When the name Jaroslav Krček is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the ensemble Musica Bohemica, which he founded forty-four years ago. On top of that, Jaroslav Krček is celebrating his eightieth birthday this year! Sometimes, someone is called a “Renaissance man” who is not truly deserving. In the case of Jaroslav Krček, the opposite is the case. “Renaissance man” hardly suffices to capture everything that has brought fulfilment to Jaroslav Krček’s rich life. He has been a conductor, a composer, a player of countless musical instruments, a singer, a music director, and even an instrument maker. Everyone who has been fortunate enough to come into contact with him has experienced a torrent of irresistibly vital energy, optimism, an unstoppable desire for musical perfection, and an inexhaustible wellspring of musical ideas. Whether involving himself with folk music, historical music, adapting original folk material, composing, conducting, or directing, Jaroslav Krček has always drawn people to himself as a popular and sought-after colleague. He has had many musical friendships with players of the Czech Philharmonic, so it is our honour and pleasure to celebrate he eightieth birthday together with him. And as is typical of him, rather than accepting a gift, he has instead given four women from our orchestra a brand new composition, which will be given its world premiere.
During her studies at the Teplice Conservatory, Anna Hlavenková became a sought-after soloist of many ensembles focusing on authentic interpretation of early music for her lyrical soprano and pure style of interpretation (such as Musica Antiqua Prague, Musica Florea, Ad Vocem, Capella Regia Musicalis, Collegium Marianum, La Vinciolina and Verba Chordis).
As a soloist she has performed at a number of European music festivals (Festival d’Ambronay, Festival van Vlaanderen Brugge, Festival Baroque de Pontoise, Prague Spring, Smetana’s Litomyšl, etc.). She regularly goes on a concert tour of Spain and Japan and appears with prominent Czech orchestras. Her stage successes include the leading roles in Purcell’s operas Dido and Aeneas and Fairy Queen. She collaborates with radio and television; she has recorded several dozens of CDs. Recording of Jan Dismas Zelenka’s Sub Olea Pacis et Palma Virtutis with Musica Florea won the Cannes Classical Awards at the MIDEM World Music Fair in 2003.
The repertoire of her concert activities is very rich – from Renaissance songs to Baroque and Classicist oratorios and operas to contemporary music. Since 1994 she has also devoted herself to folk music with the ensemble Musica Bohemica. She has made a name for herself by her recitals, featuring mainly song cycles of the 19th and 20th centuries and contemporary music, often written by well-known Czech composers for her. All of this makes her one of the most versatile performers of chamber and oratorio music in the Czech lands. Since 2001 she has been teaching at the Conservatory in Teplice.
Jaroslav Březina studied at the Prague Conservatory (Zdeněk Jankovský) and further honed his technique with Václav Zítek. During his studies he became a member of the vocal ensemble Dobrý Večer Quintet. His extensive concert activities (primarily in the baroque and classical repertoire) have taken him to concert stages across Europe as well as in Japan. He has collaborated with many prominent conductors (Jiří Bělohlávek, Sir Charles Mackerras, Gerd Albrecht). Since 1993, he has been a soloist at Prague’s National Theatre in such roles as Don Ottavio (Don Giovanni), Count Almaviva (Il barbiere di Siviglia), Dancairo (Carmen), Fenton (Falstaff), Smetana’s Vašek and Jeník (The Bartered Bride), Janáček’s Laca (Jenůfa), and Martinů’s Yannakos and Panait (The Greek Passion). He is featured on CD recordings including J. J. Ryba’s Czech Christmas Mass (Deutsche Grammophon) and Zelenka’s coronation opera Sub olea pacis (Cannes Classical Award 2002) and has sung the role of Števa in concert performances of Jenůfa in Prague and London with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic. He was awarded the 2015 Thálie Award.
Jana Boušková studied at the Prague Conservatory and graduated from the Ostrava University in Libuše Váchová’s class. She was then accepted to the prestigious Indiana University and studied with Susann McDonald. She is the only Czech harpist to win the world’s top International Harp Competition which takes place in the USA (1992). In the same year, she won the 2nd prize at the International Harp Contest in Israel, which has the longest tradition among harp competitions, being also the only Czech harpist to be invited to this competition. She also won the Concours International de Musique de Chambre (France) and the Torneo Internazionale di Musica (Italy). She received the “Lady Pro” award for the top ten most significant Czech female personalities as the first ever classical musician.
Jana Boušková performs as a soloist and with chamber ensembles in the Czech Republic and abroad at prestigious concert stages such as the Alice Tully Hall – Lincoln Center (New York), the Theatre Châtelet in Paris, the Musikverein in Vienna, the Prague Spring Festival and the Berliner Festtage. As a soloist she has appeared with many Czech and international orchestras at the Carnegie Hall in New York, Berlin Philharmonie, Kölner Philharmonie, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Symphony Center in Chicago, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Rudolfinum in Prague and many others.
Besides the solo career Jana Boušková devotes herself to pedagogical activity and teaches simultaneously at the Royal Academy in Brussels and at the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. She is the Czech Philharmonic principal harp player and is being regularly invited to participate in world renowned harp congresses and symposiums and leads masterclasses all over the world. She teaches at prestigious schools including the Indiana University in the USA and Haute Ecole de Musique in Geneva.
