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The Bartered Bride, overture
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Francesca da Rimini, symphonic fantasy in E minor after Dante, Op. 32
Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77
Josef Špaček is fast emerging as one of the most accomplished violinists of his generation. He 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.
Highlights in 2016 include subscription concerts with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Valery Gergiev (Beethoven concerto), his debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek (Dvořák concerto), his Berlin debut with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin and Thomas Sanderling (Beethoven concerto), his Amsterdam Concertgebouw debut with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Thomas Søndergård (Nielsen concerto), his Tokyo debut with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and Jakub Hrůša (Dvořák concerto) and the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto and Marco Angius (Brahms concerto), as well as recital debuts in among others Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and La Jolla, San Diego. He will also be the soloist of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek during their Asia tour.
Josef Špaček has served as concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the youngest in its history, until December 2015. The orchestra has named him “Associate Artist” as of January 2016.
In addition to the afore-mentioned orchestras Josef Špaček makes solo appearances with orchestras across Europe, the US and Asia, such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Prague Philharmonia, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Essener Philharmoniker, Tonkünstlerorchester Niederösterreich, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI Torino, Orchestre National de Belgique, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Orquesta Filarmónica de Málaga, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony and Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
He collaborates with conductors such as Jiří Bělohlávek, Jakub Hrůša, Valery Gergiev, Christoph Eschenbach, Manfred Honeck, Semyon Bychkov, Asher Fisch, Roy Goodman, Eliahu Inbal, Jun Märkl, Thomas Søndergård, Thomas Sanderling, Giordano Bellincampi, Tomáš Netopil, Marco Angius and Rossen Milanov.
Josef Špaček gives numerous recitals in Europe (including at the Rudolfinum in Prague, the Konzerthaus in Vienna and at Schloß Elmau), Asia and the USA (among others at the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C. and La Jolla, San Diego).
April 2015 saw the Supraphon CD release of his highly praised recording of the violin concertos of Dvořák and Janáček, and of the Fantasy of Suk, with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek (among others “Recording of the week” of The Sunday Times, “Recording of the month and of the year” of MusicWeb International and 5* in Diapason). In 2013 Supraphon released his recording of works for violin and piano by Smetana, Janáček and Prokofiev with pianist Miroslav Sekera. In 2010 he recorded works by H.W. Ernst for Naxos. His first CD, which was released in 2006, includes a complete recording of the Sonatas for Solo Violin by Eugène Ysaÿe.
Josef Špaček plays a violin made in 1855 in the workshop of Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume.
Newly appointed as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov will assume the title at the beginning of the 2018/19 season. Born in Leningrad in 1952, Bychkov emigrated to the United States in 1975 and has been based in Europe since the mid-1980’s. In common with the Orchestra, Bychkov has one foot firmly in the cultures both of the East and the West.
Conducting the Czech Philharmonic for the opening of the 2017 Smetana Litomyšl Festival, Hospodářské noviny wrote of the performance of Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini: “the Czech Philharmonic is currently on excellent form and trusts Semyon Bychkov. And, being battle-hardened from working around the world with the best orchestras on the planet, he gives the Philharmonic players the room to develop their musical potential. The result is a unique musical creation.”
Following his early concerts with the Czech Philharmonic in 2013, Bychkov and the Orchestra devised The Tchaikovsky Project, a series of concerts, residencies and studio recordings which allowed them the luxury of exploring Tchaikovsky’s music together, both in Prague’s Rudolfinum and abroad. The first fruit of The Tchaikovsky Project – a recording of Symphony No. 6 coupled with the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy-Overture – was released by Decca in October 2016, and was followed in August 2017 by the release of the Manfred Symphony. The Tchaikovsky Project culminates in 2019 with residencies in Vienna and Paris, and Decca’s release of all Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, the three piano concertos, Romeo & Juliet, Serenade for Strings and Francesca da Rimini.
Semyon Bychkov won the Rachmaninov Conducting Competition when he was 20 years old. Two years later, having been denied his prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, he left the former Soviet Union where, aged five, he was singled out for an extraordinarily privileged education in music. Initially studying piano, Bychkov was later selected to study at the Glinka Choir School where he received his first conducting lesson aged 13. Four years later he was accepted at the Leningrad Conservatory as a student of the legendary Ilya Musin.
By the time Bychkov returned to St Petersburg in 1989 as the Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor, he had enjoyed success in the US as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic. His international career, which began in France with Opéra de Lyon and at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, had taken off when a series of high-profile cancellations resulted in invitations to conduct the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras. In 1989, he was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris; in 1997, Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne; and the following year, Chief Conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.
