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Czech Chamber Music Society • Ondřej Vrabec


The combination of suites from a 1927 jazz ballet and 1918 ballet music for seven instruments is not accidental; both date from about the same time and share chamber instrumentation requiring excellent performers. Such players were found in the Czech Philharmonic. They invited actor Martin Myšička and dancer Jade Clayton to collaborate with them.

Subscription series I | Czech Chamber Music Society

Programme

Bohuslav Martinů
La revue de cuisine, jazz ballet suite, H 161A (22')

— Intermission —

Igor Stravinsky
The Soldier's Tale, ballet pantomime (60')

Performers

Josef Špaček violin, artistic supervisor
Jan Mach clarinet
Ondřej Roskovec bassoon
Stanislav Masaryk trumpet
Lukáš Moťka trombone
Adam Honzírek double bass
Jan Keller cello
Miroslav Sekera piano
Ladislav Bilan percussion
Martin Myšička narrator
Jade Clayton dance

Ondřej Vrabec conductor

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society • Ondřej Vrabec

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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Performers

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.

Jan Mach  clarinet

Jan Mach

After attending the local music school in Jilemnice (north Bohemia), he studied at the Brno Conservatory with Professor Lubomír Bartoň and graduated from the Academy of Performing Art in Prague, where he attended the classes of Vlastimil Mareš and Jiří Hlaváč. He later also started teaching there. He has competed masterclass courses in Semmering (Austria), Telč (Czech Republic) and Aix en Provence (France) and a six-month study stay in Karlsruhe (Germany) with professors Otto Kronthaler and Wolfgang Meyer.

He joined the opera ensemble of the F. X. Šalda Theatre in Liberec (north Bohemia), later played in the State Opera in Prague and was a member of the Prague Symphony Orchestra for 10 years. In 1993, he won the 1st prize at a competition in Kroměříž and later received the Leoš Janáček Foundation Award for the best conservatory graduate. He was in the final round of Jeunesses Musicales Romania and succeeded in the ARD International Music Competition in Munich in 2003. As a soloist, he collaborates with the Munich Chamber Orchestra, Inter Camerata and the Prague Symphony Orchestra. He premiered and recorded Jindřich Feld’s clarinet quintet with the Pražák Quartet and often performs with the Zemlinski Quartet with which he recorded the works by F. V. Kramář.

In 2003, he formed the Trio Arundo with oboist Jan Souček and bassoonist Václav Vonášek and later won the Czech Chamber Music Society Prize with them. He plays the bass clarinet in the clarinet ensemble Five Star Quartet with his colleagues from the Academy of Performing Arts. He had led masterclass courses in Žirovnice (Czech Republic), Vardø (Norway) and Wroclaw (Poland).

Ondřej Roskovec  bassoon

Ondřej Roskovec

He studied with Professor Jiří Formáček at the Prague Conservatory and with professors Jiří Seidl and František Heman at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Before graduating, he had already won many competitions and was the laureate of the International Competition Prague Spring and the Prize of the Pro Harmonia Mundi Foundation (1996).

In 1995, he was one of the founding members of the Afflatus Quintet, which won the 1st prize at the prestigious ARD Music Competition in Munich in 1997. He has performed with the ensemble on many stages in Europe and in Japan and has recorded eight CDs, mainly for the Japanese label Octavia Records, for which he also records as a soloist (CD “Combination” in 2006 and recording of J. S. Bach’s Suites BWV 1007-9 in 2013). He performed in the Czech Nonet between 1989 and 1993.

He is the principal bassoonist of the Czech Philharmonic and has been teaching at the Prague Conservatory since 2002. Together with his colleagues, he founded the Summer Bassoon Academy in Rataje nad Sázavou (Czech Republic). In 2016, he co-founded the Czech Double-Reed Society. He gets invitations to teach abroad, such as the Royal Academy in London, Hochschule für Musik in Vienna and Theater und Medien in Hannover (Germany).

