Czech Chamber Music Society • Leonidas Kavakos


The famous Greek virtuoso Leonidas Kavakos has already performed on the stage of the Dvořák Hall together with the Czech Philharmonic and received an extraordinary ovation. This is one of the reasons why his solo recital is so highly anticipated. The programme of his performance with the Italian pianist Enrico Paco includes three brilliant sonatas.

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  • Duration of the programme 1 hour 35 minutes
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  • Czech Chamber Music Society

Programme

Robert Schumann
Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 in D minor Op. 121 (28')

Leoš Janáček
Sonata for Violin and Piano (16')

— Intermission —

César Franck
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major (30')

Performers

Leonidas Kavakos violin
Enrico Pace piano

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society Leonidas Kavakos

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall


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Performers

Leonidas Kavakos  violin
Leonidas Kavakos

Leonidas Kavakos is recognized across the world as a violinist and artist of rare quality, acclaimed for his matchless technique, his captivating artistry and his superb musicianship, and the integrity of his playing. He works regularly with the world’s greatest orchestras and conductors and plays as recitalist in the world’s premier recital halls and festivals.

Kavakos has developed close relationships with major orchestras such as the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig. Kavakos also works closely with the Dresden Staatskapelle, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich Philharmonic and Budapest Festival orchestras, Orchestre de Paris, Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala.

In recent years, Kavakos has succeeded in building a strong profile as a conductor and has conducted the New York Philharmonic, Houston Symphony, Dallas Symphony, Vienna Symphony, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Filarmonica Teatro La Fenice, and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra. Most recently he had a great success conducting the Israel Philharmonic.

In the 2022/2023 season, Kavakos is honoured as Artist in Residence at Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España, where he will appear as both violinist and conductor across the season. He will tour Europe with Yuja Wang, as well as return to the US with regular recital partners Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma. Kavakos will perform a number of concerts throughout Europe and the Middle East with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Daniel Harding, as well as return to the Vienna Philharmonic, Bayerischen Rundfunks Symphony Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, NDR Hamburg, the New York Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic. He will also conduct the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, RAI Torino and the Minnesota Orchestra. He has two extensive visits to Asia, including a residency at Tongyeong International Music Festival, in addition to a series of recitals in Japan and South Korea where he will perform Bach’s Partitas and Sonatas, following the release of his critically acclaimed album “Bach: Sei Solo” in 2022.

Kavakos is an exclusive recording artist with Sony Classics. Further recent releases from the Beethoven 250th Anniversary year include the Beethoven Violin Concerto which he conducted and played with the Bavarian Radio Symphony, and the rerelease of his 2007 recording of the complete Beethoven Sonatas with Enrico Pace, for which he was named Echo Klassik Instrumentalist of the year. In 2022 Kavakos released “Beethoven for Three: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 5” arranged for trio, with Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma. The second album from this series containing further arrangements of Beethoven Symphonies will be released in Autumn 2022.

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. He plays the “Willemotte” Stradivarius violin of 1734.

Enrico Pace  piano

Enrico Pace was born in Rimini, Italy. He studied piano with Franco Scala both at the Rossini Conservatory, Pesaro, where he graduated in Conducting and Composition, and later at the Accademia Pianistica Incontri col Maestro, Imola. Jacques De Tiège was a valued mentor. Winning the Utrecht International Franz Liszt Piano Competition in 1989 marked the beginning of his international career.

He has performed in Europe as well as South America with many major orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic, the Bamberger Symphoniker, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and many more, working with conductors like Roberto Benzi, David Robertson, Andrey Boreyko or Mark Elder.

Enrico Pace enjoys on-going partnerships with violinists Leonidas Kavakos, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Akiko Suwanai and Liza Ferschtman, as well as with cellist Sung-Won Yang, performing with them throughout Europe, the USA and Asia. Other chamber music partners include cellist Daniel Müller-Schott, clarinetist Sharon Kam, pianist Igor Roma and horn player Marie Luise Neunecker, as well as the Keller Quartet, the RTE Vanbrugh Quartet and the Quartetto Prometeo. He regularly participates in chamber music festivals and has visited Delft, Moritzburg, Risør, Kuhmo, Montreux, Stresa and West Cork.

