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Czech Chamber Music Society • Czech Trio


After a long absence, returning to Dvořák Hall is the Czech Trio, whose history dates back to the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. The evening’s programme is a survey of the ensemble’s entire range of activity. We will hear familiar works by Dvořák and Suk, less frequently played pieces by Martinů and Friml, and also contemporary music.

Subscription series II | Duration of the programme 1 hour 35 minutes | Czech Chamber Music Society

Programme

Josef Suk
Elegy, Op. 23 (6')

Rudolf Friml  
Piano Trio in C major, Op. 36 (10')

Eduard Douša 
Operation Anthropoid (9')

Bohuslav Martinů 
Piano Trio No. 3 in C major, H 332 (20')

— Intermission —

Antonín Dvořák 
Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor, Op. 26 (31')

Performers

Czech Trio
Dana Vlachová violin
Miroslav Petráš cello
Milan Langer piano

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society • Czech Trio

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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Price from 100 to 350 CZK Tickets and contact information

Customer Service of Czech Philharmonic

Tel.: +420 227 059 227
E-mail: info@czechphilharmonic.cz

Customer service is available on weekdays from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm.

 

Performers

Czech Trio  

Czech Trio

The Czech Trio, who in the current line-up have appeared on domestic and foreign concert stages for a quarter of a century, have pursued the illustrious Czech chamber music performance tradition, dating back to the 1890s, when the first piano trio of this name was formed. The ensemble have gained recognition worldwide. Besides making several well-received tours of the USA, since 1999 they have annually visited Japan, where this season they are returning after a pause caused by the Covid pandemic.

The Czech Trio’s repertoire encompasses seminal pieces for a chamber formation of this type. The ensemble have recorded albums for Arco Diva and other labels. Highly acclaimed too are their recordings for Czech Radio, featuring music by Rejcha, Friml and other Czech composers, including the contemporary creators Trojan, Douša and Filas. 

All of them accomplished instrumentalists, the Czech Trio members have performed as soloists too. They have also taught (Prague Conservatory, Academy of Performing Arts), sharing their ample experience with students from various countries. 

Compositions

Josef Suk
Elegy, Op. 23

In 1885, the 11-year-old Josef Suk was admitted to the Prague Conservatoire, where he excelled as a violinist while perfecting his skill as a pianist and composer. From his fourth year of study, he began taking composition lessons, first from Karel Stecker, then from Antonín Dvořák in the advanced course. Dvořák regarded Suk as a “real musical talent” already as a student at the conservatoire, and every new work that Suk produced confirmed that impression. Dvořák even called Suk’s incidental music to Zeyer’s fairytale drama Radúz and Mahulena “music from heaven”. That work also had a special meaning for Suk himself: “I can say it was in the music for Radúz and Mahulena that I found myself, and that work had an effect on my creative output for a number of years.” It is no wonder that after the death of Julius Zeyer (1901), Josef Suk was asked to write a musical introduction to a tableau vivant honouring Zeyer’s memory. The result was the Elegy for violin and cello accompanied by string quartet and harmonium, performed in Prague as part of a major societal event held in the gardens of Prague Castle in the spring of 1902. At the event’s conclusion at Queen Anne’s Summer Palace (Belvedere), musicians played Suk’s Elegy, and the curtain raised to reveal a tableau vivant titled “Sunset at Vyšehrad”. That same year, the composer arranged his Elegy for piano trio and had it published by Mojmír Urbánek, so the work lived on in the concert hall without the tableau vivant.

