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Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra
Zoltán Fejérvári, Jan Mráček
To conclude Series K, we are introducing an extraordinary pianist who is poised at the beginning of an international career. Zoltán Fejérvári triumphed at the 2017 Montreal International Music Competition and won a stipend from the Borletti-Buitoni Trust.
Concerto grosso in D Minor, “La folia” H 143
Johann Sebastian Bach
Piano Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052
Johann Sebastian Bach
Piano Concerto in A Major, BWV 1055
Pulcinella, ballet suite
artistic supervisor of the project
Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra
An aftertalk with Zoltán Fejérvári will be held after the show.
To conclude Series K, we are introducing an extraordinary pianist who is poised at the beginning of an international career. Zoltán Fejérvári triumphed at the 2017 Montreal International Music Competition and won a stipend from the Borletti-Buitoni Trust. András Schiff invited him to join Building Bridges, a project for exceptional young pianists, and he has twice participated at the Marlboro Music Festival at the personal invitation of Mitsuko Uchida. Zoltán Fejérvári has appeared at New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Gasteig in Munich, the Lingotto Auditorium in Turin, the Library of Congress in Washington, and the National Library in Buenos Aires. For his recording of Liszt’s Malédiction for piano and string orchestra he won France’s prestigious Grand prix du Disque. His skilled partner will be another soloist, the artistic supervisor of the programme Jan Mráček, winner of the Fritz Kreisler International Competition in Vienna, bringing to a conclusion his series of appearances by three concertmasters of the Czech Philharmonic as part of Series K. Together with music of the High Baroque by Johann Sebastian Bach and Francesco Geminiani, you will be hearing Stravinsky’s treatment of subject matter from the commedie dell’arte with music by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. Stravinsky composed the neoclassical ballet Pulcinella for Sergei Diaghilev, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra commissioned him to create an orchestral suite from it, in which he discovered “a backward look, of course—the first of many love affairs in that direction—but it was a look in the mirror, too.” Above all, he had written a congenial, attractive work.
The Czech violinist Jan Mráček was born in 1991 in Pilsen and began studying violin at the age of five with Magdaléna Micková. From 2003 he studied with Jiří Fišer, graduating with honors from the Prague Conservatory in 2013, and until recently at the University of Music and the Performing Arts in Vienna under the guidance of the Vienna Symphony concertmaster Jan Pospíchal.
As a teenager he enjoyed his first major successes, winning numerous competitions, participating in the master classes of Maestro Václav Hudeček – the beginning of a long and fruitful association. He won the Czech National Conservatory Competition in 2008, the Hradec International Competition with the Dvořák concerto and the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra in 2009, was the youngest Laureate of the Prague Spring International Festival competition in 2010, and in 2011 he became the youngest soloist in the history of the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra. In 2014 he was awarded first prize at Fritz Kreisler International Violin Competition at the Vienna Konzerthaus. When the victory of Jan Mráček was confirmed, there was thunderous applause from the audience and the jury. The jury president announced, “Jan is a worthy winner. He has fascinated us from the first round. Not only with his technical skills, but also with his charisma on stage.”
Jan Mráček has performed as a soloist with the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra and Romanian Radio Symphony (both under Sascha Goetzel), Lappeenranta City Orchestra (Finland), Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK), Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra and almost all Czech regional orchestras.
Jan Mráček had the honor of being invited by Maestro Jiří Bělohlávek to guest lead the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in their three concert residency at Vienna’s Musikverein, and the European Youth Orchestra under Gianandrea Noseda and Xian Zhang on their 2015 summer tour.
In 2008 he joined the Lobkowicz Piano Trio, which was awarded first prize and the audience prize at the International Johannes Brahms Competition in Pörtschach, Austria in 2014. His recording of the Dvořák violin concerto and other works by this Czech composer under James Judd with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra was recently released on the Onyx label and has received excellent reviews.