Recent highlights include the Beethoven Sonata cycle with Leonidas Kavakos in among others New York (Carnegie Hall), Athens, Florence, Milan, Amsterdam, Moscow and Tokyo and at the Salzburg Festival and the Beethovenfest Bonn, as well as further duo recitals in the USA, Europe and China; Bach Sonatas with Frank Peter Zimmermann in among others New York, Amsterdam, Zürich, Frankfurt, Bamberg and Japan; a performance at the Scala in Milan of Schubert’s Schwanengesang with Matthias Goerne; recitals with viola player Antoine Tamestit in Zürich, Frankfurt and Cologne; recitals with Akiko Suwanai in Japan and at the Wigmore Hall in London; recitals with cellist Sung-Won Yang in Korea and Japan, and solo recitals in among others the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Herkulessaal in Munich.

With Mr. Kavakos and cellist Patrick Demenga he recorded the piano trios by Mendelssohn (Sony Classical). His recording of the complete Beethoven Sonatas for piano and violin with Mr. Kavakos was released by Decca Classics in January 2013 and was nominated for a Grammy Award. In April 2016 Decca Classics released a CD of the duo performing virtuoso encore works. With Mr. Zimmermann he recorded the Busoni Violin sonata no. 2 and the six Sonatas for violin and piano BWV 1014–1019 by J. S. Bach for Sony Classical. In 2011 the label Piano Classics released his highly praised solo recording of the Années de pèlerinage “Suisse” and “Italie” of Franz Liszt.

Compositions

Robert Schumann
Violin Sonata in No. 2 in D minor, Op. 121

Robert Schumann’s chamber pieces are relatively few in number compared to his piano works and songs (until 1839 he composed exclusively for piano). In addition to three string quartets, a piano quintet and several piano trios, he wrote only several compositions for a string or a wind instrument, mostly with piano accompaniment. A true Romantic, Schumann lived in a century of virtuosos, to which he made a significant contribution himself both as a pianist and as a composer. His three sonatas for violin and piano (of which the last one remained unfinished and consists of only two movements) seem to be unpretentious, but demand considerable virtuosity. They were composed in a very short period of time – the first two violin sonatas, in A minor and D minor, were written in 1851, while the unfinished third one dates from 1852. There must have been a reason for such a creative explosion for Schumann, who was never particularly fond of the violin, and that was his friendship with the outstanding violinists – Wilhelm Joseph von Wasielewski, conductor and concertmaster from Düsseldorf; Joseph Joachim, with whom Schumann later consulted his Violin Concerto; and above all Ferdinand David, the concert master of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and a teacher at the Leipzig Conservatory.

Schumann had a deep connection with the city of Leipzig. His Violin Sonata No. 2, op. 121 is dedicated to David because of what David had written in one of his surviving letters to Schumann: “I am uncommonly fond of your Fantasiestücke for piano and clarinet; why don’t you write something for violin and piano? There is such a lack of good new pieces, and I can think of no one who could do it better than you.” Schumann’s Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 105 was premiered by David and Schumann’s wife Clara. Schumann wrote the second violin sonata specifically for David – he did so at a miraculous pace, between 26 October and 2 November 1851. As in his other works, he encoded the dedicatee’s name in the score: in the opening and in the first movement, there is a motif consisting of the four-note sequence DA(vid) F(erdinan)D. Wasielewski recalled another circumstance of the sonata’s inception: after the publication of the A minor Sonata, Schumann allegedly made the following comment: “I didn’t like the first violin sonata, so I wrote a second, which I hope turned out better.” However, it is not possible to compare the two works in quality; they differ above all in character and scope.

The second sonata is based on a wide-ranging plan and is so expressive in every respect that it is hard to believe that Schumann’s creative powers were waning at that time. The second movement retains the lyrical character of Schumann’s scherzo movements in 6/8 time with two different rhythms and expressively contrasting sequences in the trio – which greatly influenced the young Brahms. The third movement comprises a series of variations on a theme derived from the Lutheran chorale Aus tiefer Not schreiʼ ich zu Dir, reverting back to sonata form only at the beginning and at the end of this movement. In all movements of the sonata, an extraordinary role is played by the piano and contrary to the custom of the time is given a great deal of space. Although the sonata is dedicated to David, it was actually premiered by Joseph Joachim and Clara Schumann in a concert on 29 October 1853. Together with Märchenbildern, Op. 113 (Fairy Tale Pictures), the sonata is one of the last major works composed by Schumann.

