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CCMS • Prague Philharmonia Wind Quintet
Concert for the birthday of the composer Zdeněk Šesták
Wind Quintet in E Minor, Op. 88, No. 1
Divertimento for wind quintet
Prague Philharmonia Wind Quintet
Jiří Ševčík flute
Jan Brabec clarinet
Vladislav Borovka oboe
Václav Fürbach bassoon
Mikuláš Koska French horn
Rudolfinum — Suk Hall
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The Prague Philharmonia Wind Quintet was formed in 2007 by soloists of the Prague Philharmonia’s wind section. Its members have garnered accolades at Czech and international competitions, and have performed with a number of symphony and chamber orchestras. Besides giving concerts at home and abroad alike, the ensemble have made recordings for Czech Radio of works by 20th-century Czech composers. In 2011 and 2013, the Prague Philharmonia Wind Quintet performed at the Festival dell Arte in Wojanow, Poland. Over the long term, they have closely collaborated with the superb pianist Ivan Klánský, appearing together at numerous concerts. Highly acclaimed too has been the project featuring French poetry and music, within which they have performed with the actor Jan Čenský. Moreover, the quintet have regularly played within the Prague Philharmonia’s chamber cycle. Three years ago, they debuted at the Prague Spring, in 2019 they performed at the Český Krumlov International Music Festival and other events.
The flautist Jiří Ševčík studied at the Teplice Conservatory (under the guidance of his mother) and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where he was one of the last pupils of the legendary František Čech. Since 1994, he has been solo flautist with the Prague Philharmonia. The oboist Vladislav Borovka studied at the Prague Conservatory (with B. Vobořil) and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (with J. Mihule). He further honed his skills in Toyama, Japan, and Paris (taking lessons from J. L. Capezzali). As the best Czech entrant, in 2001 he came third at the Prague Spring International Competition and was named a laureate. He is currently a member of the Czech Philharmonic. The clarinettist Jan Brabec studied at the Teplice Conservatory and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (under the tutelage of V. Mareš), and also attended master classes led by M. Arrignon, M. Lethiec, M. Raison and M. Bourgue. He won the Clarinet Competition in Chomutov and received the City of Prague Prize at the Prague Spring International Competition in 1996. He is a member of the Czech Philharmonic and the Prague Philharmonia. The bassoonist Václav Fürbach studied at the Military Conservatory in Roudnice and the Prague Conservatory (with M. Werner), before rounding off his training at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (with F. Herman and J. Seidl). After spending several years as a soloist with the Brno Philharmonic, he is now principal bassoon with the Prague Symphony Orchestra and the Prague Philharmonia. The hornist Mikuláš Koska studied at the Ostrava Conservatory (with K. Doležil) and the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno (with J. Petráš). The holder of several first prizes at the International Brass Competition in Brno, he became the overall winner of the Czech Conservatories Competition, and he has also participated in the prestigious ARD International Music Competition in Munich. He was previously solo horn with the Brno Philharmonic, and is currently a member of the Czech Philharmonic and the Prague Philharmonia.
Wind Quintet in E minor, Op. 88 No. 1
Antonín Rejcha (1770–1836), was a Prague-born composer, music theorist and teacher. This year 250 years have passed since his birth. Rejcha is primarily known for his major contributions to wind chamber music and piano fugue, as well as treatises on various aspects of composition and experimental methods. He began focusing on music for five wind instruments in 1810, with the first work of this ilk being the “zero quintet”, which he himself branded as a failure and which was followed by another 24 pieces. A Rejcha wind quintet was first performed in public within a concert held at the Conservatoire de Paris on 17 April 1814. In all likelihood, it was the Wind Quintet in E minor, Op. 88 No. 1, completed shortly before. According to period sources, the new piece came across as a revelation. Rejcha brought to bear the specific qualities of the five instruments and their combinations, based on profound knowledge of their technical feasibilities, and also the capacities of the players themselves. All Rejcha’s quintets were gradually premiered in Paris to great acclaim by the flautist Joseph Guillou, the oboist Gustave Vogt, the clarinettist Jacques-Jules Bouffil, the hornist Louis-Francois Dauprat and the bassoonist Antoine-Nicolas Henry, first-class instrumentalists and teachers at the Conservatoire de Paris.
