Czech Chamber Music Society • Kateřina Kněžíková

Fans of the intimate lieder genre will enjoy the performance by Kateřina Kněžíková, a leading Czech soprano, accompanied by the pianist David Švec. Besides works by Fauré, Brahms, Schubert, and Dvořák, they will perform the song cycle Ej, srdénko moje by Klement Slavický.

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Gabriel Fauré 
Rêve d’amour, Op. 5, No. 2
Les berceaux, Op. 23, No. 1
Après un rêve, Op. 7, No. 1
Chanson d’amour, Op. 27, No. 1

Johannes Brahms 
Liebestreu, Op. 3, No. 1
Am Sonntag Morgen, Op. 48, No. 1
An ein Veilchen, Op. 49, No. 2
Feldeinsamkeit, Op. 86, No. 2
Intermezzo in E flat minor, Op. 118, No. 6

Franz Schubert 
Nacht und Träume, Op. 43, No. 2
Gretchen am Spinnrade, Op. 2
Rastlose Liebe, Op. 5, No. 1

— Intermission —

Klement Slavický 
Ej, srdénko moje, song cycle

Antonín Dvořák 
Furiant in F major, Op. 42, No. 2
Gypsy Melodies, Op. 55 


Kateřina Kněžíková soprano 
David Švec piano 

Photo illustrating the event  Czech Chamber Music Society • Kateřina Kněžíková

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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Kateřina Kněžíková  soprano

Kateřina Kněžíková

Kateřina Kněžíková, born 1982 in Bohumín, graduated from Prague Conservatory in 2007 and in 2010 she completed her university degree at Music and Dance Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague as a student of Jiřina Přívratská. She has been the prize-winner of numerous competitions, for example Antonín Dvořák’s International Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary.

In 2005, Kateřina Kněžíková made her debut in the National Theatre in Prague in the role of Zerlina and she has been a permanent cast member thereof since 2006. This is where her operatic engagements over recent years include roles such as Susanna (Le nozze di Figaro), Serpetta (La Finta giardiniera), Servilia (La Clemenza di Tito), Blonde (Entführung aus dem Serail), Despina (Cosí fan tutte), Ilja (Idomeneo), Almirena (Rinaldo), Adina (Elisir d’amore), Barče (Hubička), Terinka (Jakobín), Nannetta (Falstaff), Aristea (L’Olimpiade) and many others.

She made her guest appearance in F. X. Šalda Theatre Liberec, J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen, National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava, Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, Theatre de Caen, Opéra Royal de Versailles, Theatre Royal de La Monnaie in Brussels and Opéra de Dijon.

She has been performing in productions of various directors - D. Beneš, Karl-Ernst and Ursel Herrmann, J. Heřman, L. Keprtová, L. Moaty, J. Nekvasil, V. Věžník etc.

Her professional concert and operatic engagements have involved work with conductors such as S. Baudo, J. Bělohlávek, A. Fisch, J. Gaffigan, M. Honeck, H. M. Förster, J. Hrůša, R. Jindra, V. Luks, E. Mazzola, J. Nelson, T. Netopil and outstanding orchestras including BBC Symphony orchestra, Camerata Salzburg, Collegium 1704, Czech Philharmonic, Hessischer Rundfunk Frankfurt am Main, PKF - Prague Philharmonia, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and many others.

She regularly makes her appearance at prestigious international festivals in the Czech Republic and abroad (Dvořákova Praha International Music Festival, International Music Festival Janáček Máj, Prague Spring International Music Festival, International Opera Festival Smetana’s Litomyšl, St. Venceslav Music Festival, Strings of Autumn, Festival de La Chaise-Dieu, Festival Rencontres Musicales de Vétzelay, Festival Baroque de Pontoise, Music Bridge Prague – Dresden, Uckermärkische Musikwochen, Tage Alte Musik Regensburg etc.).

She made recordings for Czech Radio, television channel MEZZO and Belgian radio station RTFB International. She recorded Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana for HARMONIA MUNDI and her recording of Dove é amore é gelosia produced for OPUS ARTE DVD was awarded “Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik“.

David Švec  piano

David Švec studied piano and conducting at the České Budějovice Conservatoire and the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno. In February 2000 he took part at conducting masterclasses under Sir Colin Davis in Dresden, and in 2002 he made a study visit to Vienna’s Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst (under L. Hager). In 2004 he won the Bösendorfer Prize at the Belvedere International Competition in Vienna in the Opera Coaching category.