Stanislav Masaryk  trumpet

Born in Slovakia, Stanislav Masaryk (1993) has been playing the trumpet since the age of nine. As an exceptional student aged 13, he joined the class of JUDr. Michal Janoš at the Bratislava Conservatory and was enrolled there in the following year. He later continued at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava with Mgr. art. Rastislav Suchan ArtD. He finished 2nd in the Slovak Conservatories Competition in 2009 and took the 1st prize in 2012. In 2015, he won the Yamaha Scholarship Award. He was awarded the 1st prize and the title of the overall winner at the International Competition for Wind Instruments Brno 2017 among more than 60 trumpet players from the Visegrad Four countries.

He joined the hot-jazz orchestra Bratislava Hot Serenaders (led by trumpeter Jurej Bartoš) in 2009. In 2012–2015, he was a member of the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra. In 2017 and 2018, he was the first trumpeter of the National Theatre Opera Orchestra in Prague. During that time, he started regularly collaborating with the Czech Philharmonic. He also occasionally plays as a guest in the Slovak Philharmonic and is currently the first trumpeter of the Slovak National Theatre Opera Orchestra.
As a soloist, he has performed with the Slovak Philharmonic, Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Slovak Chamber Orchestra of Bohdan Warchal, Košice State Philharmonic, Cappella Istropolitana, State Chamber Orchestra Žilina, the chamber as well as the symphony orchestra of the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava and the Slovak Youth Orchestra.

He has joined the Czech Philharmonic as the first trumpeter in September 2020.

Lukáš Moťka  trombone

Lukáš Moťka

He studied at the Pavel Josef Vejvanovský Conservatory in Kroměříž, Czech Republic, with Rudolf Beran, the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts with Professor Jaroslav Kummer and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague with Mgr. Jiří Sušický. On top of that, he complemented his education at Konservatorium Privatuniversität Wien with Gabriel Madas. He won the 1st prize and was named the overall winner of the Czech Conservatories Competition as well as the International Brass Competition in Brno. He was among the semi-finalists of the Hungarofest Competition in Hungary, Lieksa Brass Week in Finland and ARD International Music Competition in Germany. He took the 3rd prize at the Markneukirchen International Competition (Germany) and the 2nd prize with the laureate title at the Prague Spring International Competition.

He played in the Moravian Theatre Olomouc Orchestra for two seasons and was the solo trombonist of the Brno National Theatre Orchestra for four seasons. He currently is the solo trombonist of the Czech Philharmonic, teaches at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague as well as many interpretation courses both in the Czech Republic and abroad.

He is a popular soloist and has performed with the Czech Philharmonic, Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, Prague Chamber Orchestra, Hradec Králové Philharmonic Orchestra, Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra, Pardubice Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra and Vogtland Philharmonie Greiz/Reichenbach. He plays chamber and jazz music (with the Czech Philharmonic Jazz Band) and has premiered pieces by contemporary composers, including Juraj Filas, Ladislav Kubík and Pavel Slezák.

Adam Honzírek  double bass

He started playing the double bass in the local music school in Moravian town Boskovice with Petr Vymazal. He then studied at the Brno Conservatory with Pavel Klečka and currently studies in his class at the Jan Deyl Conservatory in Prague. He has attended various masterclass courses with musicians from top world orchestras (Ödön Rácz, Igor Elisejev and Volkan Orhon). He won the 1st prize at the Czech Conservatories Competition and the 2nd prize at the Czech Philharmonic Interpretation Competition.

Jan Keller  cello

He studied at the Prague Conservatory with Professor Jaroslav Kulhan and graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague in Professor Josef Chuchro’s class. He has attended masterclass courses with Miloš Mlejnik in Klagenfurt (Austria) and Raphael Wallfisch in London. He played in the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1998–2010 and has taught at the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory in Prague since 2016.