In addition to his British debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, in season 2017/2018 Jan Mráček made his American debut with the St Louis Symphony under Han-Na Chang, with the Symphony of Florida with James Judd, debuts in Dubai with the Vienna Concert Verein and in China with the Slovenian Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic under Manuel López-Gómez as well as recitals at festivals in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Greece. In April 2017 he made his Swiss debut with the Tchaikovsky concerto as an Orpheum Foundation soloist in Zurich’s Tonhalle with the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra under Vladimir Fedoseyev. In July 2017 he performed with the Asian Youth Orchestra in Tokyo. In November 2018, Jan Mráček played Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Prague Symphony Orchestra again under the direction of Vladimir Fedoseyev.
Jan Mráček plays on a Carlo Fernando Landolfi violin, Milan 1758, generously loaned to him by Mr Peter Biddulph.
Zoltán Fejérvári has emerged as one of the most intriguing pianists among the newest generation of Hungarian musicians. Winner of the 2017 Concours Musical International de Montréal and recipient of the prestigious Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship in 2016, Zoltán Fejérvári has appeared in recitals throughout the Americas and Europe, at prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Canada’s Place des Arts, Gasteig in Munich, Lingotto in Turin, Palau de Música in Valencia, Biblioteca Nacional de Buenos Aires, and Liszt Academy in Budapest. He has performed as a soloist with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Hungarian National Orchestra, Verbier Chamber Orchestra, and Concerto Budapest, and he has collaborated with such conductors as Iván Fischer, Gábor Tákács-Nagy, Ken-Ichiro Kobayashi, and Zoltán Kocsis. Fejérvári’s solo recording debut, Janáček, released in January 2019, earned rave reviews as “the most sensitive and deeply probative recording” of that composer’s work (Gramophone).
In the 2019/2020 season, Fejérvári continues to perform chamber music, recital, and orchestral repertoire spanning five centuries. He begins the season at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival with a recital of Bartók, Jörg Widmann, and Schumann followed by chamber music performances. Fejérvári makes his Washington Performing Arts recital debut in November 2019, performing works by Janáček, Schubert, and Chopin. Additional recital debuts include the La Jolla Music Society; Howland Chamber Music Circle in Beacon, NY; Frederic Chopin Society of Minnesota; Sanford-Hill Piano Series at Western Washington University; and the Norfolk & Norwich Music Society in the U.K.
Fejérvári’s orchestral collaborations this season include Bartók’s Concerto No. 3 with the San Antonio and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestras; D Minor and A Major concerti of J. S. Bach with the Czech Philharmonic; Variations on a Nursery Tune by Ernő Dohnányi with the Concerto Budapest Orchestra under the baton of András Keller; and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 with Mátyás Antal at the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra Miskolc. As a chamber musician, Fejérvári performs with the Elias Quartet presented by the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and with violinist Diana Tishchenko in Aix-en-Provence and La Chaux-de-Fonds. He is also a guest at the Brooklyn Chamber Music Festival.
Past seasons’ recital highlights have included Classical Spree, the festival of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra; contemporary and Baroque concerti at Lucerne Festival at the request of Sir András Schiff, a longtime mentor to Fejérvári; Gilmore Keyboard Festival Rising Stars series; and Vancouver Recital Society in British Columbia. Schiff chose Fejérvári to participate in “Building Bridges,” a series established to highlight young pianists of unusual promise. Under this aegis Fejérvári gave recitals during the 2017/2018 season in Berlin, Bochum, Brussels, Zurich, Ittingen, among other cities.
Orchestral highlights of Fejérvári’s 2018/2019 season included Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 15, with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, which Iván Fischer led in Budapest and on tour to Warsaw. At the Liszt Academy, Fejérvári performed J. S. Bach’s Concerto in F Minor, BWV 1056, and Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 35.
Fejérvári has collaborated with the Keller and Kodály Quartets; violinists Joseph Lin and András Keller; cellists Gary Hoffman, Christoph Richter, Ivan Monighetti, Frans Helmerson, and Steven Isserlis; and horn player Radovan Vlatković. Fejérvári has appeared at Kronberg’s Chamber Music Connects the World program; Prussia Cove’s Open Chamber Music; Lisztomania at Châteauroux, France; the Tiszadob Piano Festival in Hungary; and Encuentro de Música in Santander, Spain. At the invitation of artistic director Mitsuko Uchida, he participated in the Marlboro Music Festival in the summers of 2014 and 2016. Fejérvári also toured throughout the United States with Musicians from Marlboro in the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 seasons.
