Czech Chamber Music Society • Josef Suk Piano Quartet


Bylo by škoda, aby tento originální program Klavírního kvarteta Josefa Suka zapadl jen proto, že nemohl zaznít v minulé sezoně. Vedle Sukova raného klavírního kvartetu a 3. kvartetu Johannese Brahmse totiž zahrnuje skladbu soudobé české autorky Marty Jiráčkové inspirovanou verši Jana Skácela. Jejich recitace se ujme Taťjana Medvecká.

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Programme

Josef Suk
Piano Quartet in A minor, Op. 1 (23')
Allegro appassionato
Adagio
Allegro con fuoco

Marta Jiráčková
Piano Quartet, Op. 66 "Communicatio intima"
A five-part series for piano quartet with recitations of selected poems by Jan Skácel (23')
Preludium
Fugato
Interludium I
Interludium II
Postludium

— Intermission —

Johannes Brahms
Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60 (38')
Allegro non troppo
Scherzo. Allegro
Andante
Finale. Allegro comodo

Performers

Josef Suk Piano Quartet
Radim Kresta violin
Eva Krestová viola
Aneta Šudáková cello
Václav Mácha piano

Taťjana Medvecká recitation

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society Josef Suk Piano Quartet

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A piano quartet is a classical musical ensemble as well as a chamber music composition. It seems that composers were just trying their hand at scores for piano and three string instruments, while pursuing other goals in their careers later.

Performers

Josef Suk Piano Quartet   

Since its founding, the Josef Suk Piano Quartet has appeared on many important stages around the world, including the Prague Spring Festival in 2016 and concerts in Italy, Austria, Spain, Slovakia, Germany, France, and Japan. Violinist Radim Kresta originally established the ensemble in 2007 as a piano trio. With that instrumentation it won a number of prizes at international competitions such as the Johannes Brahms Wettbewerb 2007 (first prize), the Premio Rovere d’Oro 2008 (first prize), and the Val Tidone Music Competitions 2010 (first prize).

The ensemble has been performing as a piano quartet since 2012. In that form, it earned victories at international competitions including the Concorso Salieri-Zinetti 2013 in Verona (first prize) and one of the most prestigious competitions in the field, the 2013 ACM Premio Trio di Trieste (first prize). The group won the Prize of the Czech Chamber Music Society for the best chamber ensemble of the year 2014. The ensemble was nominated twice in a row (2019 and 2020) for the prestigious Classic Prague Awards in the category for Chamber Performance of the Year.

In 2014 and 2015 the quartet recorded two CDs for an Italian label with music by Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and Gabriel Fauré, and in 2017 they released a new Czech CD on the Supraphon label with the music of Josef Suk and Antonín Dvořák. That CD was honoured as the Disc of the Week on BBC radio 3 (2017) and as one of the Recordings of the Year on MusicWeb International (2018). In the 2019/2020 season, the Josef Suk Piano Quartet was the ensemble-in-residence of the Czech Chamber Music Society of the Czech Philharmonic.

The quartet is named for the violinist Josef Suk (1929–2011), one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century and a great-grandson of Antonín Dvořák. Besides the classical repertoire, the quartet regularly premieres works written for it by such important contemporary composers as Michal Müller, Jean-Luc Darbelay, Max E. Keller, Matteo d’Amico, Jiří Gemrot, and Marta Jiráčková. At its concerts, the ensemble also appears with the instrumentation of a piano trio or a string trio (with the name Josef Suk Trio).

Taťjana Medvecká  

A Czech actress on stage and in cinema, dubbing, and radio, Taťana Medvecká was born on 10 November 1953 in Prague. In 1975, right after finishing her studies at the Academy of Performing Arts, she joined the drama ensemble of the National Theatre, where she is still performing. Since then, she has played more than 100 roles of various types and genres. She also appears as a guest at other Prague theatres (Rokoko, Ungelt, Viola).

For performances on stage, she has twice won a Thalia Award (in 2000 and 2002). She also works as a dubbing and radio actress. She has lent her voice most frequently to the American actress Susan Sarandon. In 1997 she won the František Filipovský Award for dubbing. She has been nominated many times for the Invisible Actor Awards, and she has won that radio survey seven times. She also won a Thalia Award for radio in 2013.

She first drew attention as a film actress in Oldřich Lipský’s comedy Marecek, Pass Me the Pen! She has acted in many television productions. She won a Czech Lion Award for a secondary role in the film The House. The same film earned her a Sun in a Net Award. She also records audio books and performs recitations.

Compositions

Josef Suk
Piano Quartet in A minor, Op. 1

Josef Suk composed just one piano quartet, which became his opus No. 1. This was due to the influence of his teacher and later father-in-law, Antonín Dvořák, who assigned him to write such composition. The young Suk worked on it during the Easter holidays of 1891 in his native village of Křečovice, where he managed to complete the first movement and write the opening movement of the second movement, Adagio. Dvořák gave high praise to him for this work, and soon afterwards Suk finished it in Prague. Since both he and his teacher (to whom Suk eventually dedicated this quartet, to which Dvořák had only one comment concerning the fact that everything by Suk was in a minor key) were happy with it, Suk acknowledged it as his first opus, although previously he had already composed Trio in C minor as well as two ballads – for violin and cello. Here Suk begins to show himself as a composer admirably adept at sonata musical form and detailed work with themes and individual instruments, and also as a lyricist and melodist who is just at home with joyous musical tones – just think of his Serenade in E flat major for Strings, Op. 6, from 1892 or the music for Zeyer’s play Radúz and Mahulena from 1898. Dvořák included Suk’s Piano Quartet in A minor in the representative concert of his composition class on 13 May 1891 at the Rudolfinum in Prague, prepared by Prof. Hanuš Wihan with Suk’s classmates. Among them were the violinist Karel Hoffmann and the cellist Otto Berger, with whom Suk subsequently played second violin in an ensemble that enjoyed success throughout Europe under the name of the Bohemian Quartet.

