Czech Chamber Music Society • Talich Quartet


The ensemble, which regularly performs at prestigious music festivals and foreign stages and is one of the top Czech quartet schools, will also be playing in Dvořák Hall this season. The audience can look forward to the Antonín Dvořák American Quartet or the Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Sixth String Quartet.

  • Subscription series II
  • Czech Chamber Music Society

Programme

Antonín Dvořák
Quartet Movement in F Major, B 120
Allegro vivace

Antonín Dvořák
String Quartet in F Major, Op. 96 “American”
Allegro ma non troppo
Lento
Molto vivace
Finale: vivace ma non troppo

— Intermission —

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
String Quartet No. 6 F Minor, Op. 80
Allegro vivace assai
Allegro assai
Adagio
Finale: Allegro molto

Performers

Juilliard String Quartet

Talich Quartet
Jan Talich violin I
Roman Patočka violin II
Radim Sedmidubský viola
Michal Kaňka cello

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society Talich Quartet

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall


Price from 100 to 350 Kč Tickets and contact information

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E-mail: info@czechphilharmonic.cz

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Performers

The Talich Quartet  

The Talich Quartet has been evolving as part of a prestigious line of musicians for more than fifty years, representing Czech musical art throughout the world. For several decades, the Talich Quartet has been recognized internationally as one of the world’s finest string quartets, and as the embodiment of the great Czech musical tradition. The Quartet was founded in 1964 by Jan Talich Sr., during his studies at the Prague Conservatory, and named in honour of his uncle Václav Talich, the renowned chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic between the years 1919 and 1939. During the 1990s, there was a gradual and complete change in personnel, rejuvenating the Quartet while continuing the tradition of its predecessors through involvement in a wide spectrum of musical engagements and recording activities. Jan Talich Jr., the current first violinist, is the son of the Quartet’s founder.

The Talich Quartet is regularly invited to prestigious chamber music festivals such as the Pablo Casals Festival in Prades, Prague Spring Music Festival, Europalia Festival, Printemps des Arts in Monte Carlo, Tibor Varga Festival of Music, and the International String Quartet Festival in Ottawa; first appearances in last years included Malta Arts Festival and Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, Finland. The Talich Quartet frequently visits such venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall, le Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and Salle Gaveau in Paris, London’s Wigmore Hall and Het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

The Talich Quartet’s recordings of the complete string quartets by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, released on the Calliope label between 2001 and 2004, have been widely praised. Other recordings include Dvořák’s “American” quartet and viola quintet (2003), Smetana’s two string quartets (2003), and a live recording of Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” and Dvořák‘s Quintet (2004). The Quartet’s Janáček recording was honoured by the Gramophone with a nomination for the best chamber recording of 2006—the only recording by a string quartet to be selected. In May 2015 the BBC Music Magazine gave the Talich Quartet 5 stars for their latest CD, Dvořák: String Quartets No. 10 &11, and in 2014 Forbes magazine listed Talich’s recording of Janáček’s and Schulhoff’s String Quartets as second best classical recording (reissues) of 2014. Recent recordings include works by Smetana, Dvořák, Janáček, Kalivoda, Fibich, Schulhoff, Schubert, Brahms, Debussy, Ravel and Shostakovich.

Compositions

Antonín Dvořák
Quartet Movement in F Major, B 120

Today he is the most frequently played Czech composer. In the 1860s, however, Antonín Dvořák began as an unknown violist in the orchestra of the Prague Provisional Theatre, whose conductor at the time was Bedřich Smetana. Later he worked as an organist at the nearby St. Adalbert Church. He was composing, but it was only when Brahms recommended him to the Berlin publisher Simrock that the world started opening its doors to his published compositions. At the beginning there were Slavonic Dances. Over the next few years, Dvořák became an internationally renowned composer, held in the highest esteem.