The vast repertoire of Jana Boušková includes compositions of all eras. Numerous Czech and foreign contemporary composers have written music directly for her. She has recorded more than twenty CDs for Czech and international labels and made recordings for radio and television companies. Jana Boušková is the official player of the prestigious Lyon & Healy harp producer and plays the instrument by this US company, which she won in the International Harp Competition in 1992.
Jana Brožková studied oboe at the Prague Conservatory and later graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague in Jiří Mihule’s class. She achieved remarkable success while still a student of the Prague Conservatory as the winner of the international competition Concertino Praga 1983. In 1989 she was the absolute winner and recipient of a special prize at the Europäischen Musikpreis Zürich. Between 1988 and1993 she studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and in 1991 she won the third prize at the performance contest of the Prague Spring Music Festival. In 1997 she won the first prize at the international IDRS Gilllet Competition in Evaston, USA. At that time she has already performed as a renowned soloist both at home and abroad and played chamber music in ensembles In modo camerale and Afflatus Quintet, which won the first prize in the prestigious ARD International Music Competition in Munich in 1997. Since 1998 she has taught at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. She is also an active chamber musician and often plays as a soloist both in the Czech Republic and abroad. In the years 1987–2002 she was the principal oboist of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, and her recordings of oboe concertos and other compositions for oboe are part of the valuable material of the radio archive. Since 2002 she has been the first solo oboist of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
Hana Sapáková studied French horn at the Brno Conservatory under Milan Mrazík. Since 2018 she has continued her studies at the Anton Bruckner Privatuniversität in Linz with Raimund Zell. While still a student of the conservatory, she became a member of the PKF – Prague Philharmonia and the Orchestral Academy of the Czech Philharmonic. She attended international music courses (Horntages Telf, Hornclass Prague, Radek Baborák Masterclass, French Academy in Telč) led by André Cazalet, Raimund Zell, Johannes Hinterhozer, Přemysl Vojta and Sebastian Lampert. She has been a prize-winner of many national and international competitions (Competition of Conservatories in Pardubice, International Competition of Wind Instruments in Brno, International Competition Pro Bohemia Ostrava, etc.) and at the 2018 Prague Spring International Music Competition she became the most successful French horn Czech participant. As a soloist she has performed with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, the Young Brno Symphony Orchestra and the Helfert Orchestral Association. Together with Ondřej Vrabec she has recorded František Habermann’s Concerto for Two Horns. Hana Sapáková is a member of the Czech Brass Harmony and a permanent scholarship holder of the Academy of Chamber Music.
Born in Olomouc, Andrea Rysová garnered success while she was still a student at the Conservatory in Kroměříž – in 1992 she received third prize at the Concertino Praga, the following year she came first at the London Chamber Music Competition and in 1994 she won third prize at the Czech Conservatories Competition. In 1995, she became the principal flutist of the Moravian Philharmonic Olomouc. She graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague with a Master’s degree in 2000 in Jiří Válek’s class.
During her studies, she played in various ensembles (Virtuosi di Praga, Musica Bohemica, Czech Nonet, etc.), giving concerts both at home and abroad. In 2002 she joined the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, which she left in 2006 to become first flutist of the Czech Philharmonic, where she has been ever since.
Andrea Rysová is a superlative instrumentalist much in demand by leading Czech orchestras and chamber ensembles. She has regularly recorded for Czech Radio and makes film music, and her artistry has also been captured on many CDs. She has performed in a number of European countries, as well as in the USA and Asia.
Lukáš Vasilek studied conducting and musicology. Since 2007 he has been the chief choirmaster of the Prague Philharmonic Choir. Most of his artistic activity with the choir involves rehearsing and performing a cappella repertoire along with preparing the choir to perform in large-scale cantata, oratorio, and opera projects in collaboration with world-famous conductors and orchestras (Berlin Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Saint Petersburg Philharmonic etc.).
Besides his work with the Prague Philharmonic Choir, he also engages in other performing activities mainly in cooperation with the Martinů Voices, which he founded in 2010. He is credited as a conductor or choirmaster on a large number of Prague Philharmonic Choir recordings made for important international labels (Decca Classics, Supraphon). In recent years, he has been devoting himself systematically to recording the choral music of Bohuslav Martinů. His recordings have won exceptional acclaim abroad, earning honours including awards from the prestigious journals Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, and Diapason. Vasilek has been teaching conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague since 2021.
Martinů Voices chamber choir was founded in 2010. While its main artistic focus has been on top-quality interpretation of chamber choral works encompassing the time span from the 19th to 21st centuries, the choirʼs repertoire also includes compositions from the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical periods. The ensemble is made up of professional singers working under the direction of conductor Lukáš Vasilek.
The choir appear regularly at the Czech Republicʼs major music festivals. Apart from its own concert programmes, the choir has likewise been involved in a number of joint projects. In 2014 it joined the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek, in a production of Bohuslav Martinůʼs opera What Men Live By. This particular collaboration earned them a nomination for the prestigious International Opera Award (2015). Another major achievement for the choir was their concert appearance alongside the prominent British ensemble, the Tallis Scholars, at the Dvořák Prague Festival in 2016.
