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Czech Philharmonic • Jakub Hrůša

It is only natural that Slavomír Hořínka, a finalist of the first competition held by the Czech Philharmonic in 2014, was been commissioned to write a new work. The orchestra’s guest artist Josef Špaček chose Bohuslava Martinů’s Violin Concerto No. 1, and Jakub Hrůša will be conducting Suk's Summer's Tale.

Subscription series A | Duration of the programme 1 hour 50 minutes


Slavomír Hořínka
Rejoice III (world première) (15')
chacona for orchestra

Bohuslav Martinů
Violin Concerto No. 1, H 226 (26')
Allegro moderato

— Intermission —

Josef Suk
A Summer's Tale, Musical Poem for Large Orchestra, Op. 29 (52')


Josef Špaček violin, guest artist

Jakub Hrůša conductor

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic • Jakub Hrůša

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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Josef Špaček  violin, guest artist

Josef Špaček

“Working with Josef Špaček is amazing. He is a wonderful person with good heart. You can feel this in his playing, which is gracious, teeming with emotion. And his technique is marvellous. He is one of the greatest solo violinists of the present time,” says the conductor Manfred Honeck, under whom the young virtuoso has regularly given concerts, in the Czech Television documentary Devět sezón (Nine Seasons) The 2023 film provides an interesting account of Špaček’s life, also shedding light on his nine-year tenure as the Czech Philharmonic’s concert master.  

Although not having been a member for four years, Josef Špaček has not ceased to collaborate with the Czech Philharmonic, pursuing numerous joint projects. And even though appearing as a soloist with celebrated orchestras worldwide and as a chamber player at the most prestigious concert venues, he continues to perform in Czech towns and remote villages. 

Josef Špaček is a member of the exciting international Trio Zimbalist, giving performances all over the globe. He has regularly appeared in the Czech Republic with the cellist Tomáš Jamník and the pianist Miroslav Sekera, with whom he has created critically acclaimed albums. He has also made recordings with the Czech Philharmonic (featuring Janáček’s and Dvořák’s violin concertos, and Suk’s Fantasy), the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Petr Popelka (Bohuslav Martinů’s music).

Born in 1986 in Třebíč, Bohemia, Josef Špaček showed his exceptional talent at an early age. Music was a natural part of his childhood (his father has been a cellist of the Czech Philharmonic for over three decades, and his siblings played instruments too), as described by his mother in the book Špačci ve fraku. After graduating from the Prague Conservatory 
(under the tutelage of Jaroslav Foltýn), Josef went on to study in the USA, where he attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (his teachers included Ida Kavafian and Jaime Laredo) and The Julliard School in New York (tutored by Itzak Perlman). 

After completing his formal education, he returned to his homeland, where he was named the youngest ever concert master of the Czech Philharmonic. At the same time, he performed as a soloist and chamber player, garnering international recognition. A watershed in his career was victory at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, whereupon he began receiving invitations from the world’s most renowned institutions. Due to his having an ever more challenging and busy schedule as a musician – and to his family situation, especially following the birth of three children – he resigned from the post of concert master of the Czech Philharmonic so as to focus solely on being a soloist. Owing to his immense talent and great diligence, his childhood dream to become a famous violinist has come to pass.  

Jakub Hrůša  principal guest conductor

Jakub Hrůša

Born in the Czech Republic, Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, Music Director Designate of The Royal Opera, Covent Garden (Music Director from 2025), Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, and Principal Guest Conductor of 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 Salzburg Festival (Káťa Kabanová with the Vienna Philharmonic in 2022), Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera House, and Opéra National de Paris. He has also been a regular guest with Glyndebourne Festival and served as Music Director of Glyndebourne On Tour for three years.

His relationships with leading vocal and instrumental soloists have included collaborations in recent seasons with Daniil Trifonov, Mitsuko Uchida, Hélène Grimaud, Behzod Abduraimov, Anne Sofie Mutter, Lisa Batiashvili, Joshua Bell, Yefim Bronfman, Rudolf Buchbinder, Gautier Capuçon, Julia Fischer, Sol Gabetta, Hilary Hahn, Janine Jansen, Karita Mattila, Leonidas Kavakos, Lang Lang, Josef Špaček, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Yuja Wang, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Alisa Weilerstein and others. 

As a recording artist, Jakub Hrůša has received numerous awards and nominations for his discography. Most recently, he received the Opus Klassik Conductor of the Year 2023 prize and the ICMA prize for Symphonic Music for his recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, and the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik for his recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, both with Bamberg Symphony. In 2021, his disc of Martinů and Bartók violin concertos with Bamberg Symphony and Frank Peter Zimmermann was nominated for BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone awards, and his recording of the Dvořák Violin Concerto with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Augustin Hadelich was nominated for a Grammy Award. 

Jakub Hrůša studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, 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 both the Antonín Dvořák Prize by the Czech Republic’s Academy of Classical Music, and – together with Bamberg Symphony – the Bavarian State Prize for Music. 


Slavomír Hořínka
Rejoice III, chaconna for orchestra

When the Czech Philharmonic approached Slavomír Hořínka with a commission for a new composition (and not for the first time), he already had two works to his credit with the title Rejoice. The first was Chairé (Rejoice I) for chamber ensemble (2005), the second was a spatial composition for the project Music for Sirens with texts from letters sent by Saint Clare to Saint Agnes of Bohemia (2020). Rejoice III (2020–2021), now getting its premiere, joins the loosely connected cycle of works with the same title for differing instrumentation. In this case, the music calls for orchestra with a plentiful percussion section, harp, and celesta. The piece is conceived as a ciaccona, internally divided in the manner of a four-part cycle. The composer compares the work’s sonic and rhythmic aspects “to the ringing of a whole row of bells all at once, from the harmonies of which I sometimes choose just one single note, or at other times more”. The score is introduced by three excerpts from the Medieval Gregorian hymn Exsultet with the imperatives “be glad” or “rejoice” sung at the Easter vigil, symbolically connected in the Christian liturgy with the “return” of bells and light.

