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The Czech Philharmonic, together with the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, brings a special project Variations. This project combines music, film, and the unique atmosphere of Karlovy Vary. Members of the Czech Philharmonic and the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra will perform The Four Seasons at the colonnade.
The Four Seasons, Four Concertos for Violin and String Orchestra Op. 8
Chamber orchestra of members of the Czech Philharmonic and the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra
Jakub Sedláček artistic director of the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra
Jiří Vodička violin, artistic director of Czech Philharmonic
Jiří Vodička is one of the most illustrious Czech violin soloists. Thanks to his extraordinary talent, he won prestigious competitions at an early age (Kocian International Violin Competition in Ústí nad Orlicí, Louis Spohr International Violin Competition in Weimar, Germany, Beethoven’s Hradec, and the Slovak competition Čírenie talentov). He also won the first and second prizes at the world-famous international competition Young Concert Artists, held in Leipzig and New York. At age 14 he was given a special exception allowing him study at a university. Under the guidance of the renowned teacher Zdeněk Gola, he earned his Master’s Degree at the Institute for Artistic Studies in Ostrava in 2007.
He regularly appears as a soloist with the top orchestras at home and abroad, he is invited to the most famous classical music festivals, and his concerts are broadcast regularly on Czech Television and Czech Radio. In 2014 on the Supraphon label he recorded his debut solo album “Violino Solo” with some of the most difficult compositions for violin solo. The CD got great reviews in this country and abroad. Besides solo playing, he also performs chamber music. In 2020 he founded the Czech Philharmonic Piano Trio with two other soloists (Martin Kasík – piano, Václav Petr – cello). In 2021 they won the Vienna International Music Competition. Their video recordings are regularly seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers on social media.
Since 2015 he has also held the post of concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic. In 2019 he was honoured by the prestigious Prague Classic Awards. He also teaches at the Prague Conservatoire and the University of Ostrava.
A Contest between Harmony and Invention – that is what the Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi called his most famous collection of violin concertos published in Amsterdam in 1725. At first a successful composer of sacred music and opera, within fifteen years of the enthusiastic reception of the collection L’estro armonico (Harmonic Fancy), Op. 3, he won Europe-wide fame as a pioneer of the instrumental concerto. The collections that followed, Op. 4 (La Stravaganza), Op. 5 (violin sonatas), Op. 6 and 7 (violin concertos), which came out in rather poor printed editions, were surpassed by Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (A Contest between Harmony and Invention), Op. 8. This collection contains mature, virtuosic concertos for solo violin, documenting the composer’s uniqueness. It is divided into two parts with six compositions each. In the first part, Vivaldi assigned each concerto a descriptive title indicating its character or even a storyline. Besides La tempesta di mare (A Tempest at Sea) a Il piacere (Pleasure), there are the four most famous of all – Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. In the second part of the collection, only one concerto has a title and a programme – La caccia (The Hunt).
The Four Seasons is a groundbreaking cycle, which brings an entirely new concept: describing and narrating action using the abstract language of instrumental music. There are onomatopoetic descriptions of a babbling brook, birdsong, a shepherd and his barking dog, buzzing flies, a storm, and a frozen landscape. The programme of The Four Seasons is uniquely described in four sonnets by an unknown poet that accompany the score. There are disputes over whether the music was composed to the sonnets or vice versa, but it cannot be ruled out that Vivaldi wrote the poems himself. Directly in the score, the composer marked references to corresponding passages in the sonnets.
A fact of local significance to Czechs is that Vivaldi dedicated the collection to Count Václav Morzin in Prague, who had earlier appointed Vivaldi as his “Musical maestro in Italy” – an honorary title that required to supply him with some compositions from time to time. According to dedication at the beginning of the printed collection, Morzin knew The Four Seasons long before they were published and that Vivaldi had already sent the count the cycle in manuscript as a piece for Morin’s ensemble’s repertoire. In the dedication, Vivaldi literally apologises to Morzin for now dedicating to him something he had already given him (or sold him – in those days, humbling dedications to aristocrats were connected with a financial reward). “Please do not be surprised that amongst these few humble concertos, Your Eminence also finds The Four Seasons, which have so long enjoyed the noble favour of Your Eminence kind generosity. You may believe that I found it appropriate to have them printed, because while they remain the same, I have added to them sonnets and even very clear explanations of everything contained in them, so I am sure they will appear new to you,” writes Vivaldi in the introduction to the collection.
The special relationship between Count Morzin and the great Italian composer is a unique phenomenon in the musical scene of Bohemia of the first half of the eighteenth century. The reason for the contact between them was Morzin’s interest in music and his effort to build up and maintain an excellent musical ensemble. Its activities, members, and repertoire are being thoroughly researched from the preserved materials, and scholars are discovering the great ability of Morzin’s musicians as creative artists and performers. The virtuosity of Vivaldi’s cycle is one proof of this.