Václav Trojan (1907–1983) was a Czech composer and music educator. Born in Plzeň, he studied the organ with B. Wiedermann, conducting with O. Ostrčil and composition with J. Křička at the Prague Conservatory. He also attended master classes led by Vítězslav Novák and Alois Hába. A versatile and prolific artist, he was a composer and arranger of classical, jazz and dance music. In 1947, Trojan wrote for the Prague Wind Quintet a quintet inspired by folk songs (Opus 8), which earned him great esteem and which would be performed by ensembles all over the world. Somewhat irked by the piece’s enormous popularity, four decades later, in 1977, he decided to compose another wind quintet, the programme neo-classical Divertimento, “so they would cease bothering me with the first one”, as he himself put it. Inspired by cursory impressions and images of summer Prague, this brilliant, sparkling work too was dedicated to the Prague Wind Quintet, who duly premiered it on 4 March 1978 within the Week of New Music.
Zdeněk Šesták (b. 1925) has been a major presence on the Czech music scene for decades. On 10 December 2020, the distinguished composer, who has attended all notable concerts or premiere performances in Prague, will celebrate his 95th birthday.
Zdeněk Šesták was born in Cítoliby, a village that possesses an illustrious musical tradition. In 1720, the local estate was acquired by the Pachta family. Count Arnošt Karel Pachta paid for the training of selected gifted local youths, from whom he set up an orchestra. Over the course of time, some of its members matured into remarkable musicians. Virtually isolated from the rest of the world, these composers – Jan Václav Kopřiva, his equally talented sons Karel Blažej and Jan Jáchym, Jan Adam Gallina, Jan Nepomuk Vent, Jakub Lokaj and Jan Janoušek – created works comparable with those originating at the time in Europe’s major cultural centres. Their remarkable pieces fell into oblivion and would probably have remained forgotten had it not been for Zděnek Šesták’s musicological research and discoveries. Due to his great endeavours and diligence, the Cítoliby composers were brought to the attention of today’s connoisseurs and music lovers. Supraphon’s seven LPs within the “Music of the 18th-century Cítoliby Masters” series and the Prague Spring “Musica antiqua citolibensis” projects have become the stuff of legend.
After completing his secondary education in Louny, Zdeněk Šesták enrolled at the Prague Conservatory, where from 1945 to 1950 he attended composition classes under the guidance of Emil Hlobil and Miroslav Krejčí, while concurrently studying musicology at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University. Since 1957, he has been a free-lance composer and musicologist, with the exception of 1968 and 1969, when he worked as the chief music programmer at Czechoslovak Radio.
Zdeněk Šesták began composing in the 1960s. He has always approached his work with great responsibility, mainly focusing on philosophical subjects and with the conviction that music should convey bold spiritual and emotional messages. He has drawn inspiration from Ancient drama (the symphonic pieces Fatum, based on Sophocles’ Antigone, Euripidés and Sisyfos) and global literature (vocal works set to poetry by François Villon, Guillaume Apollinaire, Karel Hynek Mácha, Konstantin Biebl, Josef Hora and Vítězslav Nezval). In 1968, he responded to the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia with Symphony No. 2. The secondary titles of his works indicate that they deal with weighty subjects that need to be pondered: Symphonic Variations, “Capturing a Point of Time”; Cello Concerto No.1, “Light of Hope”; Concerto for Viola, “Socrates Meditations”; Symphony No. 6, “Eternal Unrest of the Heart”; String Quartet No. 5, “Labyrinth of the Soul”; etc. Although speaking a modern musical idiom, some of Šesták’s compositions are evidently influenced by Classicism, blending the personality of the composer and explorer into one. The 1966 Divertimento concertante for wind quintet dates from the artist’s early creative phase. Its title seems to refer to the works of the same type written by Jan Nepomuk Vent (1745–1801), one of those who started their musical journey in Šesták’s beloved Cítoliby.
Norman Hallam (b. 1945) was born in Coventry, England. When he was four, he contracted polio, which resulted in permanent wheelchair occupancy. Developing a talent for music at an early age, he began taking clarinet and composition lessons. He continued to study at the Birmingham School of Music and subsequently at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 1970, Hallam was appointed second clarinet with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, where he stayed until 1999, when ill health forced him to retire early. Since then, he has solely focused on composing and arranging. Hallam’s Clarinet Concerto was premiered in 1998 by his friend Kevin Banks, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra's principal clarinet. The Dance Suite was written in 1980 as an "entertainment vehicle" for the Wind Quintet "Canzona", in which Hallam was the clarinettist (ca 1976-86). The jazz-influenced set of four dances is noteworthy for wits and splendid instrumentation.