Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, Op. 77
Symphony No. 4 in G Major
Leonidas Kavakos is recognized across the world as a violinist and artist of rare quality, known at the highest level for his virtuosity, superb musicianship and the integrity of his playing. He works with the world’s greatest orchestras and conductors and is an exclusive artist with Decca Classics.
The three important mentors in his life have been Stelios Kafantaris, Josef Gingold and Ferenc Rados. By the age of 21, Kavakos had already won three major competitions: the Sibelius Competition in 1985, and the Paganini and Naumburg Competitions in 1988. This success led him to recording the original Violin Concerto by Sibelius, the first recording of this work in history, which won the Gramophone’s ‘Concerto of the Year’ Award in 1991. Kavakos was also the winner of the Léonie Sonning Music Prize 2017.
In the 2017/2018 season he is Artist in Residence at both the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Vienna Musikverein. He will tour Europe with the Filarmonica della Scala and Chailly, and Europe and Asia with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Blomstedt. Elsewhere, he will perform widely as soloist with orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Kavakos will also give the European premiere of Lera Auerbach’s NYx: Fractured Dreams (Violin Concerto No. 4) with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
In 2017 Kavakos has embarked on a European recital tour with Yuja Wang, and in 2018 he will tour North America with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax. He will also appear in recital with his regular chamber music partner Enrico Pace in Asia and Europe.
Leonidas Kavakos has recently built a strong profile as a conductor, and has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Filarmonica Teatro La Fenice and Budapest Festival Orchestra. In the 2017/2018 season he will conduct the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and Vienna Symphony.
As an exclusive recording artist with Decca Classics, his first release was Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas with Enrico Pace (2013), which was awarded the ECHO Klassik ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’. This was followed by Brahms’s Violin Concerto with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig and Riccardo Chailly (2013), Brahms’s Violin Sonatas with Yuja Wang (2014) and the CD Virtuoso (2016). In 2014, he was awarded the ‘Artist of the Year’ by Gramophone. In September 2017, Leonidas Kavakos together with Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax will release their recording of Brahms’s Trios for Sony Classical.
Leonidas Kavakos’s earlier discography encompasses recordings for BIS, ECM and subsequently for Sony Classical, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto (ECHO Klassik ‘Best Concerto Recording’) and Mozart’s Violin Concertos with Camerata Salzburg, which he conducted and in which also played the solo part.
Born and brought up in a musical family in Athens and still resident there, Kavakos curates an annual violin and chamber-music masterclass in Athens, attracting violinists and ensembles from all over the world and reflecting his deep commitment to the handing on of musical knowledge and traditions. Part of this tradition is the art of violin and bow-making, which Kavakos regards to be a great mystery and, to this day, an undisclosed secret. He plays the ‘Willemotte’ Stradivarius violin of 1734 and owns modern violins made by F. Leonhard, S.P. Greiner, E. Haahti and D. Bagué.
“The Czech Philharmonic is very close to my heart artistically and personally. With the leading orchestra of our country, I have repeatedly experienced moments of beauty and deep feeling on the podium. I regard it as an honor that I may continue to be a part of the innermost musical family of the Czech Philharmonic, now alongside the new Chief Conductor, Semyon Bychkov, and together with my wonderful colleague Tomáš Netopil. I am looking forward to our joint projects, whether they will involve performing the classics from this country and around the world or excursions into the realm of lesser-known repertoire and contemporary music. It is my wish that together, our whole institution might continue successfully and harmoniously along the artistic path begun by Jiří Bělohlávek.“
Jakub Hrůša made his debut with the Czech Philharmonic in 2004 when he stepped in at short notice to conduct a programme of Janáček, Martinů and Dvořák. He had just graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague where Jiří Bělohlávek was amongst his teachers. Hrůša has subsequently conducted the Orchestra in forty concerts at home and on tour and, at the start of the 2015/16 season was appointed Permanent Guest Conductor. This season he conducts the opening concerts of the Czech Philharmonic season and has been named Principal Guest Conductor with effect from the 2018/19 season.