The art of the choir has been documented by several CD albums; the most important of them, which includes a selection of choral works by Jan Novák, was published in 2014 by Supraphon. In 2016 the choir made a recording of Jakub Jan Rybaʼs cantata Stabat Mater (Nibiru Publishers) which earned it the “Diapason dʼOr choice” (April 2017).
“It is the fulfilment of a dream we shared with Jiří Bělohlávek: after two years of preparations, we are ushering in regular concerts of the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. This name does not stand for one particular ensemble; instead it represents a project in which the orchestra members will be performing in various chamber groups,” said David Mareček, Chief Executive Officer of the Czech Philharmonic, in the spring of 2018. Jiří Bělohlávek was convinced that it was healthy for the Czech Philharmonic to play in a smaller ensemble. In a smaller orchestra, with a repertoire spanning the Baroque to the present, the musicians can hone the intonation, phrasing and collaboration of individuals within the whole. The Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, consisting exclusively of the members of the Czech Philharmonic put together for a specific occasion, has been officially established in the 123rd season.
Between 1954 and 1959, Krček studied violoncello under Václav Beran at the Teaching Department of Bohuslav Jeremiáš Music School in České Budějovice, and was subsequently accepted to the third year of study at the Prague Conservatory, where in the years 1959–1962 he studied composition under Miloslav Kabeláč and conducting under Bohumír Liška. While still a student, Krček collaborated with Josef Vycpálek’s Song and Dance Ensemble; in 1962 he began to work as a music director, first at Czechoslovak Radio in Pilsen, later at the recording company Supraphon (1967–1975). From the beginning of the 1960s he conducted the Czechoslovak Radio Chamber Orchestra in Pilsen, was a choirmaster of the “Czech Song” mixed choir and also collaborated with the folk ensemble “Smile” from Horní Bříza. His intense interest in Czech musical folklore, semi-folk music and Czech compositions from the past times inspired him to form two ensembles: Chorea Bohemia (founded in 1967, working with them until 1987) and Musica Bohemica (1975), in which he is still actively involved as the conductor and artistic leader. He is also an experienced singer and player of many musical instruments, some of which he also produces for the needs of his ensemble.
Since his studies, Krček has been interested in folklore and anonymous musical works of Czech provenience. His arrangements and adaptations of folk music have a distinctive style and differ significantly from simple arrangements by their high degree of stylization. All of these activities aim to awaken the audience’s affection for folk and early music. Krček achieves this aim by being spontaneous – he presents an artistically refined expression to the audience that can withstand the highest critical standards. Together with his interest in historical folklore there is also a second line of his work, namely his own symphonies and chamber and vocal compositions. He is strongly opinionated in this sphere, not succumbing to fashion trends – as a composer, throughout his life he has striven for music which makes life nicer, brings satisfaction, uplifts one’s spirit and above all engages the audience.
In addition to arranging several hundred folksongs and folk dances, Krček has composed music of various genres. His most important works are nine symphonies (Symphony No. 3 “Jan Amos Comenius”, Op. 95, 1990; Symphony No. 4 “Desiderata”, Op. 123, 2000; Symphony No. 5 “Renaissance”, Op. 133, 2007; Symphony No. 6 “Semplice”, Op. 140, 2011; Symphony No. 9, Op. 163, 2018), of which Symphony No. 3 “Jan Amos Comenius” was performed and recorded also by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra together with Kühn’s Mixed Choir under the direction of Jiří Bělohlávek; cantatas and oratorios (O lux mundi, 1985; The One Who Is, Op. 137, 2009; The Credo of Master Jan Hus, Op. 150, 2014); melodramas, ballets and dance frescoes; operas (Rahab the Harlot, Op. 36, 1971; In the Shadow of the Cross, Op. 129, 2005; A Dress the World Has Not Seen, Op. 139, 2010; Beyond the Curtain of Time, Op. 146, 2013); and religious music (11 masses). His electroacoustic opera Rahab the Harlot won a prize in the International Composers’ Competition of the City of Geneva in 1971; several times he placed first in the competition for the international Prix de musique folklorique du Radio Bratislava. (1979–1989). His conducting activity is similarly extensive; he has released more than 50 recordings ranging from early music through his own compositions to folklore music. Krček is also a sought-after music director.
Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jaroslav Krček has established himself not only among professional orchestras and ensembles, but he has also made a significant contribution to the development of amateur music-making in the Czech Republic. Many of his folk song arrangements enjoy great popularity among school ensembles and lay musicians of all ages; thanks to Krček’s efforts, they are aware of the music of earlier periods. Krček’s systematic work with Chorea Bohemica and Musica Bohemica has had a major influence on the work with children and youth in the Czech Republic. Hundreds of educational concerts and performances inspired choirs and instrumental ensembles to perform early music from the old times, Krček’s interpretation significantly contributed to a new understanding of folk and early music among ensembles and the public. In 2019, he received the Ministry of Culture Award for this activity.