He began collaborating with the Prague Chamber Orchestra as a pianist in 1998, and he is a sought-after chamber music partner. He has recorded several CDs for Czech Radio. He performs regularly with such leading Czech singers as soprano Eva Urbanová (concerts in Madrid, Washington, and elsewhere), bass-baritone Adam Plachetka (including two song recitals at the Prague Spring Festival), and soprano Kateřina Kněžíková, with whom he recorded the song album Fantasie in 2021. He has been collaborating with the tenor Pavel Černoch for many years, and an example of one of their most important concerts was a recital at the festival Smetana’s Litomyšl in 2020.

Already as a student, he was working at the Janáček Opera in Brno, since 2011 he has had a full-time conducting engagement at Prague’s National Theatre, and in 2022 he became the chief conductor of opera at the South Bohemian Theatre in České Budějovice. He is also a sought-after conductor of symphonic music, and orchestras with which he has recently appeared include the Czech Chamber Philharmonic of Pardubice, the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, the South Bohemian Philharmonic, and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.

He has made guest appearances abroad, including collaborations with the Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, the Opera national de Paris, the Wiener Staatsoper, the Opera de Lyon, the Glyndebourne Festival, the Theater an der Wien, and the Salzburger Festspiele. Since 2017 he has also been working at the Slovenian National Theatre in Ljubljana.

In 2014 for the publisher Bärenreiter, he created a new piano vocal score of Janáček’s opera Věc Makropulos (The Makropulos Affair), which was first used for a production of the opera at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.


Gabriel Fauré
Selection of songs

The most beautiful of a rich treasure of song lyrics are the love songs, no matter in which time and country they were written. The French composer Gabriel Fauré created mainly sacred music and also worked as an organist. His vocal compositions form about a half of his total output. The poets whose verses he set to music in his secular songs include Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Lecont de Lisle, Armand Silvestre and others. Many songs were written individually and only later grouped together in collections. Rêve dʼamour (Dream of Love) on the poem by Victor Hugo (1802–1885) is one of Fauré’s early songs. Composed in 1864, it was not performed until ten years later, when the composer met the mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot-García (1821–1910), whose art inspired him to write a number of songs. The author of Après un rêve (After a Dream) from 1877 is Fauré’s friend Romain Bussine (1830–1899), opera singer and teacher. Chanson d’amour (Love Song) from 1884 is one of Fauré’s many songs on the poems by Armand Silvestre (1837–1901), writer and literary critic, employed as a civil servant at the Ministry of Finance. The lyrics of Les berceaux (The Cradles) was written by René-François-Armand Sully-Prudhomme (1839–1907), the first ever winner of the Nobel Prize in literature (1901). Fauré’s songs are characterized by attention to detail and highlighting the overall mood with the help of rich or, as the case may be, very simple harmony and phrasing, always in harmony with the original poetry.

Johannes Brahms
Selection of songs

Johannes Brahms composed almost two hundred songs. The first lieder, already having opus numbers, were created around 1853. In songwriting, Brahms followed in the footsteps of his friend and mentor Robert Schumann. Brahms composed songs steadily throughout his life. He produced about 30 collections, in addition to duets and numerous arrangements of folk songs. His selection of verses for songs includes the poets Heinrich Heine and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who were set to music most frequently at the time, but also a number of lesser-known names. The painter and poet Robert Reinick (1805–1852) belonged to the circle around Robert Schumann; his poem Liebestreu (Faithful Love) is a conversation between mother and daughter. The poem Am Sonntag Morgen (On Sunday Morning) by Paul Heyse (1830–1914) on Italian folk poetry uses simple verse to suggest the sad background of a love relationship. Brahms profoundly admired the prematurely deceased poet Ludwig Hölty (1748–1776), as expressed in the following quote: “…my dear Hölty, for whose beautiful warm words my music is not strong enough, otherwise you would see his verses more often in my works.” He need not have worried about that because the lament of the abandoned lover in An ein Veilchen (To the Violet), a song set to a Hölthy poem written in free verse, confirms that he was uniquely able to empathize with the spirit of his poetry. Of all the oeuvre by the once revered and now almost forgotten writer and poet Hermann Allmers (1821–1902), the poem Feldeinsamkeit (Solitude in the Field) is still remembered mainly thanks to Brahms’s masterful composition.

