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This all-Czech programme prepared by Jakub Hrůša with Leonidas Kavakos and Daniel Mikolášek consists exclusively of 20th-century music.
Symphony No. 7, Op. 153 for symphony orchestra and concertante marimba (world premiere) (30')
Violin Concerto No. 2, H 293 (29')
— Intermission —
Daniel Mikolášek marimba
Leonidas Kavakos violin
Jakub Hrůša conductor
According to Jakub Hrůša, “the composers Jaroslav Krček, Bohuslav Martinů, and Leoš Janáček have something in common. Above all, their music is communicatory in the best sense of the word. In just a few bars, each creates a bond with the listener and maintains it long after the last notes die away. All three owe their deserved success in part to their firm grounding in the wonderful sources of folk tradition, which lends credibility to their engaging yet simple utterances. Another thing all three composers have in common for me personally is that I already liked their music when I was a child.”
These concerts are supported financially by the Bohuslav Martinů Foundation.
Daniel Mikolášek studied percussion at the Prague Conservatory (with Vladimír Vlasák, Stanislav Hojný and Václav Mazáček), and attended masterclasses within the Internationales Jugendfestspieltreffen in Bayreuth. During the time of his military service, he played the timpani with the Vít Nejedlý Czechoslovak Army Ensemble, while continuing his organ studies. A member of the Czech Philharmonic percussion group since 1984, he has also occasionally performed with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the National Theatre Orchestra, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Philharmonia, etc. He is also a member of the Michal Hromek Consort.
Moreover, Daniel Mikolášek has collaborated with ensembles focused on contemporary music (AGON, MOENS, Berg Orchestra, Prague Modern), participated in chamber and solo projects (e.g. for Ateliér 90 and Studio N) and played in a dance band. He heads the Percussion Department at the Music and Dance Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and an amateur church choir in Smíchov, Prague.
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.
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, Opéra National de Paris, and Zurich Opera. 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, Lukáš Vondráček, 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, Klaus Florian Vogt, 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 nomination 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. His recordings of Dvořák and Martinů Piano Concertos with Ivo Kahánek and the Bamberg Symphony, and Vanessa by Samuel Barber from Glyndebourne both won BBC Music Magazine Awards in 2020.
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.
The composer, conductor, choirmaster, multi-instrumentalist, and music producer Jaroslav Krček has been active in the fields of classical and folk music and its popularisation for more than half a century. For many years, besides composing, his primary areas of interest have been the music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods and folklore. From 1954 to 1959 Krček studied cello under Václav Beran at a music school in České Budějovice, then he was admitted to the third year of study at the Prague Conservatoire, where from 1959 to 1962 he studied composition under Miloslav Kabeláč and conducting under Bohumír Liška. During his studies in Prague, he collaborated with the Josef Vycpálek Song and Dance Ensemble, and from 1962 he served as the director of musical programming, first for Czechoslovak Radio in Pilsen, then for the music publisher Supraphon. From the early 1960s he conducted the Czechoslovak Radio Chamber Orchestra in Pilsen, he was the choirmaster of the Czech Song Mixed Choir, and he also collaborated with the folklore ensemble Úsměv (Smile) from Horní Bříza. His strong interest in Czech folk music, in new music in the folk style, and in Czech music from earlier times led him to establish the music and dance ensemble Chorea Bohemica (1967) and later on the ensemble Musica Bohemica (1975), which he still conducts, serving as its artistic director. He is also an experienced singer, and he plays many different instruments, making some of them himself specifically for use in his ensemble.
From the turn of the 1970s and ’80s, Jaroslav Krček successfully established enduring relationships with professional music ensembles, and he also made a major contribution to the advancement of amateur music making in this country. Many of his folksong arrangements are very popular with school choirs and amateur ensembles for all age categories, and Krček’s efforts have also brought the music of earlier periods to the awareness of these performers. His systematic work with Chorea Bohemica and Musica Bohemica has had a major influence on the music education of young people in this country. Hundreds of educational concerts and performances have inspired choirs and instrumental ensembles to perform music from earlier times, and Krček was a powerful force shaping a new understanding of folk music and early music by performers and listeners alike. In 2019, he was honoured by the Czech Ministry of Culture for these activities.
In parallel with his interest in early music and folk music, he has also pursued a different line of activity, composing symphonic, chamber, and vocal music of his own. Besides his countless arrangements of folk songs, and dances, he has composed works in a wide range of genres. Among his most important works are nine symphonies, cantatas, and oratorios (O lux mundi, 1985; The One Who Is, Op. 137, 2009; Creed of the Master John, Op. 150, 2014 etc.), melodramas, ballets and dance frescoes, operas (The Prostitute Rahab, Op. 36, 1971; In the Shadow of the Cross, Op. 129, 2005; Clothes Like the World Has Never Seen, Op. 139, 2010; Behind the Curtain of Time, Op. 146, 2013), and sacred music. In 1971 his electronic opera The Prostitute Rahab (Nevěstka Raab) won a prize at an international composition competition in Geneva, and he won the top prize several times at the competition Prix de musique folklorique de Radio Bratislava. He has been equally prolific in his activities as a conductor and a music producer.
