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These two artists found each other only recently, and the artistic sparks were flying already at their joint debut in Italy. Federico Colli first appeared in Prague a few years ago at Debut Day of the Dvořák Prague Festival. He immediately won the audience and says he fondly remembers the lovely atmosphere and amazing acoustics of the Dvořák Hall.
Five Melodies for violin and piano, Op. 35bis
Lento, ma non troppo
Animato, ma non allegro
Allegretto leggero e scherzando
Andante non troppo
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108
Allegro alla breve
Un poco presto e con sentimento
— Intermission —
Sonata for Violin and Piano
Introduction. Melancholy. Andante misterioso
Grotesque. Moderato scherzando
Perpetuum mobile. Presto
Epilogue. Melancholy. Andante misterioso
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 in D Major, Op. 94a
Andante con brio
Josef Špaček violin
Federico Colli piano
The performers have agreed on an interesting and varied programme with music by Prokofiev at the forefront. Following his rather brief Five Melodies in the first half of the concert is Brahms’s Sonata in D minor, a tribute to the 125th anniversary of the composer’s death. Turkish pianist Fazil Say is known to us mainly as a performer, but a careful look at his biography reveals a pleasant surprise: he is also a composer of a considerable scope, including film music. The artists giving today’s concert programmed the 25-year-old Sonata for violin and piano. The performance ends with another work by Prokofiev, the Second Sonata from 1943, premièred by great violinist D. Oistrakh.
Praised for his remarkable range of colours, his confident and concentrated stage presence, his virtuosity and technical poise as well as the beauty of his tone Josef Špaček has gradually emerged as one of the leading violinists of his generation. He appears with prestigious orchestras and collaborating with eminent conductors. He equally enjoys giving recitals and playing chamber music and is a regular guest at festivals and in concert halls throughout Europe, Asia and the USA. Josef Špaček studied with Itzhak Perlman at The Juilliard School in New York, Ida Kavafian and Jaime Laredo at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and with Jaroslav Foltýn at the Prague Conservatory. He was laureate of the International Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels. By the end of the 2019/2020 season he served as concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the youngest in its history. Josef Špaček performs on the ca. 1732 “LeBrun; Bouthillard” Guarneri del Gesù violin, generously on loan from Ingles & Hayday.
Praised by The Daily Telegraph for “his beautifully light touch and lyrical grace”, Federico Colli has been rapidly gaining worldwide recognition for his compelling, unconventional interpretations and clarity of sound. The remarkable originality and highly imaginative, philosophical approach to music-making have distinguished Federico’s performances and recordings as miraculous and multidimensional. Federico’s first release of Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, recorded on Chandos Records for whom he is an exclusive recording artist, was awarded “Recording of the Year” by Presto Classical. The second volume of Scarlatti’s Sonatas was named “Recording of the Month” by both BBC Music Magazine and International Piano Magazine and it has been chosen by BBC Music Magazine as one of the best classical albums released in 2020.
Following his early successes including the Gold Medal at the 2012 Leeds International Piano Competition, the International Piano magazine selected him as one of the “30 pianists under 30 who are likely to dominate the world stage in years to come”. Henceforth, Federico went on to perform with world’s renowned orchestras (Mariinsky Orchestra, St Petersburg Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and many others), working with esteemed conductors. One of the most prolific and intriguing recitalists, Federico showcased his mastery in some of the world’s most famous halls and has appeared in festivals such as Klavier Festival Ruhr in Dortmund, Dvorak International Festival in Prague, Chopin and his Europe International Festival in Warsaw, Lucerne Festival, and Ravinia Festival in Chicago.
Federico’s concerts in 2021/2022 season include piano concerts with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI and The Sichuan Symphony Orchestra. Recital appearances include the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Stockholm Konzerthuset, Vienna Ehrbar Saal for the Bechstein Piano Series, Leeds Town Hall, a recital tour in North America (San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre, Gilmore Rising Stars Series and Vancouver Chopin Society), and a duo recital with violinist Josef Špaček at the Prague Rudolfinum.
In addition to live performances, Federico maintains busy recording schedule. His future releases projects on Chandos include a Russian project focused on Shostakovich and Prokofiev, as well as spread over five years a multi album Mozart project with solo and chamber music repertory. Out of his love for the music of Mozart, during the pandemic Federico created an educational series of short videos for his YouTube channel designed to re-discover Mozart’s Fantasy in C minor, K 475 and place Mozart’s musical ideas in a historical and cultural context.
Born in Brescia in 1988, he has been studying at the Milan Conservatory, Imola International Piano Academy and Salzburg Mozarteum, under the guidance of Sergio Marengoni, Konstantin Bogino, Boris Petrushansky and Pavel Gililov.
