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Czech Chamber Music Society • Dvořák Piano Quartet


One of today’s best Czech ensembles, the Dvořák Piano Quartet, will play a programme of mostly Schumann. They will also give the world premiere of a work that Jiří Teml has dedicated to them.

Subscription series I | Duration of the programme 1 hour 40 minutes | Czech Chamber Music Society

Programme

Robert Schumann
Piano Quartet in C minor, WoO 32 (31')

Jiří Teml
Theatre Music for Piano Quartet (world premiere) (15')

— Intermission —

Robert Schumann
Piano Quartet in E flat major, Op. 47 (30')

Performers

Dvořák Piano Quartet
Jaroslava Vernerová Pěchočová piano
Štěpán Pražák violin
Petr Verner viola
Jan Žďánský cello

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society • Dvořák Piano Quartet

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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Price from 100 to 350 CZK Tickets and contact information

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Performers

Dvořák Piano Quartet  

The Dvořák Piano Quartet are one of the foremost Czech chamber ensembles. Pursuing the best Czech performance traditions, they have developed a singular musical expression and specific sound. The ensemble members studied with such distinguished artists as Ivan Moravec, Josef Vlach (Vlach Quartet), Petr Messieureur (Talich Quartet), Milan Škampa (Smetana Quartet) and Miroslav Petráš (Czech Trio), who have imbued them with passion and a rigorous approach to chamber music. The Dvořák Piano Quartet are accomplished and distinct musicians possessing ample experience from collaborating with internationally renowned ensembles, Performing  both solo piano and chamber pieces, Slávka Vernerová has frequently worked with the finest Czech string formations, including the Pražák, Pavel Haas, Zemlinsky and Bennewitz Quartets. The violinist Štěpán Pražák gained valuable experience as the leader of the Czech Philharmonic Quartet, the violist Petr Verner was a member of the Vlach Quartet Prague for two decades, and the cellist Jan Žďánský performed with the Iuno Trio and the Kapr Quartet. 

Antonín Dvořák’s descendants and the Dvořák Society granted the Dvořák Piano Quartet approval to use the composer’s name. The ensemble’s debut at the Prague Spring festival was followed by numerous invitations to give concerts at prestigious venues at home and abroad alike. The quartet have recently played at London’s Conway Hall and at the Luton Chamber Music Festival. They have regularly attended masterclasses in Cambridge. Distinguished Czech contemporary composers (Karel Janovický, Martin Hybler, Ondřej Kukal and others) have dedicated works to them. 

The Dvořák Piano Quartet’s album featuring Dvořák’s Piano Quartets Nos. 1 and 2 was lauded by Classica magazine critics, and received the prestigious Choc de Classica accolade (May 2019).

Compositions

Robert Schumann
Piano Quartet in C minor, WoO 32

The German composer, pianist, music critic and conductor Robert Schumann came from a family of a bookseller and publisher in Zwickau. From his youth he showed interest not only in music, but also in literature. At the request of his widowed mother, he studied law in Leipzig, from where he moved to Heidelberg. Here he was inspired by the law professor Anton Friedrich Justus Thibaut, a promoter of medievalism and polyphonic vocal music, which, however, he presented to his surroundings in an inauthentic Romantic manner. Here Schumann finally decided on a musical career. He returned to Leipzig and began studying piano performance with Friedrich Wieck and music theory with Heinrich Dorn. Because of excessive piano practice, combined with inappropriate experimentation, he had to give up the idea of becoming a virtuoso pianist and instead concentrate on composition. In 1834 he became one of the founders of the music journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, which, in addition to the classics, promoted some of his contemporaries, such as Chopin and Brahms. Schumann married Clara Wieck, the daughter of his piano teacher and his long-time love, after several years of resistance from her father. In addition to being Schumann’s wife (their marital bliss was reflected in several chamber works, song cycles and an opera about a faithful wife, Genoveva), Clara also became a performer of his compositions. In 1843 Schumann accepted a professorship at the Leipzig Conservatory, served as a choirmaster in Dresden, and also became the municipal director of music in Düsseldorf. In 1844 he showed the first signs of mental illness, due to which he unsuccessfully tried to commit a suicide, and subsequently spent the rest of his life in a mental institution. Schumann was the type of delicate and emotional Romantic artist who was able to give form to his impressions aroused by nature. His extensive output consists of nearly two hundred Lieder, song and choral cycles and instrumental concertos. His works of a larger form which deserve special mention include four symphonies, the oratorio Paradise and the Peri and the programmatic pieces (Carnaval, Kinderszenen, Kreisleriana, etc.); his outstanding chamber pieces are Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44, piano trios and also string quartets.