He likes chamber (and other) music but considers jazz to be a vital counterweight to classical music. With various jazz ensembles, he can alternate the cello and bass guitar. His band the Night Sight has been playing with more or less unchanged line-up since 2002, mainly focusing on their own compositions. They have already recorded six CDs.

Since 2008, he has been collaborating with jazz singer Jana Koubková in her quartet and has recorded live CD Jana Koubková 65 and studio recordings Mýdlové bubliny (Soap Bubbles) and A tak si jdu... (And so I Go...)

In 2012, he recorded a CD featuring poems by Czech poet Bohuslav Reynek put into music together with Transitus Irregularis ensemble and guitarist Miroslav Nosek. The Petrkov publishing house released the recording with a book of poems and graphics by Reynek under the title Pod prahem svítá.

He likes various music genres and his playlist includes Lenka Dusilová, Zuzana Navarová, Suzanne Vega, Jan Spálený, Dežo Ursiny, Vladimír Mišík, Sting, Eric Clapton, classical composer Bohuslav Martinů, Leszek Możdżer, Lars Danielsson, Herbie Hancock, Jimi Hendrix and many others.

Miroslav Sekera   piano

Miroslav Sekera

Miroslav Sekera, winner of the 2002 Johannes Brahms International Competition in Portschach, Austria, had already won prizes at many important competitions in this country and abroad (F. Chopin International Competition in Mariánské Lázně, YAMAHA Scholarship Competition, International Piano Competition in Gaillard, France). In 2016 he won a prize from the “Salon de Virtuosi” music society in New York.

He has two solo CDs to his credit, which have won awards on the website Pizzicato.lu; for Joseph Summer, a contemporary composer from Boston, he has recorded seven more CDs in the USA. He collaborates with Czech Radio and with leading Czech orchestras and festivals, including a solo recital at the Rudolf Firkušný Piano Festival at the Rudolfinum. He makes guest appearances abroad, especially in Japan and the USA. 

He performs regularly with violinist Josef Špaček, mezzo-soprano Dagmar Pecková, and French horn player Radek Baborák.

He began playing piano at age three and graduated from the Prague Conservatoire (Eva Boguniová and Martin Ballý) and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (Miroslav Langer).

Martin Myšička  spoken word

Martin Myšička was born on 9 March 1970 in Příbram. He graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts (dramatic acting) and from the Charles University Faculty of Mathematics and Physics (nuclear physics). Since 1992 he has been devoting himself to the acting profession and has given more than 3,500 performances. Initially he worked at Studio Ypsilon and the National Theatre, and he also made guest appearances at the Divadlo Na zábradlí, the Western Bohemian Theatre in Cheb, and elsewhere. In addition, he has been active at the Dejvice Theatre from 1997 until the present. He has played in many productions including The Brothers Karamazov, The Inspector, Oblomov, Příběhy obyčejného šílenství (Tales of Common Insanity), Dubbing Street, Elegance molekuly (The Elegance of the Molecule), and Vražda krále Gonzaga (The Murder of Gonzago). He has also been the stage director of two productions, Krajina se zbraní (Landscape with Weapon) and Interview, and he has been that theatre’s artistic director since 2017. He also has television and film credits including Šeptej (Whisper), Občanský průkaz (Identity Card), Ztraceni v Mnichově (Lost in Munich), and the series Černí baroni (The Black Barons), Čtvrtá hvězda (The Fourth Star), Kosmo, Zkáza Dejvického divadla (The End of the Dejvice Theatre), Boží mlýny (The Mills of God), and Osada (The Settlement). He also enjoys working in radio. He and his wife Bára have been Czech Philharmonic subscribers for many seasons.