Marta Jiráčková
Piano Quartet, Op. 66 "Communicatio intima"

Marta Jiráčková first studied composition at the Prague Conservatory with Emil Hlobil, then privately with Alois Hába in the 1960s, and during her postgraduate studies at the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno with Ctirad Kohoutek and Alois Piňos in the 1970s. At that time she entered Czech musical life with her work. Her thorough and versatile education and many years of editorial work in Czechoslovak Radio enriched the sonic component of her compositions, while the tragic death of her husband, conductor Václav Jiráček (in 1966), and her close relationship with the composer Sláva Vorlová deepened the overall philosophical subtext of her oeuvre. It encompasses most types and genres of music, including incidental music for radio and television. Many of Jiráčková’s compositions contain her typical vocal component, using the human voice as a musical instrument; she likes to be inspired by unusual stimuli. Her work has also been influenced, i.a., by dodecaphony and experimental approaches to contemporary music. Jiráčková has also successfully devoted herself to electroacoustic music. Her compositions have received recognition both at home and abroad. Her electroacoustic composition The Ship of Fools was awarded the Annual Prize of the Czech Music Fund in 1992, and Pura sub nocte came second in the Musica Nova international competition in 1998 (first prize was not awarded). On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the OSA Copyright Protection Association, Jiráčková received an award for her contribution to Czech culture together with other representatives of Czech music.

The composition Communicatio intima, Op. 66 was written in 2015 and today’s interpreters, to whom it is dedicated, have successfully performed it both at home and abroad. They premiered it on 9 April 2015 in Prague and recorded it for Czech Radio – but in a purely musical form, without the verses of Jan Skácel (this February we celebrated the 100th anniversary of his birth). “The composition was written for my friend Miroslav in 2015. I also present it under the Czech title Důvěrná sdělení [Confidential Communication]. It is really a kind of taking stock of ‘confidential messages’ from childhood to this day. The first time I experienced it at the age of five, when my parents sent me to a pre-school summer camp, where another girl and I whispered our five-year-old confidences to each other on a single pillow before falling asleep, and became inseparable friends for the time being. As life went on, inevitably bringing about both good and bad, more confidences were added, some of which had the necessary therapeutic effects in critical situations. ‘Confidentiality’ is derived from the word ‘confidence’, so confidential communication is only possible between people who trust, respect, or even love each other. And this does not always have to be in harmony because there are sharper moments in life... but let us strive for harmony, all life.”

The composition was commissioned by the Josef Suk Piano Quartet. Its first violinist Radim Kresta says, “From the very beginning we were enchanted by the beautiful poetic character of this composition, and so in 2020 I came up with the idea of adapting it into a combination of music and recitation of poems by Jan Skácel (1922–1989). The composer, Mrs. Jiráčková, was not against it, and so in collaboration with her and one of our prominent Czech actresses, Taťjana Medvecká (who has already had a lot of experience with the combination of music and words), a second version of Communicatio intima was created in symbiosis with the intimate nature of the music and the poetic atmosphere of Skácel’s verses.” The verses that will accompany Jiráčková’s music today come from Skácel’s poetry collections Incantation in the Time Before Last, Who Can Fit on the Violin, Love Again and How Many Chances the Rose Has.

Johannes Brahms
Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60

Johannes Brahms, recognized as the world’s leading composer, paid attention not only to the creative path of Antonín Dvořák, but also that of the young Josef Suk. Brahms attended a concert of the Bohemian Quartet in Vienna in 1893, where Suk’s Piano Quintet was heard, and shared his observations on the piece with Suk. Brahms, 40 years Suk’s senior, did not compose chamber music any more. The list of Brahms’s chamber compositions comprises piano pieces, songs and pieces for string ensembles (quartets, sextets and quintets), a piano quintet, piano trios and, last but not least, three piano quartets (from 1861, 1862 and 1874). Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60 (often called ‘Werther’) was in the making for a long time: Brahms composed its first version in Düsseldorf in the years 1855–1856; he returned to this version (originally in C sharp minor) in 1869 and completed the quartet in Vienna in the years 1873–1874. This final version (in C minor) consists of the opening movement composed in 1855–1856, a Scherzo from the years 1856–1861 and a new Andante and Finale. The quartet shows Brahms’s state of mind at the time. When Brahms sent this piece to his publisher Simrock, he jokingly remarked that the published score could feature a picture of the composer dressed like Werther, i.e., in a blue jacket and a yellow waistcoat, possibly with a gun in his hand. Brahms thus explicitly identified himself with Goethe’s hero – Brahms’s love was Clara Schumann, the wife of his friend Robert Schumann. This quartet has also been described as “Intimate Letters” to Clara. It was premiered on 18 November 1875 in Vienna by the Hellmesberger Quartet with Joseph Hellmesberger on violin, the famous virtuoso David Popper on cello and Brahms himself at the piano.

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