Ludwig van Beethoven: String Trio in G major, Op. 9, No. 1
Alfred Schnittke: String trio
Antonín Dvořák: Piano Quartet Mo. 0 in Eflat major, Op. 87, B. 162
A second contribution to the exclusive Dvořák Collection series at this year's festival will again be a piano quartet - the second and final work that Antonín Dvořák created for this combination of instruments. While the First Piano Quartet showed Dvořák on the path towards a style of his own, the Piano Quartet No. 2 in E Flat Major (1889) shows him at the absolute height of his creative powers. That same year, the composer finished his Eighth Symphony, in two years he became a professor at the Prague Conservatoire, and after two more years he departed for the USA to serve as director of a conservatoire in New York. For this performance of Dvořák's chamber music masterpiece at the St Agnes Convent, the pianist Lukáš Vondráček, curator of the festival's Chamber Series, will again joining with violinist Josef Špaček, the violist Jakub Fišer, and the cellist Tomáš Jamník. Preceding their performance of Dvořák's quartet will be the String Trio in G Major by Ludwig van Beethoven and the String Trio by Alfred Schnittke. Beethoven's trio represents the period when the twenty-eight-year-old composer was creating a style of his own and preparing the way for his first six string quartets and the First Symphony. Schnittke dedicated his String Trio (1985) to the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alban Berg, and in it he graphically demonstrates his ability to combine several different styles and mould them into a single style of his own. In this case, he mixes Berg's harmonies with the rhythm of the tune Happy Birthday as if it were absolutely natural.
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).
Jakub Fišer is a graduate of the Prague Conservatoire and of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He studied violin under Prof. Bublová, Prof. Metelková, Prof. Foltýn, and Prof. Čepický. He has achieved success at numerous international competitions (incl. the Slovak competition Čírenie talentov, the Kocián Violin Competition, and Beethoven’s Hradec). In 2011 he won the Josef Hlávka Foundation Award. Jakub Fišer appeared several times as a soloist in the series “Josef Suk Presents Young Talents”, and he has given solo performances at concerts of the Prague Chamber Philharmonic, the Hradec Králové Philharmonic, and the Pilsen Philharmonic. He has participated at masterclasses with Shlomo Mintz, Semyon Yaroshevich, and Stephen Shipps. He has served as concertmaster of the Prague Chamber Philharmonic and as a guest concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern. At present, he is the first violinist of the Bennewitz Quartet. He also appears occasionally as a soloist. For example, at the Chopin Festival in Mariánské Lázně he joined with Jiří Bárta and Roman Patočka in playing Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
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.