Slavomír Hořínka teaches at the composition department of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where he himself once studied under Ivan Kurz. He began composing relatively young, and his works include music in the orchestral, chamber, vocal, and concertante genres as well as spatial music, didactic pieces, soundscapes, and audio installations. Hořínka’s musical language is transparent, focused on the reduction of used resources, and concentrated. It goes to the heart of the matter. Incidentally, the attempt to go to the heart of things is something we read in one of the composer’s published essays. In them, he often deals with the spiritual dimension of music and the landscape of sounds around us.

Bohuslav Martinů
Violin Concerto No. 1, H 226

The fact that even a great composer sometimes cannot avoid creative difficulties is shown by the technically very difficult Violin Concerto No. 1 (H 226) by Bohuslav Martinů. It was composed in Paris in 1932–1933, and its first interpreter was the violin virtuoso Samuel Dushkin, a famed musician of Polish-Russian origin who had just previously learned and performed the violin concerto by Igor Stravinsky. Unfortunately, besides unquestionable inspiration from Dushkin’s brilliant playing, collaboration with him also bought problems: the soloist kept urging Martinů to make more and more changes to the new concerto even at the point when the work was finished from the composer’s point of view, and the premiere had already been planned—in Prague under the baton of George Szell. Finally, the premiere was cancelled. The autograph score also suffered a difficult fate when it was lost soon afterwards. In 1961 it was obtained by the musicologist and archivist Hans Moldenhauer. It was through him that the concerto was finally heard publicly with the violinist Josef Suk as the soloist and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Georg Solti (Chicago, 25 and 27 October 1973). Suk recalled it with great humility: “For me, it was uplifting. … With a wonderful orchestra and the best conductor then living, I was playing music that no one other than the composer had yet heard.” That, however, was not the end of the difficult journey for the autograph score; after Moldenhauer’s death, his music collection was divided up, and the score of Martinů’s Violin Concerto No. 1 had seemingly disappeared, but many years later it turned out that the manuscript and other sources for the work were being kept at the Northwestern University Library.

The First Violin Concerto is an example of the composer’s prolific production of concertante works in the 1930s and early ’40s and his characteristic predilection for older forms. It also bears an undeniable kinship to Martinů’s neo-Baroque orchestral works. Already the opening movement (Allegro moderato) is a supreme example of the handling of a short, rhythmically striking motif, which is heard from both the soloist and the orchestra and undergoes constant renewal. On the other hand, the second movement (Andante) is often compared with Romantic-era concertos—this is undoubtedly aided by the beautiful cantilena that is so typical of Martinů. The third movement (Allegretto) follows immediately, again in the spirit of the virtuosic beginning with a restless rhythmic-metrical division. The movement culminates with a series of cadenzas that show how well Martinů, himself a violinist, understood the instrument.

Josef Suk
A Summer’s Tale, tone poem for large orchestra, Op. 29

Voices of Life and Consolations
Intermezzo – Blind Musicians
In the Power of Phantoms

Bohuslav Martinů had known the composer and violinist Josef Suk since the days of his studies at the Prague Conservatoire, and in particular since the 1922–1923 school year, when he was a pupil in Suk’s composition class in the advanced studies course. For many reasons, this did not involve intensive instruction, but the two men were respectful of each other in the years that followed: “…for you, Maestro Suk, I have undying admiration, and I make no secret of this”, Martinů wrote to Suk in 1930. But now we are getting ahead of ourselves. Josef Suk’s standing in the Czech musical world at the end of the 19th century and in the first decades of the 20th was not challenged, and his music including the tetralogy of major orchestral works had its enthusiastic admirers and detractors. Suk composed A Summer’s Tale (1907–1909) as the second work in that series, and it was premiered in January 1909 by the Czech Philharmonic under the baton of Karel Kovařovic. In five movements, A Summer’s Tale, Op. 29 tends to be characterised as a musical poem (or a poem about nature), and explanations of it very often resort to extra-musical and especially psychological connections. It follows upon the symphonic composition Asrael, in which Suk was most clearly dealing with the death of Antonín Dvořák (1904) and of his beloved wife Otilie (1905). Now—in his own words—after the tempest and the mystical silence of the night, he was clinging “to the tremors of the awakening earth and the rays of the rising sun”. Although these descriptive explanations might seem excessively poetic to us today, the work is remarkable for its intellectual depth and truthfulness.

In Suk’s music, A Summer’s Tale amounted to another step away from late Romanticism towards a modern mode of expression: in it he employs freely shaped melody in the context of expanded tonality, polyrhythm, and polyphony. Tone colour gains an autonomous role, and in handling it, Suk shows himself to be a true master of orchestration. It is no wonder that some critics put him alongside Mahler, Debussy, or Richard Strauss. While Karel Kovařovic appears in the printed score as the work’s dedicatee, the composer promised the autograph score to Oskar Nedbal, his former colleague from the Bohemian Quartet, who conducted A Summer’s Tale in Vienna the very next year after the Prague premiere. In the rather convoluted history of the travels of the autograph scores, copies, and other written sources for the composition, such names appear as Max Švabinský and Gustav Mahler—in all likelihood the author of the inscription “O lieber Tod, komm sachte!” on the proofs of the score from Universal Edition. But that is another story…

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