Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra • Josef Špaček

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is heard every evening in dozens of cities all around the world in all kinds of venues and performances, often as a tourist attraction. To begin Series K, we have decided to present Vivaldi’s cycle in all its glory played by Josef Špaček and his colleagues from the Czech Philharmonic.

Subscription series K | Duration of the programme 1 hour 30 minutes | Czech Philharmonic chamber ensembles


Antonio Vivaldi
The Four Seasons, Op. 8, four concertos for violin and string orchestra

Astor Piazzolla
The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires


Josef Špaček
violin, artistic supervisor of the project

Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra • Josef Špaček

Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall

Can't order online


Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra  

“It is the fulfilment of a dream we shared with Jiří Bělohlávek: after two years of preparations, we are ushering in 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 with a repertoire spanning the Baroque to the present, where the musicians can hone their intonation, phrasing, and collaboration as individuals within a whole group. The Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, consisting exclusively of the members of the Czech Philharmonic assembled for a specific occasion, was officially established in the Czech Philharmonic’s 123rd season. Since then, the ensemble has already prepared fifteen projects presented both during the orchestra’s regular season at the Rudolfinum and at festival appearances.

Josef Špaček  violin, guest artist

Josef Špaček

Although it has already been three years since his membership in the orchestra ended, Josef Špaček is still inseparably associated with the Czech Philharmonic (now as its artist-in-residence). While his nine years as the orchestra’s concertmaster are covered by the new Czech Television documentary “Devět sezón” (“Nine Seasons”, premiered in September 2023), Špaček is now focusing on his solo career and is enchanting audiences worldwide. Although he appears with the top European orchestras and can be heard in Asia and the USA, and his is a regular guest in chamber music in the world’s most prestigious concert halls, he retains his modesty. We can hear him playing not only at Carnegie Hall, but also in out-of-the-way Czech villages.

This season, he will be appearing for the first time with the symphony orchestras in Chicago and Atlanta, and his year will be enriched by a residency with the Residentie Orkest based in The Hague. In this country, besides appearing with top orchestras, he will also perform at the Lípa Musica Festival, the Saint Wenceslas Music Festival, and Smetana’s Litomyšl. As in previous years, an important chamber music partner will be the cellist Tomáš Jamník, with whom Špaček has made a successful recording of the best Czech duets. In addition, Josef Špaček has added to the world’s discography of concertos by Dvořák and Janáček, which he recorded with the Czech Philharmonic and Jiří Bělohlávek, and there is a recording of music by Czech and other composers with Miroslav Sekera. He also collaborated with Sekera and the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra led by Petr Popelka on his newest album of works by Martinů, released in September 2023 on the Supraphon label. 

Josef Špaček was born in 1986 in Třebíč, and he already exhibited extraordinary musical talent at an early age. Thanks to his father (now a cellist with the Czech Philharmonic for over 30 years) and musically gifted siblings, music was a natural part of his childhood, about which his mother has written a series of very entertaining books. Going to the Prague Conservatoire was therefore a natural step. After graduating from the studio of Jaroslav Foltýn at that school, he fulfilled his dream of studying in America, beginning at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (under Ida Kavafian and Jaime Laredo) and continuing at New York’s famed Julliard School (under Itzak Perlman). 

Immediately after graduating, he returned to this country, where became the youngest concertmaster in the history of the Czech Philharmonic. At the same time, he also began to make a reputation here and abroad as a soloist and chamber music player, but it was thanks to winning the title of laureate at the world-famous Queen Elisabeth International Competition in Brussels that he began to receive the most attractive offers. Finally, between the many outstanding offers of solo appearances he was receiving and his family circumstances with the birth of his daughter followed shortly by the arrival of twins, he finally decided to resign as concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic and to devote himself exclusively to a solo career. Thanks to enormous talent and great effort, he has fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a famous violinist.


Antonio Vivaldi
The Four Seasons, Four Concertos for Violin and String Orchestra Op. 8


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.

Čtyři roční doby v Buenos Aires


Piazzolla’s name is synonymous with the tango – the composer dedicated his entire life to its promotion and artistic development. Ástor Pantaleón Piazzolla, a child of Italian emigrants, was born in the Argentine town Mar del Plata. His family, which moved to New York four years later, loved and listened to jazz and classical music as well as the traditional Argentine tango. At the age of eight, Piazzolla began playing the bandoneon, a type of accordion, and at age twelve he composed his first tango. Thanks to his piano teacher, he fell in love with Bach’s music, and he later played it on the bandoneon. At the age of fifteen, he returned with his family to Mar del Plata, and at seventeen he went to Buenos Aires, where he joined Anibal Troilo first-rate tango orchestra. In 1946 he formed an orchestra of his own. Because of his ambitions as an arranger, he began studying with the great Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera, and he continued to learn to play the works of the classical composers – Bartók and Stravinsky. He even tried his hand at composing classical music. In the 1950s he sent to Paris to study on a scholarship with the great teacher Nadia Boulanger. He played her his tango Triunfal, and Boulanger is said to have declared: “Astor, your classical compositions are very well written, but this is where the real Piazzolla is; never leave him behind.” For Piazzolla, this was a clear impulse to return to the tango and the bandoneon, so he decided to merge classical music and the tango into sophisticated music with the tango’s passion. This is where the history of the “new tango” (“tango nuevo”) begins. After returning to Argentina, in Buenos Aires he founded an octet with two bandoneons, two violins, contrabass, cello, piano, and electric guitar, and he began composing innovative works for the group in the style of chamber music with the feel of the tango. His brand new style attracted admirers as well as some aggressive detractors among the fans of the traditional tango. In 1959, after a short “jazz” visit to New York, he founded a quintet in Buenos Aires (bandoneon, violin, contrabass, piano, and electric guitar), and this became Piazzolla’s favourite combination. He also worked on big orchestral projects and recordings. He composed the chamber tango-opera María de Buenos Aires with songs in the tango rhythm, and in Paris he composed the oratorio El Pueblo Joven. Later he composed in Italy, to which he fled from Argentina’s military dictatorship. He created fusion with rock music, adding percussion, a synthesizer, a guitar, or a saxophone to his quintet. He collaborated with Chick Corea and Gerry Mulligan, as well as with the Russian cellistlistou Mstislav Rostropovich.

His collection Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (Porteñas means Buenos Aires in the local dialect, so the title means The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires) is written in the tango style that was typical of his quintet. Because Piazzolla loved European Baroque music from his childhood, he knew Vivaldi’s Four Seasons well. He took loose inspiration from the concertos’ content, but not from their musical style. In addition, he wrote his “season” as separate pieces and presented them that way, although he did play them all together occasionally. The oldest, Summer (1965), was originally composed as music for Alberto Rodríguez Muñoz’s play Melenita de oro, and thereafter as an independent piece. Four years later, Piazzolla wrote Winter, then Spring and Autumn in 1970.

From 1996 to 1998 the Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov (*1955) took the four original compositions and created new arrangements for solo violin and string orchestra and a new breakdown of each composition into three tempos (fast-slow-fast, but without a break). This was done with the intention of creating clear ties to Vivaldi’s concertos. He also added to each part a direct quote from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but taking into account the different hemispheres where the two sets of four compositions were written. For example, Piazzolla’s Summer has elements of Vivaldi’s Winter.