In 1918, Sergei Prokofiev left his native Russia to live abroad. While giving concerts as a pianist, he established new contacts, which afforded him inspiration and gave rise to a number of commissions. In 1920, when on tour in California, he wrote Cinq Mélodies sans paroles (Five Melodies Without Words), Op. 35, a set of vocalises for Nina Pavlovna Koschitz (Koshetz, 1894–1965), a Ukrainian soprano and film actress, who performed songs accompanied by Sergei Rachmaninov and Vladimir Horowitz. In 1928 in Paris, under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky, she would sing the role of Renata in a concert of excerpts from Prokofiev’s opera The Fiery Angel. In 1925, Prokofiev transcribed the original vocalises for Nina Koschitz for violin and piano, with the result being Five Melodies, Op. 35bis. The composer arranged the violin part with the assistance of Paul (Pawel) Kochanski (1887–1934), to whom he dedicated three movements. The other two sections of the piece were dedicated to the Russian-born violinist Cecilia Hansen (1897–1989) and the Hungarian violin virtuoso Joseph Szigeti (1892–1973). Notwithstanding the employment of numerous elements typical of violin writing (double stops, flageolets, etc.), the nature of the Five Melodies clearly reveals their being based on a vocal score.
Johannes Brahms composed his first sonata for violin and piano (Op. 78) in 1878, the second (Op. 100) eight years later. Both are written in a major key and both radiate joy and happiness throughout. Brahms’s last violin sonata, Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3, Op. 108, in D minor, is markedly different, which is audible from the very outset of the introductory movement. Of particular interest in the development section is the pedal point, sustained for over 40 bars, above which the first and second subjects contend and wildly explode. The second movement, featuring a gentle, engrossing melody, is the very opposite of the introduction, yet it is evident that the tranquillity is just temporary. The third, scherzo, movement may be characterised as “nervous”, with its accumulated unrest venting in the thunderous finale. Brahms’s third violin sonata is far from being intimately lyrical, which usually applies to compositions of this type, and when it comes to the technical requirements placed on the performers, it is clearly a concert piece. Dedicated to the pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow, it premiered on 21 December 1888 in Budapest, with Jenő Hubay (1858–1937) playing the violin and Brahms on the piano. The programme of the concert also included Brahms’s String Quartet in G major and songs, which were performed by the Czech tenor Gustav Walter. According to the press reports, the audience responded with standing ovations and the slow movement of the violin sonata had to be repeated.
The internationally renowned contemporary Turkish composer, classical and jazz pianist Fazil Say studied at the State Conservatory in Ankara, as well as in Düsseldorf and Berlin. His personal style is rhapsodic, influenced by the folk music of his native Turkey and other countries, spiced with jazz and other inspirations. Say wrote the five-movement Sonata for Violin and Piano to commission for the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music in 1997, when he and the violinist Mark Peskanov premiered it in Tucson. The first and fifth movements are titled Melancholy, the middle movements are characterised as a brief tour through Anatolia. The first four bars in the piano, opening the first movement, evoke a mysterious atmosphere, with the violin in a high register as though treading in the inner world of intimate memories; the first part reoccurs following a contrastive passage. The second movement is a lively, dance-like scherzo, with the piano and the violin imitating the sound of traditional Turkish musical instruments. The third movement is in the spirit of the horon, a dance of the Black Sea region, and features imitation of the sound of the kemençe. The melancholic mood returns in the fourth movement, imbued with the melody of a popular folk song about life and death. The fifth movement is an exact recapitulation of the first movement and rounds out this evocative journey.
Following almost two decades abroad, in 1936 Prokofiev returned to and settled for good in the Soviet Union, determined to serve the art of his native country. He had so resolved owing to his wish to avoid the fate of many of his compatriots who had cut themselves off permanently from their homeland by not reconciling with the communist regime, but also because – as he would later claim – the West had disappointed him. In 1938, Prokofiev started to compose Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1, Op. 80, yet he only completed it in 1946, which itself attests to his mindset with regard to the situation in the USSR, deteriorating even before the outbreak of World War II. Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2, Op. 94a, did not emerge easily either. Based on the Sonata for Flute (bearing the same opus number, 94), whose idea dates back to the 1920s, when the composer, at the time living in Paris, was inspired by French flautists, it was only finished in 1943 in Alma-Ata, where Prokofiev had been evacuated from Moscow and where he concurrently worked on the ballet Cinderella. He arranged the Flute Sonata for violin upon the instigation of David Oistrakh (1908–1974). Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 received its world premiere on 17 June 1944 in Moscow. The two sonatas differ only slightly, with the piano parts being identical. With the aim to bring to bear the string instrument’s sonic and technical potential, Prokofiev applied in the violin part double stops and pizzicatos, and changed the articulation. Classical in design, Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 opens with a sonata movement with two themes, while its modernity is enhanced by a harmonic element. The second, scherzo, movement is characterised by rhythmic effects and its middle section (trio) is evidently inspired by folk music. Were it not for the striking harmonic inversions, the slow movement would come across as an echo of the 18th-century masters. The rondo finale too has its formal basis in Classicism.