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Vltava, symphonic poem from „My Country“
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 53, B108
Symphony no. 7 in D minor, Op. 70
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.
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Czech Philharmonic
Principal Guest Conductor, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor Laureate, BBC Symphony (London)
Renowned Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek was appointed Music Director and Artistic Director of the Czech Philharmonic in 2012, following on from his successful tenure as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, of which he is now a Conductor Laureate. He was Chief Conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra (1977–89), Music Director of the Prague Philharmonia (1994–2004), was appointed President of the Prague Spring Festival in 2006. From 2013 to 2017, he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
In opera, he has collaborated with the Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, the Teatro Real Madrid, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Zurich Opera, and the National Theatre in Prague. He has also conducted and recorded several opera-in-concert presentations with the BBC Symphony, to great acclaim. Confirming his preeminence as the conductor of Janacek, this past season he conducted the Czech Phil in a concert presentation of Jenůfa at the London Royal Festival Hall, as well as in full production the San Francisco Opera. This was followed by a performance of Janacek The Makropulos Case with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
Under his leadership the Czech Philharmonic is enjoying unprecedented success both at home in Prague, and on extensive tours. Together they have toured in the past three seasons on three continents, including Europe, Asia and North America. Their recent residency in Vienna at the Musikverein was a great success, and has lead to similar events being planned in other world capitals. The Czech Philharmonic announced in January 2017 that their partnership with Maestro Bělohlávek is now officially extended to 2022!
In addition to his ongoing Prague seasons and touring engagements with the Czech, he continues to perform as a guest conductor with the world’s major orchestras, including recent appearances with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (including at the London Proms), New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Washington National Symphony, and Deutsches Symphony Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Vienna Symphony Orchestra. In the coming season, in addition to major projects with Czech Phil, he looks forward to engagements with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra Munich, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, St Petersburg Philharmonic, and more.
With the Czech Philharmonic, he will conduct a major Asian tour in Autumn 2017 with concerts in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, in addition to appearances on tour in Europe, the highlight of which will be a performance of Janáček Glagolitic Mass at the Salzburg Festival in August 2018.
Jiří Bělohlávek has recorded extensively, with recent projects with the Czech Philharmonic including the complete symphonies and concertos of Dvořák. The series with Decca continues in the coming season, when a major disc of Suk will be recorded.
In 2012 he was awarded an honorary CBE for his services to British music.
The years 1878–1880 are often described as Antonín Dvořák’s “Slavonic period”, as the composer was particularly inspired by Slavonic folk music during that time. It was also over these three years that Dvořák wrote very successful works such as Serenade for Wind Instruments, three Slavonic Rhapsodies, Czech Suite, Symphony No. 6, the first set of Slavonic Dances, Gypsy Songs and a number of compositions for piano. The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A Minor Op. 53 is without doubt a masterpiece, and not just of Dvořák’s “Slavonic period”. It was written at the Sychrov chateau over the summer of 1879. The composer was evidently pleased by the interest shown by the Berlin publisher Fritz Simrock in another work “in a Slavonic mood”.
Like many of his contemporaries and forerunners, starting with Beethoven, Dvořák contemplated entrusting the solo part to the virtuoso Joseph Joachim, to whom he dedicated the concerto. Having met the virtuoso Dvořák heeded his advice and revised the work, completing the last changes in October 1882. The composer entrusted the first performance to the 26-year-old violinist František Ondříček. The premiere was on 14 October 1883 at Prague’s Žofín, with the National Theatre Orchestra under the baton of Mořic Anger. The work’s success was extraordinary and on his future tours Ondříček was able to introduce it on the world’s concert stages, where it continues to be heard to this day.
In Seventh Symphony in D minor the composer presents an unusually grim position of himself, which is difficult to explain by the “objective” reality of his contemporary living conditions. Dvořák composed it in 1884 on a commission from the London Philharmonic Society, whose honorary member he became thanks to the success of his oratorios in Britain. The premiere, which took place on 22 April 1885 in St. James’s Hall under his direction, was a huge success – the audience applauded after every movement.
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