Karel Boleslav Jirák: Piano Quintet, Op. 50
Jan Ryant Dřízal: Forest Scenes, piano quintet (world premiere)
Antonín Dvořák: String Quartet No. 2 in B flat Major, B. 17
Violinist and Head of Prague Conservatoire Anton Bennewitz is the patron of one of the ensembles that is set to perform in this year’s Chamber Series of the festival (on Saturday, 16 September). He was also instrumental in the salvation of Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 2 in B flat Major. If copies of its parts had not been found in Bennewitz’s estate, the work would have been lost forever.
In fact, search and discovery were the very essence of this composition which Dvořák, who was not even thirty years old at the time, wrote while experimenting with various ideas he had encountered while on his journey through musical styles and testing which journey he would make his own. The piece of music he composed for a small number of instruments was extensive and reminiscent of music by Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner in terms of its sweeping range and the display of emotion.
It feels as though the young composer wanted to prove to himself, as part of the search for his own identity, that he could write anything and the result would be good – even though he destroyed the manuscript perhaps a little too hastily. The piece will be performed at the festival by the Sedlacek Quartet.
Before that, though, the Quartet will be joined by pianist Matouš Zukal in two piano quintets. The first one was written by Karel Boleslav Jirák, a talented Czech composer who emigrated to the USA after the end of World War Two. The second quintet is a work by contemporary musician Jan Ryant Dřízal, who combines elaborateness with the responsiveness of audiences: his Forest Scenes were written based on a creative commission from Dvořák Prague and will have their world premiere at the festival.
The origins of the Sedlacek Quartet date back to 2007, at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (AMU), following the tradition of the original Sedlacek Quartet in Pilsen (1974–1994), as a family musical heritage.
The ensemble has developed ever since under the tutelage of many reputable music teachers, such as Jiří Panocha, during their chamber music studies at the AMU. Later they also took several masterclasses led by the members of renowned string quartets, such as Keller Quartett, Artis Quartett Wien, Tel Aviv Quartet, or Alban Berg Quartett.
The Sedlacek Quartet has appeared at renowned festivals in the Czech Republic and abroad, including the isa – International Summer Academy, the International Music Festival Young Prague, the Ludwig van Beethoven Festival Teplice or the Pablo Casals Festival in Prades and other.
The ensemble is the winner of the Czech Chamber Music Society Award (2016), also won the prizes in the Karol Szymanowski International Music Competition in Katowice and the Bohuslav Martinů Music Competition in Prague, both in 2014. Later claimed the 3rd prize in the Leoš Janáček and Johannes Brahms International Music Competition.
The hallmark of the Sedlacek Quartet is, however, their focus on the music which is not a part of a standard chamber music repertoire. This includes Czech works in particular (along with other world’s composers), which were either never published, or rarely performed, so this way the ensemble makes more of the unknown compositions come to life.
They have already made recordings of K. Slavický, S. Hořínka, B. Martinů or J. Teml, with the participation of Bohuslav Martinů Foundation. With the oboist Lukáš Pavlíček, they also recorded the music of F. A. Míča, W. A. Mozart and A. Dvořák.
In 2017 they recorded the complete string quartet works of V. J. Veit (1806–1864). In 2019 followed the CD with three of Rafael Kubelík’s (1914–1996) string quartets, which they self-published. The latest great recording project was the completion of all the string quartets by K. B. Jirák (1891–1972), this time for the Czech Radio.
Between 2022 and 2024, the ensemble takes part in a complete performance of Antonín Dvořák's string quartets at the Dvořák Prague festival.
Matouš Zukal (*1998) is a Czech pianist. He began his musical education at the City of Prague Music Grammar School under the guidance of Jitka Němcová. He studied at the Prague Conservatoire in the class of Ivo Kahánek. Matouš is currently furthering his education under the same professor at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.
In 2021 he became a laureate of the Prague Spring International Music Competition and was awarded several special prizes, Gideon Klein Foundation Prize and Czech Centers Prize. During his studies he won main prizes at many competitions (The Broumov Key, Virtuosi per musica di pianoforte). Matouš became three times a laureate of the Young Piano of the Prague Conservatoire.
He also became an overall winner of the Bohuslav Martinů Foundation Competition and was awarded a special prize for the best interpretation of Bohuslav Marinů’s work and Zorka and Jaroslav Zich’s prize.
In 2020 Matouš gave a recital at the Dvořákova Praha festival as a part of the marathon of Antonín Dvořák’s complete piano works. In October 2021 he performed Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto at the festival Young Prague with the Czech Chamber Philarmonic Orchestra Pardubice.Matouš also engages in chamber music, in 2019 he became a scholarship holder of Academy of Chamber music under czech cellist Tomáš Jamník. He performed with members of this organization on prestigious festivals such as Styriarte Graz and others.
He is an active participant at masterclasses, and he consults with important pianist abroad such as Sir András Schiff, Boris Giltburg, Francesco Piemontesi, Lukáš Vondráček and others. In 2016, 2018 and 2019 he took part at masterclasses in Bergen, Norway under the guidance of prof. Jiří Hlinka, Leif Ove Andsnes and other eminent pianists. In 2021 Matouš received a scolarship from the International Academy of Music in Liechtenstein and participated in the Intensive Music Week of prof. Milana Chernyavska.
The Convent of St. Agnes in the 'Na Františku' neighbourhood of Prague's Old Town is considered the first Gothic structure not only in Prague but in all of Bohemia. It was founded by King Wenceslas I in 1233–34 at the instigation of his sister, the Přemyslid princess Agnes of Bohemia, for the Order of Saint Clare which Agnes introduced into Bohemia and of which she was the first abbess. The convent was preceded by a hospital. The 'Poor Clares' originated as an offshoot of the Order of St. Francis of Assisi, and the convent was at one time known as the Prague Assisi. Agnes was an outstanding figure in religious life of the thirteenth century. Besides this Clarist convent she also founded the only Czech religious order – the Hospital Order of the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star. She was canonized in 1989.