Brahms, himself a pianist, greatly enriched the piano repertoire of Romanticism. In 1892 he composed Three Intermezzi, Op. 117. His collection Six Piano Pieces, Op. 118 from 1893, dedicated to Clara Schumann, also contains four pieces called Intermezzo, and another three Intermezzo pieces are included in his collection Four Piano Pieces, Op. 119 from the same year; these are Brahms’s last compositions for piano.

Franz Schubert
Selection of songs

Franz Schubert by his music opened the way for the song, hitherto written mostly by untrained enthusiastic dilettantes, to get into the repertoire of professional composers. Schubert arrived at the concept in which the two components – vocal and instrumental – form a unity, which became a model for future generations. In his strophic songs, he abandoned simple repetition in many cases and varied the individual strophes based on the content of the text. His followers were particularly inspired by his complex song formations. Schubert also employed different approaches to piano accompaniment – from simple harmonic support through color characterization and illustration to the organic combination of vocal and instrumental lines. Schubert used a wide variety of texts for his music, including the poetry of his close friends. The author of the poem Nacht und Träume (Night and Dreams) was Matthäus von Collin, younger brother of the writer and playwright Heinrich von Collin, the author of the drama Coriolan, for which Ludwig van Beethoven composed the overture. The song Rastlose Liebe (Restless Love) dates from 1815 and Schubert dedicated it to his teacher Antonio Salieri. It was written only a few months after Schubert set to music a scene from J. W. Goethe’s Faust, Gretchen am Spinnrade (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel), which marked the beginning of the composer’s fame as a songwriter.

Klement Slavický
Ej, srdénko moje (Oh, My Heart So Wretched), cycle of songs on Moravian folk poetry

Klement Slavický’s oeuvre is one of the most valuable legacies of Czech music of the late 20th century. He was born in Tovačov in the district of Přerov and often returned in his work to his native region for the inspiration. During the Second World War he composed Moravian Songs for tenor and piano, after the end of the war, a suite of love songs to Moravian folk poetry called Šohajé, and in 1951, Moravian Dance Fantasies for orchestra. While many composers of the time used folk sources in a defense (self-defense) against the dictates of the aesthetics of Socialist Realism, for Slavický the influences of folk music formed a natural part of his musical thought. In 1951 he had to leave his post of the music director and conductor of Czechoslovak Radio because he was accused of being a “formalist”. The song cycle Ej, srdénko moje (Oh, My Heart So Wretched) on the words of Moravian folk poetry was written in 1954 and ranks among the similarly inspired works of Leoš Janáček and Bohuslav Martinů.

Antonín Dvořák
Furiant & Cigánské melodie (Gypsy Melodies)

Antonín Dvořák was also often inspired by folk art and utilized its elements in sophisticated stylization. He used the folk dance furiant several times in the scherzo movement of his symphonies. The furiant is a Bohemian couple dance with a characteristic rhythmic component. It is in 3/4 time, but the placement of accents gives the impression of a simultaneous progression of 2/4 (trochaic) and 3/4 (dactylic) meters. Therefore it is not a dance with a variable beat in the true sense, but a transitional type resembling “mateník” (folk dances of the late 17th and 18th century with alternating time signatures and step variations). The term “furiant” [overly confident fellow] once characterized a rebellious peasant. In 1878 Dvořák composed two dazzling pieces for piano and entitled them Furiant, although they are not constructed upon the characteristic irregular rhythm mentioned above and are more like free fantasies. They were first performed on 17 November 1878 in Prague by Karel Slavkovský, to whom they are dedicated.

In 1859, Adolf Heyduk (1835–1923) published Gypsy Melodies, a collection of poems belonging to the wave of poetry deliberately imitating folk texts. Dvořák was asked to set them to music by the tenor Gustav Walter (1835–1910), a native of Bílina in North Bohemia and a member of the Vienna Court Opera. For this purpose, Adolf Heyduk translated his verses into German and Dvořák composed to the German text. Interpreted by Gustav Walter, the first and fourth songs were performed in Vienna on 4 February 1881; the fourth song – the deeply emotional Když mne stará matka (Songs My Mother Taught Me) – eventually became the best known of this song cycle.