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This all-Czech programme prepared by Jakub Hrůša with Leonidas Kavakos and Daniel Mikolášek consists exclusively of 20th-century music.
Symphony No. 7, Op. 153 for symphony orchestra and concertante marimba (world premiere)
Violin Concerto No. 2, H 293
Daniel Mikolášek marimba
Leonidas Kavakos violin
Jakub Hrůša conductor
Band of the Castle Guards and the Police of the Czech Republic
According to Jakub Hrůša, “the composers Jaroslav Krček, Bohuslav Martinů, and Leoš Janáček have something in common. Above all, their music is communicatory in the best sense of the word. In just a few bars, each creates a bond with the listener and maintains it long after the last notes die away. All three owe their deserved success in part to their firm grounding in the wonderful sources of folk tradition, which lends credibility to their engaging yet simple utterances. Another thing all three composers have in common for me personally is that I already liked their music when I was a child.”
These concerts are supported financially by the Bohuslav Martinů Foundation.
Leonidas Kavakos is recognised across the world as a violinist and artist of rare quality, acclaimed for his matchless technique, his captivating artistry and his superb musicianship as well as for the integrity of his playing. He works with the world’s greatest orchestras and conductors and plays as recitalist in the world’s premier recital halls and festivals. He is an exclusive recording artist with Sony Classical.
The three important mentors in his life have been Stelios Kafantaris, Josef Gingold, and Ferenc Rados, with whom he still works. By the age of 21, Leonidas Kavakos had already won three major competitions: the Sibelius Competition in 1985, and the Paganini and Naumburg competitions in 1988. This success led to him recording the original Sibelius Violin Concerto (1903/4), the first recording of this work in history, which won Gramophone Concerto of the Year Award in 1991.
Kavakos is now an exclusive recording artist with Sony Classics. His latest recording, to be released worldwide in October 2019 in anticipation of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth in 2020, is the Beethoven Violin Concerto which he conducted and played with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, coupled with the Beethoven Septet played with members of the orchestra. In the anniversary year, Kavakos will both play and play/conduct the Beethoven concerto with orchestras across Europe and the USA. He will also play the complete cycle of Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas in Shanghai and Guangzhou, Milan and Rome, and a number of single Beethoven recitals in various cities including London’s Wigmore Hall, Barcelona, Parma and Copenhagen.
In 2007, for his recording of the complete Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas with Enrico Pace, Kavakos was named Echo Klassik Instrumentalist of the year. In 2014, Kavakos was awarded Gramophone Artist of the Year.
Further accolades came in 2017 when Kavakos was awarded the prestigious Leonie Sonning Prize – Denmark’s highest musical honour, given annually to an internationally recognised composer, conductor, instrumentalist or singer. Previous winners include Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Alfred Brendel, Benjamin Britten, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Yehudi Menuhin, Sir Simon Rattle, Mstislav Rostropovich, Arthur Rubinstein and Dmitri Shostakovich.
August 2019 was a full and rewarding month: after the Verbier Festival where he appeared in recital with Evgeny Kissin and conducted the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra in a programme in which he played Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with Antoine Tamestit, he joined YoYo Ma and Emanuel Ax at the Tanglewood Music Festival for a programme of Beethovenʼs Piano Trios, in a duo recital with Ax of Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas, and in an orchestral concert with the Boston Symphony in which he played and conducted Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7.
Kavakos was also invited as “Artiste Etoile” at the Lucerne Festival where he appeared with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Mariinsky Orchestra with Valery Gergiev, Vienna Philharmonic with Andrés Orozco-Estrada, and in recital with Yuja Wang.
In the 2019/20 season, in addition to concerts with major orchestras in Europe and the United States, Leonidas Kavakos will once again join YoYo Ma and Emanuel Ax for three programmes in Carnegie Hall comprising Beethoven’s trios and sonatas. He will undertake two Asian tours, first as soloist with the Singapore Symphony and Seoul Philharmonic and in recital in the NCPA Beijing, and then in the spring he will perform with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra, prior to playing the cycle of Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas in Shanghai and Guangzhou with Enrico Pace.
In recent year, Leonidas Kavakos has succeeded in building a strong profile as a conductor and has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Gürzenich Orchester, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Filarmonica Teatro La Fenice, and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. In the forthcoming season he will return to two orchestras where he has developed close ties as both violinist and condcutor: L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande and L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France. This season he also play/conducts the Czech Philharmonic, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, and the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI.
Born and brought up in a musical family in Athens, Kavakos curates an annual violin and chamber-music masterclass in Athens, which attracts violinists and ensembles from all over the world and reflects his deep commitment to the handing on of musical knowledge and traditions. Part of this tradition is the art of violin and bow-making, which Kavakos regards as a great mystery and to this day, an undisclosed secret. He plays the ‘Willemotte’ Stradivarius violin of 1734 and owns modern violins made by F. Leonhard, S. P. Greiner, E. Haahti and D. Bagué.