Schumann wrote his first Piano Quartet in C minor, WoO 32 on the threshold of adulthood, and although he never remade it into a symphony, he still had it on his mind some 20 years later: “I vividly recollect a passage in one of my works, which I thought was romantic, with a spirit different to that of old music that appeared to me as though opening up a new poetic life.” This quartet was not published until many years after the composer’s death; its score in usable form has been available since 2010. It is therefore only in the last few years that the work has enjoyed its deserved popularity.

Piano Quartet in E flat major, Op. 47 was composed in 1842 and published three years later. It was a year in which Schumann devoted himself intensely to the composition of chamber works. This quartet is one of his mature works, growing out of the music of Bach and Beethoven, but also representing the composer’s own original style. The piece is in four movements and alternates a variety of moods, being thematically closely intertwined. The dreamy atmosphere of the slow opening of the first movement changes into the rhythmic impetus of the main theme beginning on the second beat, which Schumann deliberately and thoughtfully exploits further on. The five-part Scherzo in a minor key features a staccato figure predominantly played by piano with two contrasting trios of a quieter character. The highlight of this quartet is the third movement Andante with one of the most beautiful cello themes of the Romantic period, reminiscent of some of Schumann’s songs. The concluding Finale is a sonata rondo in which the dramatic energy of the sixteenth-note runs brings the whole composition to an energetic conclusion.

Jiří Teml
Theatre Music for Piano Quartet

Jiří Teml, born in Vimperk, South Bohemia, originally studied economics and worked in a clerical position as an economist until the mid-1970s. At the same time, from his youth he showed a strong musical talent. He studied music privately with Bohumil Dušek and Jiří Jaroch. Later his permanent interest in music became his profession. Between 1976 and 1980 Teml worked as a music program director and the head of the music section of Czechoslovak Radio in Pilsen; in the 1980s until the end of the 20th century, he was a music program director of Czechoslovak / Czech Radio in Prague; and until 2020 he was its external music producer specializing in contemporary music. Teml’s career as a composer began with small dance pieces and popular compositions; later he focused his attention on symphony and larger vocal forms. His first major success was Fantasia Appassionata for organ (1972), which won the Czech Music Fund Prize and was included as a compulsory composition in the Prague Spring International Performance Competition; his other major works include three symphonies, a concerto grosso, seven string quartets and a number of choral compositions. Teml’s first instrumental compositions were inspired by music of Igor Stravinsky, Paul Hindemith, Bohuslav Martinů, Leoš Janáček and Miloslav Kabeláč. In the late 1970s his compositional language underwent a transformation thanks to the influence of composers of the New Polish School. Teml’s vocal compositions arise from the folklore tradition – folk lyrics, folk melodies and rhythms.

Theater Music for Piano Quartet was created in 2020 at the suggestion of violist Petr Verner. The Dvořák Piano Quartet wanted to premiere the commissioned work on the occasion of Teml’s 85th birthday. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, its premiere had to be postponed. The three-movement composition draws inspiration from the theater environment full of twists and turns and charged with emotions, which used to be Teml’s milieu for a long time – among other works, he has written children’s operas and musicals for Jiří Chvála and the Kühn Children’s Choir, such as Emperor’s New Clothes, Puss in Boots and The Devil and Kates. In Theater Music Teml has employed the late 20th-century means of expression in three emotional waves – after the dramatic opening, amorous feelings are displayed in various forms, eventually leading to a tragicomic conclusion.

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