Leoš Janáček
Sonáta pro housle a klavír

Leoš Janáček did not produce many pieces for violin; they include Romance, Dumka and the violin concerto The Wandering of a Little Soul. He had already attempted to compose a violin sonata during his studies in Leipzig around 1880, and later in Vienna at least twice, but these compositions are now lost. He began to work on Sonata for Violin and Piano as late as 1914, but it took seven years in total before the composition of this title saw the light of day. Janáček’s peak creative period is marked by his Russophilia and the drama of the beginning of the First World War. The composer hoped for an early end to the war and for the victory of anti-Austrian forces: “I wrote the violin sonata in 1914, when we were expecting the Russians in Moravia...” He was disappointed not only in his political ideas, but also in his confidence that the piece would be played by Jaroslav Kocian, whom he addressed after completing the first version of his Sonata probably in the autumn of 1915. At that time, the Ballada was the third movement, the Adagio was the second movement and there was also a fast movement, Con moto. In the autumn of 1916 Janáček began revising the Sonata by changing the order of the movements and writing a new fourth movement, an Allegro. However, he eventually put it aside and in 1920 rewrote the original Finale as an Allegretto. The Sonata received its final form before its first performance, which was given on 24 April 1922 in Brno by the violinist František Kudláček (Otakar Ševčík’s pupil at the Prague Conservatory and the principal violinist of the Moravian Quartet, who premiered Janáček’s Second String Quartet) and Jaroslav Kvapil as the pianist (a pupil of Janáček). A year later it was presented internationally by Paul Hindemith, who played the solo part in Frankfurt am Main; the following year it was performed in Salzburg by Stanislav Novák and Václav Štěpán. The Russian-sounding echoes in the essentially classical four-movement Sonata reflect not only Janáček’s pro-Russian sentiments, but above all the connection with his opera Katya Kabanova, coming into being in parallel. In the first movement, the main theme is reminiscent of the theme of the Volga River; the third movement evokes the scene featuring Kudryash and Varvara; and the final movement is heading towards a similar drama as the above-mentioned opera.

César Franck
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major

César Franck, a renowned organist and teacher, a professor at the Paris Conservatoire where he himself studied under Anton Reicha, was born in Belgium. In 1873, he became a French citizen; in 1885, a member of the Legion of Honor; and in 1886, he was appointed President of the Société Nationale de Musique. This society, founded in 1871 by Camille Saint-Saëns, set itself the task of promoting new French music, especially chamber music. Franck was a founding member of the Société and presented his three major chamber works there: Piano Quintet in F minor, String Quartet in D major and Violin Sonata in A major. This sonata has become so popular that it exists in a number of transcriptions for other instruments – in addition to Jules Delsart’s arrangement for cello and piano, there is even a purely piano version!

Franck composed Violin Sonata in A major in the summer of 1886. It features a motto or theme that is heard in all the other movements in a cyclical fashion, similar to his Piano Quintet or the famous Symphony in D minor. While in these compositions the theme has the character of an idée fixe and is imposed over other themes, in the Sonata this represents a reference to the main theme of the first movement in all the four movements. They all circle around the tertian motif that runs through the Sonata and is “rising for a few moments above the waves of sound”, as Marcel Proust admiringly put it. In fact, the highly romantic character of the whole work is already determined at the beginning of the introductory movement. The first movement acts as a prelude to the passionate energy which drives the second movement. The third movement of the Sonata opens with a dream-like recitative, from which emerges a lucid Fantasia with an almost song-like melody, characterized by a soft yet intense expression. The ensuing finale is the second fast movement of the work, brightened up by the A major key, free from passionate features and enlivened by reminders of the second movement.

Franck, aged sixty-three, dedicated this Sonata to his younger friend and great violin virtuoso, Eugène Ysaÿe. It was Franck’s wedding gift to him, and Ysaÿ played it at his wedding a prima vista. The first public performance took place on 31 December 1887 at the Société National de Musique in Paris. In Ysaÿ’s concert programs, the Sonata quickly made its triumphant way around the world and is considered one of the most important violin sonatas of the late 19th century.

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