Prague Castle Guard and Czech Police Band is a large brass orchestra which has been representing Czech musical culture in a highly professional fashion for more than sixty years, not only at home, but also abroad. Its establishment in 1945 carried on a rich tradition of military, police and gendarme bands from the First Czechoslovak Republic. They were ensembles which were always an integral part of our musical culture and also an example of the nation’s musical development.
The primary duties of the Band of the Castle Guards and Police of the Czech Republic include musical accompaniment at all state ceremonies at Prague Castle, primarily state visits and initial audiences with ambassadors. The orchestra is a significant cultural representative of the Police of the Czech Republic and also performs all tasks resulting from this position.
The ensemble also includes smaller groups – the Domino Brass Trio, the Prague Brass Sextet, The Brass Quintet, the Brass Octet, the Big Band, Largo and the Formanka Small Brass Orchestra. Their focus and repertoire suitably supplement the orchestra’s wide range of activities. In addition to its duties, the orchestra has always given concerts and made recordings. It has made more than twenty CDs. The orchestra’s most important annual concert activities include performing at the Prague Spring International Music Festival and during the Saint Wenceslas celebrations.
Prague Castle Guard and Czech Police Band has toured sixteen countries in Europe, Mongolia, Japan and the USA, where it headlined at the famous Carnegie Hall in 2002.
Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
He is a frequent guest with the world’s greatest orchestras, including the Vienna, Berlin, Munich and New York Philharmonics; Bavarian Radio, NHK, Chicago and Boston Symphonies; Leipzig Gewandhaus, Lucerne Festival, Royal Concertgebouw, Mahler Chamber and The Cleveland Orchestras; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and Tonhalle Orchester Zürich. He has led opera productions for the Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, and Zurich Opera. He has also been a regular guest with Glyndebourne Festival and served as Music Director of Glyndebourne On Tour for three years.
His recording of Martinů and Bartók violin concertos with Bamberg Symphony was nominated for a Gramophone Award, and his Dvořák Violin Concerto CD with the Bavarian Radio Symphony was nominated for a Grammy Award. In 2020, his recordings of Dvořák and Martinů Piano Concertos with Bamberg Symphony, and Vanessa from Glyndebourne, won BBC Music Magazine Awards. Other releases include Dvořák and Brahms Symphonies with Bamberg Symphony, Suk’s Asrael with the Bavarian Radio Symphony, and Dvořák’s Requiem and Te Deum with the Czech Philharmonic.
Hrůša studied at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts, where his teachers included Jiří Bělohlávek. He is President of the International Martinů Circle and The Dvořák Society. He was the inaugural recipient of the Sir Charles Mackerras Prize, and in 2020 was awarded the Antonín Dvořák Prize by the Czech Republic’s Academy of Classical Music, and – with Bamberg Symphony – the Bavarian State Prize for Music.
Janáček had to wait sixty-two years for his first major success as a composer – in music history, one can hardly find a similar case of a composer’s career blooming so late. No one would dare call into question Janáček’s late works, as was done in Smetana’s case. The Great War meant the end of the Old World and its sophisticated cultural elite. The world had changed, and this was also reflected in the arts, including music. While most composers (often far younger than Janáček) were unwilling or unable to adapt their works to the spirit of the new era, Janáček bloomed like a rose of Jericho.
He became the pride of the Czechoslovak Republic, and in the course of just under a decade, he churned out his masterpieces – Taras Bulba, Sinfonietta, The Diary of One Who Disappeared, the two string quartets, the Glagolitic Mass, the Concertino for piano and chamber ensemble, and the Capriccio for piano (left hand) and wind ensemble. This is no mere listing of compositions; these works belong to the worldwide twentieth-century concert repertoire. Following the success of his long rejected opera Jenůfa, in just seven years he wrote four more operas – Káťa Kabanová, The Cunning Little Vixen, The Makropulos Affair, and From the House of the Dead. They have all entered the standard repertoire on stages around the world. Janáček still remains the most frequently performed Czech opera composer abroad.
“I have arrived here with the youthful spirit of our republic, with youthful music. I am not one of those who look back; rather I prefer to look forward”, said Janáček in England in April 1926 when he was composing the Sinfonietta. And the Sinfonietta is a truly perfect combination of everything for which a citizen of the First Czechoslovak Republic was striving: the glory of the nation, the development of the Sokol movement, and the security of the republic. After the Prague premiere, in the newspaper Lidové noviny Boleslav Vomáčka described the composing of the Sinfonietta on the basis of information he had received directly from Janáček: the composer is said to have gone with misgivings to hear fanfares “of a kind he had never heard before” played by a brass band of soldiers in “historical costumes” in the South Bohemian town of Písek. The experience was brought back to his mind by the newspaper Lidové noviny, which asked him to “write ‘a few notes’ on their behalf for a Sokol ceremony”. Janáček thought it over only briefly, “then the idea flashed into his mind: Sokol members – red shirts – fanfares! And he immediately sketched out some fanfares, but from them, the music suddenly began to grow, movement by movement, until after the short period of just three weeks, the maestro had before him the finished score of the Sinfonietta.” Music for a special occasion thus gave rise to a great work that has enormously enriched the Czech symphonic repertoire.