bühl, was awarded the Deutsche Schallplattenkritik Prize.
In 2013 she released a recording entitled “Opera!”. This collaboration with the Württembergisches Kammerorchester, conducted by Ruben Gazarian, includes transcriptions of operatic arias ranging from Rossini and Puccini to Wolf-Ferrari, arranged for clarinet and chamber orchestra. The release was accompanied by an inaugural tour.
To mark the 100th anniversary of Max Reger's death in 2016, her chamber music partners from her Mozart recording rejoined to record the clarinet quintets by Reger and Brahms (Edel, October 2015).
Her new trio album "Contrasts", which she recorded together with her long-term partners Ori Kam and Matan Porat, was immediately included after release on the best-of-list of the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. In spring 2020, ORFEO International released her recording of clarinet concertos by Carl Maria von Weber and his contemporaries Karol Kurpiński and Bernhard Henrik Crusell, which she recorded together with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and Gregor Bühl.
The Bethlehem Chapel is one of the most important landmarks in Prague. The original building, dating from 1391 and closely associated with the reform movement of Master Jan Hus, was torn down. A modern replica was built at the same site in the 1850s based on a design by the important architect Jaroslav Fragner. At present, the Bethlehem Chapel serves as ceremony hall for the Czech Technical University. It is the site of not only graduation ceremonies for the schools students, but also various cultural and social events.