A regular guest with leading orchestras in both Europe and the USA, Jakub Hrůša is also Chief Conductor of Bamberg Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (TMSO), and Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra. He served as Music Director and Chief Conductor of PKF – Prague Philharmonia from 2009 to 2015. Recent orchestral highlights include debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Santa Cecilia, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, as well as return engagements with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Cleveland Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic. This season he will make his debuts with the San Francisco Symphony and Munich Philharmonic Orchestras.
Equally at home in operatic repertoire, Hrůša is a regular guest of the National Theatre in Prague and Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and between 2010 and 2012 he was Music Director of Glyndebourne on Tour. For Glyndebourne Festival, he has conducted Janáček‘s The Cunning Little Vixen, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Turn of the Screw, Bizet’s Carmen, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Puccini’s La bohème. Elsewhere he has conducted Janáček’s The Makropulos Affair (Wiener Staatsoper), Jenůfa (Finnish National Opera), and Dvořák’s Rusalka (Opéra national de Paris), alongside works by Puccini (Il trittico for Oper Frankfurt) and Mussorgsky (Boris Godunov for Royal Danish Opera). During the 2017/18 season, he returns to Opéra national de Paris for Lehár’s The Merry Widow, makes his debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden with Bizet’s Carmen, and conducts a new production of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa for Glyndebourne Festival.
In the studio, Jakub Hrůša has recorded the Tchaikovsky and Bruch Violin Concertos with the Czech Philharmonic and Nicola Benedetti for Universal; live recordings for Octavia Records of works by Berlioz, Strauss and Suk with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra; three discs for Pentatone with PKF-Prague Philharmonia; and six discs of Czech music for Supraphon. Marking the start of his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, Hrůša and the Orchestra recorded Smetana’s Má vlast, the first disc in a new partnership with Tudor.
In recognition of his championing of Janáček’s music abroad, Jakub Hrůša was awarded the inaugural Sir Charles Mackerras Prize. He is also President of the International Martinů Circle.
Marta Reichelová was born in Jeseník. She graduated from the Janáček Conservatory in Ostrava and the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno, where she continues her post-gradual studies. While still a student, she guest performed at the Jiří Myron Theater in Ostrava (Emmerich Kalmán: The Countess Maritza – Lisa), the Silesian Theater in Opava (Engelbert Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel– Hansel) and the Josef Kajetán Tyl Theater in Pilsen (Bohuslav Martinů: The Soldier and the Dancer – Fenicie the dancer).
In 2013 Marta Reichelová began to appear as a guest at the National Theater in Brno. She made her debut as Daphne, the leading role of the eponymous opera by contemporary composers Tomáš Hanzlík and Vít Zouhar, and the First Nymph in Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák. In the same year she was engaged as a regular solo singer of the opera ensemble of the National Theater in Brno. Her repertory includes the Cunning Little Vixen (Leoš Janáček: The Cunning Little Vixen), the Maid (Thomas Adés: Powder Her Face), Zerlina (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni), Penelopka (Marko Ivanović: Enchantia), Barče (Bedřich Smetana: The Kiss) and Esmeralda (Bedřich Smetana: The Bartered Bride).
In autumn 2015 she made her debut at the National Theater in Prague as the Cook (Igor Stravinsky: The Nightingale) and Brigitta (Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Iolanta). It was followed by her debut at the Antonín Dvořák Theater Theater in Ostrava in the role of Ophelia (Ambroise Thomas: Hamlet). She attracted attention with her interpretation of Jano in a concert performance of Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek in the Rudolfinum (Prague) and at the South Bank Center (London), broadcast live on BBC.
Marta Reichelová is a prize-winner of the Antonín Dvořák International Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary and the Jakub Pustina International Singing Competition and a semi-finalist of the Hans Gabor Belveder Competition.