As a composer, he has strong opinions that are not influenced by changing fashions, and all his life he has strived to make his music an adornment of life that brings satisfaction and elevates the spirit. Above all, he wants his music to captivate listeners. This is true of the work being premiered today, the four-movement Symphony No. 7 for symphony orchestra and solo marimba, Op. 153, which was completed in January 2015 and is one of the composer’s shorter symphonic works.
Bohuslav Martinů came from Polička, and his childhood is connected with St James’s Church and the immediate surroundings of the town. He began his violin studies as a child and furthered them at the Prague Conservatoire, but he did not graduate because his interests were diffused in other directions. At the same time, he began writing his first compositions, initially for string instruments, then for piano etc. In 1912, having completed remedial studies and passed the state examination on violin, he joined the second violin section of the Czech Philharmonic. He also had his first successes as a composer—his Czech Rhapsody was given a performance, and later the National Theatre premiered his ballet Ishtar. Martinů showed a renewed interest in composing and studied for a year under Josef Suk at the Prague Conservatoire. In the autumn of 1923, he received a scholarship to study under Albert Roussel in Paris. Martinů’s first period as a composer shows him searching for a compositional language of his own. He took the strong tradition of Czech music and French Impressionism as his points of departure, and he was also captivated by Richard Strauss’s orchestration. New horizons were opened to Martinů in Paris, where he became well acquainted not only with Roussel’s music, but also with Stravinsky, Les Six, and jazz. In the 1930s, Baroque forms begin to emerge in Martinů’s works, and above all there was inspiration from folk music. The Munich Agreement and the Nazi invasion of France forced Martinů to flee to the USA, where he composed his symphonies and also found a new public. After the war, he never returned home, living successively in Italy, France, and Switzerland, where he died.
Martinů wrote his Violin Concerto No. 2, H. 293, between February and April 1943 in New York on commission for the famed American violinist of Ukrainian descent Mischa Elman (1891–1967), who had heard Martinů’s Symphony No. 1 in New York in January 1943. For the programme notes of the concerto’s premiere, the composer himself wrote: “The idea for this concerto presented itself to me with the following order—Andante, a broad lyric song of great intensity which leads to a Poco allegro, exploiting the technique and the virtuosity of the instrument, and has the aspect of a single-movement composition. The definitive form complies with concerto structure. I have preserved its grave character, lyric in the first part, and even in the middle Allegro, the Andante theme returns to close the movement. The second part is a sort of point of rest, a bridge progressing towards the final Poco allegro. It is an intermezzo moderato, almost bucolic, accompanied by only a part of the orchestra and progressing attacca into the finale, which is Poco allegro. This movement favours the technique of the violin, which is interrupted by broad and massive tutti passages. The concerto ends with a sort of stretto, Allegro (vivo). [...] As with all compositions for solo instrument, the solo violin requires a quite special ‘state of mind.’ [...] For the violin solo, all which we wish to express must be contained in a single line, which must also imply the rest.”
The life of Leoš Janáček took many twists and turns before he arrived at the compositional style of his greatest operas and symphonic works, which have now made him one of the most famous and most frequently performed Czech composers abroad. Janáček grew up with the music of the church and of folk culture. He gained his first experience in the church choir in Hukvaldy and later at the Augustinian monastery in Staré Brno. In 1872, the composer and choirmaster Pavel Křížkovský was hired to lead the choir there, and Janáček later became his successor. At the same time, he was studying at a secondary school in Staré Brno and at a teachers’ college. After graduating, he furthered his studies at the organ school in Prague. Thereafter, he was engaged in important activities in the field of folklore studies and pedagogy, collecting and publishing Moravian songs, leading the organ school in Brno, and conducting at the Brno Beseda concert hall. At first Janáček focused on writing choral music, then he turned his attention to other genres. The opera Jenůfa became a success after initial difficulties and obstacles baring its path to the stage. Later on, his other operas (Káťa Kabanová, The Makropulos Affair etc.) won recognition at home and abroad, as have his symphonic works (Taras Bulba, Lachian Dances etc.).
One of those symphonic works is the Sinfonietta, JW VI/18, probably the most famous of all of Janáček’s compositions. The idea originated when the newspaper Lidové noviny asked Janáček to write some music as a salutation for the Eighth Sokol Gymnastics Festival. Janáček began by writing fanfares, then he expanded them into a five-movement work, making use of his recollections of the sound of a military band. Václav Talich conducted the premiere at the Rudolfinum in Prague in 1926 with a military band joining the Czech Philharmonic as part of a cultural programme in association with the Sokol festival, and Czechoslovak Radio recorded the performance.