Respected Czech violinist Ivan Ženatý joins the Czech Philharmonic and conductor Petr Altrichter to perform Josef Suk's Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra at the Leoš Janáček International Music Festival in Ostrava.
The Ostrava House of Culture
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Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra in G minor, Op. 24
Petr Altrichter is one of the most distinguished Czech conductors, and he has earned an illustrious reputation for the dynamism and depth of his interpretations of symphonic music.
He was raised in a musical family, and he played musical instruments from a young age. Having graduated from the conservatory in Ostrava as a French horn player and conductor, he continued his studies at the JanáčekAcademy of the Performing Arts in Brno in the fields of orchestral conducting under the guidance of Otakar Trhlík and František Jílek and choral conducting with the teachers Josef Veselka and Lubomír Mátl. After his studies in Brno, he worked as a choirmaster and conductor with the Brno Academic Choir, and he played a part in the earning of many prizes at foreign choral competitions and festivals (Middlesbrough, Debrecen…).
Altrichter attracted international attention in 1976, when he earned the title of laureate and a special prize from the jury at the renowned conducting competition in Besancon, France. On the basis of that prize, he became Václav Neumann’s assistant conductor with the Czech Philharmonic, and he started his own artistic career. Not long after that, he began to receive invitations to conduct orchestras abroad.
After a period of activity with the Brno Philharmonic, in 1988 he became a conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and in 1990 he became its principal conductor. With that orchestra, he made frequent foreign tours to Japan, the USA, Switzerland, Germany, France, and other countries. At the same time, he was engaged in long-term collaboration with the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra in Pardubice, with which he often gave performances abroad introducing many gifted young soloists (such as Isabelle van Keulen and Radek Baborák) who are now firmly established on concert stages around the world.
From 1993, he was the music director of the Southwest German Philharmonic Orchestra of Constance, with which he gave concerts regularly at the Tonhalle in Zurich and at the KKL in Lucerne, and he also toured Switzerland and Italy.
Petr Altrichter made his debut in the United Kingdom with the Prague Symphony Orchestra at the Edinburgh Festival in 1993, and his London debut with the English Chamber Orchestra followed soon thereafter. In 1997 he was appointed as the principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic after having guest conducted the orchestra with great success during the previous season. He also made an appearance with that orchestra in 2000 at the BBC Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and he made a number of highly acclaimed recordings for the orchestra’s own label – RLPO Live.
In 2001 Altrichter was invited to take the helm of the Brno Philharmonic, and he remained there for seven years, returning to the orchestra with which he had been associated since his student days, and he still continues to guest conduct there regularly.
He is also a regular guest of the Czech Philharmonic, with which he has maintained a steady artistic relationship since his beginnings there as an assistant, and of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Brno Philharmonic, and the Slovak Philharmonic, with which he recorded a warmly received award-winning CD with repertoire by Antonín Dvořák.
In 2015 he toured Germany with the Czech Philharmonic, and in late 2015 and early 2016, he toured China with the same orchestra. In the spring of 2017 he toured Japan with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, with which Altrichter is planning a tour of Germany next year. His 2018 calendar includes a tour of the United Kingdom with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.
He has guest conducted major orchestras abroad, including Japan’s NHK Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. In the United Kingdom he has collaborated with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Among the orchestras he has guest conducted are the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Krakow Philharmonic, the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Baden-Baden, the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra in Riga, the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra, the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Philharmonic, the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen, and the Odense Symphony Orchestra.
The festivals at which he is a frequent guest include Prague Spring, Janáček May in Ostrava, Smetana’s Litomyšl, Moravian Autumn in Brno, and the Bratislava Music Festival.
He has made guest appearances at major festivals in Salzburg, Edinburgh, Avignon, Athens, Cheltenham, Paris, Madrid, Chicago, Zurich, Lucerne, Vienne, Seville, Palermo, and elsewhere.
The bulk of Petr Altrichter’s repertoire consists of Czech music – Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček, and Bohuslav Martinů, Russian music – especially Dmitri Shostakovich, and the works of Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner. Important soloists and performers from around the world (Garrick Ohlsson, John Lill, Tabea Zimmermann…) value his flexibility in leading orchestral accompaniments, and they seek out collaboration with him.