Jade Clayton  dance

Jade Clayton Becker studied at The Royal Ballet School in London and whilst a student there, she also had the opportunity to perform and tour with The Royal Ballet Company. After graduating in 2007, she joined the Czech National Ballet where she performed a range of corps de ballet and soloist roles including the titular roles in Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Goldilocks as well as the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. After leaving the theatre as a soloist in 2013, she began teaching at The First International Ballet School in Prague. She has also been a guest teacher in schools across northern Italy and California and continues to engage in freelance projects as performer and choreographer in the Czech Republic.

Ondřej Vrabec  conductor

Ondřej Vrabec

Ondřej Vrabec is an extraordinary figure on the Czech music scene. After over two decades he continues to successfully advance his artistic career as an award-winning conductor, seasoned solo horn player at the Czech Philharmonic, sought-after chamber musician, respected teacher at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and, newly, as Chiefconductor of the Carlsbad Symphony Orchestra.

He graduated from the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, supplementing his studies with numerous master classes. As a conductor, Ondřej Vrabec performs with many orchestras around the world (e.g. Japan Philharmonic, New Japan Philharmonic, Budapest Dohnányi Orchestra, Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra, London Soloists Chamber Orchestra) as well as in the Czech Republic, including the Czech Philharmonic (chief conductor’s assistant from 2014 to 2017). For many years he was a member of an international team of conductors at the renowned festivals of contemporary music Ostrava Days and NODO.

Compositions

Bohuslav Martinů
La revue de cuisine (Kitchen Revue), jazz suite from the ballet, H 161 A

The compositions on today’s programme have two common denominators. One is jazz, from which both composers took inspiration during certain periods of their careers, and the second is dance or movement, which is fundamental to both works. Jazz was Bohuslav Martinů’s main source of inspiration for a short period in the latter half of the 1920s. Jazz influences are found in his first operas and ballets including three one-act works from 1927: the ballet La revue de cuisine, the mechanical ballet The Amazing Flight, and the animated ballet Roll the Cameras! The composer himself was pleased with the ballet La revue de cuisine or The Temptation of the Saintly Pot, especially regarding the sophistication of the score. He later compared the finished work with his First Symphony, which he wrote in 1942. La revue de cuisine is especially noteworthy for its music. Its poetic content was shaped by the playful atmosphere of the 1920s, and it is in this light that one understands the rather naïve plot. Jarmila Kröschlová wrote the libretto, and she also did the choreography and stage direction for the premiere in Prague in November 1927. In the story, we encounter a Pot, a Dishcloth, a Broom, a Lid, and a Twirling Stick, and various problems emerge in the relationships between them. Martinů took music from the ballet and created a suite lasting a quarter of an hour. The suite already enjoyed noteworthy success in 1930 in Paris. Above all, the instrumentation was highly acclaimed. Martinů wrote the music for violin, cello, clarinet, trumpet, bassoon, and piano. He made the most of this small combination of instruments, evoking an endless series of instrumental colours.

Igor Stravinsky
The Soldier’s Tale (LʼHistoire du soldat), ballet pantomime

Igor Stravinsky’s composition The Soldier’s Tale is nearly an hour long and was written at the end of the First World War. The work’s genre is hard to categorise because it is intended for a unique collection of instruments: violin, contrabass, clarinet, bassoon, cornet (trumpet), bassoon, and percussion. The instrumental septet accompanies two spoken roles (the Soldier and the Devil), a mime role (the Princess), and a dancer. According to Stravinsky: “My choice of instruments was influenced by a very important event in my life at the time, the discovery of American jazz. The Histoire ensemble resembles the jazz band in that each instrumental category—strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion—is represented by both treble and bass components. The instruments themselves are jazz legitimates, too, except the bassoon, which is my substitution for the saxophone. My knowledge of jazz was derived exclusively from copies of sheet music, and as I had never actually heard any of the music performed, I borrowed its rhythmic style not as played, but as written.”