In 1881, when he was already receiving a number of commissions for new works, the year in which the National Theater in Prague burned down, Dvořák worked on the opera Dimitrij. His Sixth Symphony was premiered in Prague in the spring of that year, and his opera The Stubborn Lovers, in the fall; his Gypsy Songs were presented in Vienna. Joseph Hellmesberger, Kapellmeister of the Vienna Court Opera, commissioned Dvořák to compose a string quartet for his chamber ensemble. It was to be performed in December that year, as announced in Viennese newspapers. In the fall Dvořák began to work on the composition in earnest, but when he finished the first movement in three days, he put it on the side. Apparently he was not satisfied, either because he thought there was not enough tension in the music or because he had doubts about the key. However, he soon began working on a new quartet, his eleventh, in the key of C major. He was so pressed for time that he worked on the opera in the mornings and the quartet in the afternoons. He finished the string quartet in November, on time, but unfortunately the premiere did not take place. On 8 December, a fire broke out at the 1700-seat Ringtheater, which had opened the previous decade as the Opéra comique, and hundreds of people died. Therefore giving a concert in Vienna at that time was unthinkable. The first performance of Dvořák’s new String Quartet in C major was therefore not given until a year later, when it was presented in Berlin by the Joachim Quartet. And the postponed Quartet Movement in F major, a curiosity of sorts, was not heard by the public until long after the composer’s death, in Prague in 1945, when it was played by the Ondříček Quartet on Czechoslovak Radio.

The fact that Dvořák’s music grows out of his national roots and is at the same time international is corroborated by his compositions written during his stay in America, where he was the director and a teacher of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City from 1892 to 1895. In the New World, Dvořák came to a courageous conclusion that the future music of America must be based on African-American songs. He said so in an interview with the New York Herald – and understandably attracted a great deal of attention, since slavery was not abolished in the United States until 1863 and racial segregation continued there until the mid-20th century. In Dvořák’s mature and masterful compositions of that time, there is a wistful undertone related to his homesickness and separation from his culture and family, but at the same time, to a certain extent, it is possible to hear stylized influences of North American music, whether African-American or Native American. These include Cello Concerto, the New World Symphony, of course, but also Biblical Songs and Suite in A major, Sonatina in G major for violin and piano, and String Quartet in F major.

Antonín Dvořák
String Quartet in F major, Op. 96

“American” Quartet, Dvořák’s twelfth, came into being during his summer vacation in 1893, spent in Spillville, Iowa, a small town about 350 miles west of Chicago inhabited by the descendants of Czech emigrants. The music of this chamber piece resounds with joy and pleasure from rest and the inspiring serenity of the surrounding countryside. The quartet, premiered the following year in Boston, holds together remarkably well in terms of composition. It has a marked homophonic style, a simple content and straightforward expression, disarmingly spontaneous, emotionally authentic and compelling. Although it has a joyous finale, there is a suggestive, melancholic slow movement. The scherzo contains a stylization of the song of a local small bird, the scarlet tanager.

Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80

The oeuvre of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy dates from his early age – he was a true child prodigy. It includes, among other things, twelve minor symphonies for strings, instrumental concertos, but also the often-performed String Octet, the work of a young man of only sixteen years of age and extraordinary talent. He also wrote the overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream very early – at seventeen. He was a grandson of a prominent Jewish thinker and a son of a well-to-do bourgeois family, who had already converted to Christianity. He received excellent education and came from an ideal background – his parents, for example, had his compositions played by a private orchestra in the company of their equally well-to-do friends. He admired the late works of Beethoven, and at the age of twenty, by performing St Matthew Passion, discovered for his contemporaries the forgotten compositional legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach, who inspired him to compose biblical oratorios and choral works for Protestant worship. Although he was artistically conservative, from the very beginning his music blended Mozartesque clarity and economy with new Romantic imagination. We can hear this in Mendelssohn’s popular symphonies as well as in his Violin Concerto and other works.

String Quartet No. 6 in F minor is, however, a mature work from 1847, the last major piece completed before Mendelssohn’s untimely death. He composed the quartet in memory of his sister Fanny, who died in the spring of that year, aged forty-two. She was a gifted pianist and composer. She married the artist Wilhelm Hensel, and after her mother’s death ran the Mendelssohn house in Berlin as a venue for social gatherings and concerts. Felix was living in Leipzig at the time, where he was chief conductor of the Gewandhausorchester from 1835 to 1847. String Quartet in F minor, essentially a “Requiem for Fanny”, was first heard in private in Leipzig in October 1847. Among those present was the pianist and composer Ignaz Moscheles, a native of Prague, a teacher of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn in the early 1820s and later their close friend. The first public performance took place a year after Mendelssohn’s death.

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