Zoltán Fejérvári’s solo piano album debut, Janáček, was released on the Piano Classics label in 2019. It features performances of On an Overgrown Path, in the Mists, and Piano Sonata 1. X. 1905. In 2013 his recording of Liszt’s Malédiction with the Budapest Chamber Symphony, for Hungaroton, was awarded the Grand Prix du Disque. The recording was followed by a CD of four sonatas for piano and violin by Mozart with violinist Ernő Kállai, issued in 2014 by Hungaroton.
“It is the fulfilment of a dream we shared with Jiří Bělohlávek: after two years of preparations, we are ushering in regular concerts of the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. This name does not stand for one particular ensemble; instead it represents a project in which the orchestra members will be performing in various chamber groups,” said David Mareček, Chief Executive Officer of the Czech Philharmonic, in the spring of 2018. Jiří Bělohlávek was convinced that it was healthy for the Czech Philharmonic to play in a smaller ensemble. In a smaller orchestra, with a repertoire spanning the Baroque to the present, the musicians can hone the intonation, phrasing and collaboration of individuals within the whole. The Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, consisting exclusively of the members of the Czech Philharmonic put together for a specific occasion, has been officially established in the 123rd season. For its debut performances this season in front of the Prague public, it has chosen Reinhard Goebel, Jiří Rožeň, Ondřej Vrabec, Jana Brožková, Simona Šaturová, Josef Špaček and Uxía Martínez Botana. We can look forward to the bold plans for this new project in the following seasons of the Czech Philharmonic.
In 1700, a series of twelve sonatas for solo violin by Arcangelo Corelli was published, and without any exaggeration this magical date can be considered the beginning of a new era of the art of violin playing. For future generations of violinists, Corelli’s sonatas have become not only a canon of contemporary technique, but also a model that encouraged followers to use the same compositional patterns or direct quotes. The most famous pieces which were developed based on Corelli’s collections include Francesco Geminiani’s Concerti grossi.
Geminiani was one of the most respected violinists of his time whose teacher was Corelli himself. From 1714 he worked in London, where he performed in the houses of various noblemen (with Georg Friedrich Handel accompanying him on harpsichord). A breakthrough at his career came with the publication of his concerti grossi in 1726 and 1729. Another important milestone was his treatise The Art of Playing on the Violin (1751), thanks to which he entered the modern history of violin pedagogy. As a freelance concert artist, he lived alternately in London, Paris and Dublin, where he died.
Concerto grosso in D minor “La Folia” is an arrangement of the last sonata from Corelli’s collection. The name “la folia” (literally “the folly”) comes from a dance, popular in the late 15th century in Portugal, in which young men in women’s robes twirled to a wild whirl of drums in the streets in a frenzied way. In the Baroque era, this term designated a set of variations of a majestic, passionate “Spanish” character with basso ostinato, which consisted of a typical sequence of chords. Geminiani’s concerto grosso almost literally imitates Corelli’s violin sonata, enriching it more or less only with orchestral parts. This is also the reason that although the concertino is performed by the usual pair of violin and cello, the dominance of the first violin is undeniable.
The technique of parody was also very popular with Johann Sebastian Bach, although in his case this concerned rather a reworking of his own compositions, often several times. This also applies to Piano Concerto in D minor. Its first and second movements were originally conceived as a prelude and first choral movement of his cantata Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal of 1726 (BWV 146), the third was first heard in 1728 as a sinfonia to the cantata Ich habe meine Zuversicht (BWV 188). When rearranging this music into a concert, Bach gave the part of the obbligato organ to harpsichord, although according to a number of indications the solo part was originally intended for violin (it contains the keyboard reworkings of typical violinistic figurations as well as popular “bariolage” passages with repeated notes on the violin’s open strings).