Bychkov’s repertoire is wide-ranging both in the concert hall and in the opera house. He conducts in all the major houses including La Scala, Opéra national de Paris, Dresden Semperoper, Wiener Staatsoper, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Teatro Real. Madrid. While Principal Guest Conductor of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, his productions of Janáček’s Jenufa, Schubert’s Fierrabras, Puccini’s La bohème, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov were awarded the prestigious Premio Abbiati. He recently conducted Wagner’s Parsifal at the Wiener Staatsoper, and will return in 2018 with the same opera. Other new productions in Vienna include Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and Daphne, Wagner’s Lohengrin and Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina; while in London, he made his debut with a new production of Strauss’ Elektra, and subsequently conducted new productions of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten and Wagner’s Tannhäuser.
On the concert platform, the combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy has ensured that Bychkov’s performances are highly anticipated. In the UK, in addition to regular performances with the London Symphony Orchestra, his honorary titles at the Royal Academy of Music and the BBC Symphony Orchestra - with whom he appears annually at the BBC Proms – reflect the warmth of the relationships. In Europe, he tours frequently with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic and Munich Philharmonic, as well as being an annual guest of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Orchestre National de France and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia; in the US, he can be heard with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Symphony, Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras.
Recognised for his interpretations of the core repertoire, Bychkov has worked closely with many extraordinary contemporary composers including Luciano Berio, Henri Dutilleux and Maurizio Kagel. In recent seasons he has worked closely with Renée Staar, Thomas Larcher, Richard Dubignon, Detlev Glanert and Julian Anderson, conducting premières of their works with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw and BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
Bychkov’s recording career began in 1986 when he signed with Philips and began a significant collaboration which produced an extensive discography with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Royal Concertgebouw, Philharmonia, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. Subsequently a series of benchmark recordings - the result of his 13-year collaboration (1997-2010) with WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne – include a complete cycle of Brahms Symphonies, and works by Strauss (Elektra, Daphne, Ein Heldenleben, Metamorphosen, Alpensinfonie, Till Eulenspiegel), Mahler (Symphony No. 3, Das Lied von der Erde), Shostakovich (Symphony Nos. 4, 7, 8, 10, 11), Rachmaninov (The Bells, Symphonic Dances, Symphony No. 2), Verdi (Requiem), Detlev Glanert and York Höller. His recording of Wagner’s Lohengrin was voted BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Year in 2010; and his recent recording of Schmidt’s Symphony No. 2 with the Vienna Philharmonic was selected as BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Month.
Semyon Bychkov was named 2015’s Conductor of the Year by the International Opera Awards.
In late 1875 Tchaikovsky went on a tour of western Europe. In Paris, he was enchanted by a performance of Bizet’s Carmen; in Bayreuth, he was present at the first festival featuring Wagner’s operatic tetralogy The Ring of the Nibelung;he met Franz Liszt; and, travelling in a carriage one summer evening, he became engrossed in reading Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. These stimuli inspired him to write a tone poem, Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32, on the motives of the fifth canto of Inferno. The composer realised his plan very quickly, in less than three weeks. In spring 1877 the work was premiered by Nikolai Rubinstein in Moscow, and the next year by Eduard Nápravník in Saint Petersburg.
The work depicts Dante’s journey to the second circle of Hell (a Wagnerian-Lisztian Andante lugubre), where infernal storms (Allegro vivo) whirl the tormented souls of adulterers. Dante asks two of these souls to tell him what are they being punished for. Francesca answers (Andante cantabile non troppo), describing her doomed love for the brother of her tyrannical husband, who discovered their relationship and murdered the lovers. Francesca’s theme is first presented by a clarinet, accompanied by the sighs of other instruments and a countermovement in strings. In conclusion the two souls are seized by the infernal gale and driven away. Overcome by endless suffering, Dante falls to the ground.
Johannes Brahms started work on his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 77 in 1878. He dedicated the piece to his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim (1831–1907), who was born in Kopčany near Bratislava (in today’s Slovakia). Brahms first heard the young violinist in 1848, when he performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in Brahms’s native city, Hamburg. Five years later, the two artists met again in Hanover, and began a life-long friendship. Though only two years Brahms’s senior, Joachim was already renowned in the musical world as a performing artist. It was he who introduced Brahms to Robert Schumann, who predicted that the young Hamburg-born composer would have a great future and praised his talent by declaring that he would take music on “new paths”.
When composing, Brahms placed his full trust in Joachim’s advice. The cadenza at the end of the first movement of the concerto, then still an opportunity for soloists to display their technical brilliance, was left entirely to Joachim’s own imagination. The structure of the concerto itself, however, was strictly of Brahms’s own making, and the work that resulted defies the conventions of the virtuoso concertos of its time. Brahms goes beyond the conception of an instrumental concerto – where the technical and expressive artistry of the performer play the main role – towards a symphonic conception. The work is not remarkable for its virtuoso brilliance; the solo part is integrated into the orchestral sound. For instance, the second movement is opened by a solo from the oboe, while the soloist waits a relatively long time for their entry. The first movement has much in common with the first movement of Brahms’s second symphony, composed concurrently; indeed the two sections share the same key. The second movement of the concerto continues to impress today with its lyricism, while the third, particularly, with its “Hungarian” character, is typical of Brahms.
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