Music critics, fellow musicians and audiences call Ivan Ženatý “the most important Czech violinist of this time.”
Mr. Ženatý reaches a broad public without abandoning the world of classical music for even a moment. Besides the technical perfection one would expect, he is also appreciated for his taste, style and captivatingly beautiful tone. With his exceptional wealth of repertoire including more than 50 violin concertos, he is a favoured guest artist with many international orchestras. Known for his versatility, his engagements also include solo recitals and chamber music collaborations.
His international career developed as a result of winning a prize in the Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition followed immediately by debut engagements with the Moscow and Czech Philharmonic Orchestras. Other successes include first prize at the Prague Spring Competition, as well as being a chosen laureate of the UNESCO International Rostrum of Young Performers. In the subsequent years Ivan Ženatý made his orchestral and solo debuts in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna, Zurich, Tokyo, New York, Buenos Aires, Madrid and Jerusalem.
The musicianship of Ivan Ženatý has been influenced the most by his personal encounters with Nathan Milstein, Ruggiero Ricci and André Gertler. Studies at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow under the tutelage of Igor Bezrodny had the greatest impact on his technical approach to the violin. The great Czech musical tradition was passed on to Ivan Ženatý through his mentor Josef Suk, which resulted in many years of professional partnership and culminated in a recording of the complete works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Other great musicians, with which Ivan Ženatý collaborated, include Yehudi Menuhin, Yo-Yo Ma, Serge Baudo, Valery Gergiev and Neville Marriner.
Ivan Ženatý’s recordings have always been enthusiastically received by listeners and music critics. His prolific output of over 40 CDs includes the complete works of Telemann, Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Schulhoff, Dvořák and Grieg. His new recording of the complete works of Dvořák has attracted extraordinary attention, as has his recording of both violin concertos by Josef Bohuslav Foerster with the BBC Symphony Orchestra London and its music director Jiří Bělohlávek.
A natural counterbalance to Ivan Ženatý’s concert and recording activities is his work as an acclaimed teacher. Mr. Ženatý has taught at the Hochschule für Musik in Dresden and in the fall of 2012 he was invited to join the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music. His summer activities will include teaching at the Meadowmount School of Music.
Thanks to the Harmony Foundation of New York, Ivan Ženatý plays a rare Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu violin made in 1740.
In June 1924 Leoš Janáček heard a military band concert at a colonnade in Písek, South Bohemia, where among other compositions the band played fanfares. They made a considerable impression on him and remained in his memory until early 1926, when he was commissioned to compose a musical salute to the 8th Sokol Gymnastic Festival in Prague. At first Janáček intended to write a fanfare only, but the piece soon grew into an original symphonic work in five movements. The Czech Sokol Organization accepted the composition and put it on the cultural program of the festival, deciding that the fanfare is to be trumpeted from the tower of the Týn Church during the closing march of the Sokols through Prague.
In retrospective Janáček gave the Sinfonietta the content related to Brno. Under this concept, the second movement after the fanfares represents Špilberk Castle, the third, the monastery in Old Brno, the fourth, Brno’s bustling street life, and the final fifth refers to its town hall.
Sinfonietta has a closed circular form and as regards the tectonics, combines elements of suite and symphony. It opens with a pentatonic fanfare intrada played by nine C trumpets, two bass trumpets and two tenor tubas in the Allegretto tempo. The second movement, Andante, has the elements of sonata form. It features impressive motifs, fresh rhythms and a large number of orchestral colors. The third movement, Moderato, begins quietly with a lyrical theme in the strings, followed by a motif passed on successively to English horn, oboe and violin. The dark syncopated motif of trombones is joined in a high pitch by flutes and piccolos. Then a trombone plays a picturesque dance-like tune and the movement closes with a syncopated theme in the trombones. The fourth movement, Allegretto, has a character of scherzo. Its introductory (and really only) theme is constantly repeated in the woodwind instruments with contrasting interventions of the orchestra. The melancholy music in the flutes at the beginning of the final movement, Andante con moto, is punctuated by dramatic chords of the strings. After another exciting passage in the higher strings, the trumpets play verbatim in unison the opening intrada (actually a retirada now) from the first movement.
At the concert tonight, Sinfonietta will be performed for the first time from a new critical edition, prepared for Universal Edition by the musicologist Jiří Zahrádka from Brno.
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