She has collaborated with conductors such as Latham König, Rastislav Štúr, Jaroslav Kyzlink, Jakub Klecker, Tomáš Brauner, David Švec and Marko Ivanović and orchestras such as the Czech Philharmonic, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Brno Philharmonic Orchestra and Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra of Ostrava.
Gustav Mahler completed his Symphony No. 4 in G major in 1900 during the time he served at the Vienna Court Opera. It is scored for a very small orchestra, without trombones and tubas. Although it is quite long, it is actually the shortest of Mahler’s finished symphonies, and unlike the other ones it has a relaxed, cheerful mood.
The symphony starts with a two-stroke “sleigh bell” introduction, followed by a pleasing Mozart- or Haydn-esque rhythmic main theme played by the violin. A secondary lyrical theme has a classically light sound as well. The easy-going character of the first movement is enhanced by naughty parts of woodwind instruments. In the second movement, parodic echoes of Austrian urban folklore are heard. It features a part played by the solo violin whose strings are tuned a whole tone higher than standard, which makes it sound like a fiddle from the streets.
The slow third movement brings about two dreamy themes in the introduction. The first one goes through variations and arrives at the lightened mood of the first movement. Mahler himself said that the third movement “laughs and weeps at the same time”. At the end of this movement, the main theme of the fourth movement is foreshadowed in fortissimo. The song Das himmlische Leben (The Heavenly Life) from the final movement of the symphony dates back to 1892 to Mahler’s time spent in Hamburg. Originally, he intended to use this song, sung by soprano solo, as the final movement of his Third Symphony, and it can also be found in his Das Knaben Wunderhorn cycle. The text about heavenly friends comes from a Bavarian folk song. Orchestral “sleigh bell” interludes, separating individual strophes of the song, are based on the motivic material of the opening two bars of the symphony. After the last strophe of the song, the composition comes to a calm conclusion.
The premiere of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony took place on 25 November 1901 in Munich with the composer as conductor. The audience, aware of Mahler’s inclinations towards monumentality, especially in his Second Symphony, expected another titanic work, and so this composition was received with some embarrassment. Time, however, has more than sufficiently tested the value of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony.
Dmitri Shostakovich composed Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 77 in the years 1947–1948. Its inception was thus affected by the infamous circumstances of the first quarter of 1948, when Shostakovich, together with other prominent Soviet composers, was harshly and unfairly criticized and accused of modernism and formalism by the highest echelons of the Communist Party. Shostakovich somehow managed to stabilize the situation (created by Joseph Stalin and his right-hand man in cultural affairs, Andrei Zhdanov) and maintain his position of the “main export item of Soviet music” into the world, including the capitalist West.
The First Violin Concerto is an exceptionally difficult piece, but at the same time does not feature any virtuoso effects which would be void of meaning. It has four movements designated both by their tempo and their form. The first movement is a slow Nocturne. After a gloomy introduction, the solo violin presents the main theme of the whole first movement composed in sonata form. In the following section of the first movement, the solo instrument intertwines with the orchestra in a polyphonic manner. The second movement, Scherzo, is characterized by a pulsing rhythm. Here, for the first time, Shostakovich used the musical motif of DSCH (consisting of the notes D, E flat, C and B natural in German musical notation pronounced as “De-Es-Ce-Ha” = D-mitri Sch-ostakovich), applied in several of his compositions of a later date as his signature. In the First Violin Concerto, this four-tone musical motif can be heard repeatedly, albeit inconspicuously in the orchestral accompaniment.
The central theme of the third movement, Passacaglia, is presented at the very beginning by cellos together with double basses. The subsequent mournful theme played by the violin is extremely demanding in terms of keeping the prescribed nuances of expression. The movement concludes with a long cadenza, in which the solo instrument changes the mood from a melancholy cry to anxious indignation. This cadenza gradually accelerates attaca into the final movement, aptly called Burlesque. Here the composer was inspired by the frisky rhythm and melody of folk songs presented by scaramouches – ancient Russian wandering singers, actors and dancers.
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