According to the subtitle, the work is “to be read, played and danced”. It tells a Faustian tale of a young Soldier who makes a deal with the Devil, and that agreement ultimately leads to his doom. Stravinsky began working on the idea of creating such a composition in the spring of 1917, and his plan was to create a staged work for small forces that could be produced by a small travelling theatre company during times of war and economic uncertainty. The period of the First World War was a very difficult time for Stravinsky. He suffered several professional failures as well as personal misfortunes. As war raged in Europe, performances of his music were limited, and in isolation in Switzerland, where he had moved his family, he repeatedly faced difficulties with earning a living. The Soldier’s Tale was designed for taking on concert tours that were meant to be profitable. The composing of The Soldier’s Tale and its premiere were sponsored by the Swiss philanthropist Werner Reinhart, to whom the work is dedicated. Plans and preparations for the tour came to nothing, however, because of the devastating Spanish flu epidemic. Although the hoped-for financial success did not materialise, Stravinsky succeeded at creating an extraordinary composition that is regarded as one of the finest and most influential chamber works of the early 20th century. Its importance is comparable to that of Schoenberg’s Pierrot lunaire. The modernism of The Soldier’s Tale can be seen mainly in its unique choice of instrumental and vocal forces. Ensembles of this kind proved capable of realising the newest ideas of avant-garde composers throughout the 20th century.

The author of the libretto was the French-speaking Swiss writer Charles Ferdinand Ramuz. The story, or rather some of its episodes, are taken from Russian fairy tales that Stravinsky found in a collection by the Russian Slavicist and ethnographer Alexander Nikolayevich Afanasyev. Ramuz wove the motifs into a continuous narrative, an allegory of a soldier who has sold the Devil his magical violin and his ability to play, which brings everyone pleasure (and is therefore a symbol of the soul and of happiness), in exchange for material comfort and wealth. Stravinsky’s friend the Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet led the premiere on 28 September 1918 in Lausanne. Soon after the war, Stravinsky arranged The Soldier’s Tale as a purely instrumental five-movement suite.

Part I

The Soldier Josef is on his way home. He stops by a stream and rummages through his pack. He takes out his violin and begins to play. The Devil appears in disguise and listens to him playing. After a while, he asks the Soldier to sell him the violin in exchange for a magical book from which one can read future events. He offers Josef that he will teach him how to read the book in exchange for being taught how to play the violin. The Devil invites the Soldier to his home for a three-day visit, but when the Soldier returns home, he finds that instead of three days, he was gone for three years, and meanwhile everything had changed. His return to his native village is sad; everyone thinks he is the ghost of the dead Soldier, and his beloved has married someone else. With the aid of the magical book and of the Devil, the Soldier earns a great fortune, but this does not bring him happiness or fulfilment.

Part II

The soldier leaves home with nothing. Along the way, he learns that a Princess at a castle is ill, and her hand will be given to the one who cures her. At the castle gates, he meets the Devil, who is dressed as a violin virtuoso. On the advice of the Narrator, the Soldier lets the Devil win all of his money, thereby ridding himself of the Devil’s influence. Then the Soldier cures the Princess by playing the violin. His music also overpowers the Devil. At the same time, however, he discovers that he cannot leave the castle, or the Devil will regain power over him. The Soldier leaves despite this, and by doing so loses everything including the Princess. The narrator gives the explanation:

 

No one can have it all, that is forbidden.

You must learn to choose between.

 

One happy thing is every happy thing:

Two, is as if they had never been.

 

The narrator’s part is of great importance to the whole work in a dual role: it is an intermediary between the individual characters, and it accompanies the listener through the episodes of the story. Stravinsky added a dancer afterwards because feared that the action on stage would be too monotonous without dancing. Like in all of Stravinsky’s music, rhythm is very important in The Soldier’s Tale. The music is full of asymmetrical rhythms, jazz-inspired syncopations, and many other rhythmic ideas that give the work its own peculiar conception of time. Repetitions and variations of important melodic and rhythmic passages play an important role in the perception of time, and dance is used for characterisation of various situations in the story. The Soldier’s Tale is a timelessly modern composition that can still move listeners.

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