On the other hand, Piano Concerto in A major has no known precursors in Bach’s work, although some experts have identified the oboe d’amore as the original solo instrument. Like his Piano Concerto in D minor, Bach apparently composed it during his Köthen period, but it acquired its final form as late as in Leipzig after 1733 in connection with the inauguration of a new harpsichord obtained by the local Collegium Musicum. Compared to the monumentally conceived D minor concerto, the A major concerto seems more concise and at the same time more expressive. The second movement has the spirit of a siciliano in the expressive key of F sharp minor; the third movement has an attractive dance tempo with lively figurations of the opening ritornello, creating a distinct contrast with the lyrical “secondary subject” presented by the solo instrument.
“Pulcinella was my discovery of the past, the epiphany through which the whole of my late work became possible.” This is how Igor Stravinsky characterized his work, which is considered one of the major milestones of 20th century Neo-Classicism in music. At the same time, he came to the commission that opened new creative approaches to him at the last minute. The idea of adapting Baroque music for a ballet performance based on an early eighteenth-century commedia dell’arte came from the impresario of the Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev, who in 1917 successfully staged Les Femmes de Bonne Humeur (Le donne de buon umore) based on Domenico Scarlatti’s music. Upon Diaghilev’s suggestion, several scores of compositions attributed to Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710–1736) were copied in London and Naples. Diaghilev originally wanted Manuel de Falla to orchestrate the music, but when he turned the offer down, Diaghilev addressed Stravinsky, who had previously written Petrushka and The Rite of Spring for him.
The premiere of the ballet with “musique de Pergolési, arrangée et orchestrée par Igor Strawinsky” took place on 15 May 1920 (i.e., almost exactly one hundred years!) at the Palais Garnier. The crazy pantomime with changes of costumes and singing produced contradictory reactions: Stravinsky was accused of plagiarism, the classic choreography by Léonide Massine and the unusually traditionalist set design by Pablo Picasso caused embarassment. At the request of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Stravinsky reworked the ballet into an orchestral suite that was first performed on 22 December 1922 under the direction of Pierre Monteux. Another version is known as Italian Suite, one of the most popular repertoire pieces of the 20th century for cello and piano.
Stravinsky probably did not know until the end of his life that the music serving as a basis for his Pulcinella was Pergolesi’s work only in part. This Neapolitan master has produced only the singing numbers from his operas Adriano in Siria, Flaminio and Lo frate ’nnamorato, and the sinfonia for cello and basso continuo (used by Stravinsky in the Vivo section). The other parts have been written by other 18th century composers who are now completely forgotten, such as Domenico Gallo (c. 1730–1760), Carlo Ignazio Monza († 1739) and Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer (1692–1766). Canzona Se tu m’ami (crossed out in an orchestral suite) is even a conscious fraud by Alessandro Parisotti (1853–1913), a compiler (and for the most part, the composer) of the famous Arie antiche collection, which is still regarded in good faith as “early music” by many singing teachers of Czech music schools.
Pergolesi, who died at the age of 26, earned the romantic aura of a genius practically only by two of his opuses – the cantata Stabat Mater and the buffo intermezzo La serva padrona, which started its world fame twenty years after his death thanks to the “Querelle des Bouffons” [Quarrel of the Comic Actors] in Paris. Pergolesi’s name quickly became a trademark, by which the works by other composers were labeled for the sake of their better marketability. Domenico Galla’s trio sonatas (the overture, a part of Scherzino – Allegro – Andantino and the final Allegro assai) and Monzo’s harpsichord sonatas (Toccata and Gavotte) were published in London at the end of the 18th century under Pergolesi’s name. In the case of the orchestral concert (Tarantella), there was even a multiple mystification. Concerti armonici by a Dutch diplomat, Count van Wassenaer, were first published anonymously by Carlo Ricciotti in the Hague in 1740. In the London reprint of the collection, Ricciotti was elevated to the position of composer, and later they were attributed, in addition to Pergolesi, also to Fortunato Chelleri and Handel.
Ironically, because of its “good name” this music was chosen as the musical accompaniment to the ballet about Pulcinella, an idiot simpleton servant, and it was only thanks to serendipitous circumstances that the most skilled master was able to impress it with his genius. Stravinsky’s composition goes far beyond the usual concept of parody; his adaptation represents one of his wittiest Neo-Classical achievements with an admirable power of expression and undeniable beauty.