Rudolf Friml
Piano Trio in C major, Op. 36

Ten years later than Josef Suk, another musical talent, Rudolf Friml, arrived at the Prague Conservatoire. While studying piano, he also devoted himself to composing. However, he was only self-taught as a composer, voluntarily attending composition lectures in courses including the one taught by Antonín Dvořák. An unusually resourceful pianist and a brilliant improviser, already as a student Friml was hired as a ballet rehearsal pianist at the National Theatre. However, for having performed at several concerts without permission, Friml was expelled from the conservatoire in 1901. That same year, he set out with his former classmate the violinist Jan Kubelík on a four-month tour of Europe and the USA. Later, Friml returned to America alone, and in 1906 he moved there permanently. He got his start in New York as a concert pianist and a ballet rehearsal pianist at the Metropolitan Opera. As a composer, he was oriented mainly towards popular genres and began to enjoy success on Broadway. Beginning with the operetta Rose Marie (1924), he became one of the most respected composers of American musical theatre. Alfons Mucha, by then already a world-famous artist, created a poster for one of Friml’s early concert appearances in the USA. It was to Mucha that Friml dedicated his only work for violin, cello, and piano, the trio Rural Life in Bohemia, Op. 36, published in Prague in 1918 by Mojmír Urbánek. Characteristically, Friml’s vision of the Bohemian countryside overlaps quite naturally with echoes of America; the work’s musical poetry is specific to the salon and even makes reference to Scott Joplin’s world of ragtime. 

Eduard Douša
Operation Anthropoid

Representing the contemporary generation of artists associated with the Prague Conservatoire is the composer and instructor Eduard Douša, who has been teaching music theory and composition at that institution since 1995. An exceptionally versatile composer, he writes music both for the concert public and in commercial and popular genres. Besides writing music for radio productions and documentary films, he systematically produces works for children and young people. In 2014, on the eve of celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Douša reacted to one of the most important wartime events in this country by writing a composition titled Operation Anthropoid. The military operation by Czechoslovak parachutists successfully liquidated the prominent Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich, and it has already been the subject of numerous films, literary treatments, and sculptures. Previously, the topic of the most important act of resistance in occupied Europe has already appeared in the music of songwriters or in performances by punk and metal bands, but Douša is the first to have taken up this subject in the sphere of classical music. Motifs of the parachutists and of the Czech landscape clash with a Nazi march. Morse code also plays an important role in the piece, and the concluding chorale commemorates the courageous parachutists’ final resistance at the Orthodox Cathedral of Saints Cyril and Methodius. The Czech Trio gave the premiere of the one-movement composition in Prague on 6 January 2015.

Bohuslav Martinů
Piano Trio No. 3 in C major, H 332

In 1906, when Rudolf Friml settled permanently in America, Bohuslav Martinů began his violin studies at the Prague Conservatoire. Like his older classmate, he was expelled from the school, and in fact on two occasions. The first expulsion was for public performing without permission (he was readmitted two weeks later), but two years after that he was expelled definitively “for incorrigible negligence”. He continued to develop as a self-taught composer, then in 1922 he began to study in the advanced course at the Prague Conservatoire under Josef Suk, and the following year he departed for Paris to study composition. He ended up staying there for 17 years, usually spending only the summer months in his birthplace Polička. The Nazi occupation of France in 1940 forced him to flee under dramatic circumstances and to immigrate to the USA. Martinů wrote his Piano Trio No. 3 in C major in three spring months of 1951 in New York, in the city where he was forced to live and create in spite of himself: “How often in the evening streets of New York did I ever repeatedly reinforce, reaffirm, and revive all that I considered to be values that must not be lost, if we were not to lose humanity itself. And believe me, those endless avenues and streets of New York are not exactly the best source of inspiration for these kinds of thoughts. They stifle you, entrap you, and you feel as if you cannot escape. […] You must keep going, ever forward, block after block, to eternity, and the farther you go, the more your thoughts and the uniform nature of your surroundings force you to go faster and faster, until you stop thinking and start counting blocks.” And it is the clash between those two worlds, the consciousness of the highest values in the midst of a uniform environment, that Martinů sets to music so masterfully in his supremely modern composition for piano trio.

Antonín Dvořák
Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor, Op. 26

The Prague Conservatoire cannot boast of having had Antonín Dvořák as a student because Dvořák graduated from Prague’s Organ School, but the conservatoire did hire him as a teacher. When the composer arrived at the conservatoire, he was nearly 50 years old and at the zenith of his career. He soon received another offer, which he accepted after much deliberation: the position of director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York. For this reason, Dvořák took a leave of absence from his Prague position from 1892 to 1895, after which he returned to teaching in Prague, and from 1901 until the end of his life he served simultaneously as the school’s director. Before departing for America, Dvořák gave a unique farewell concert tour that lasted nearly half a year. The programmes of the 40 concerts in Bohemian and Moravian towns consisted almost exclusively of Dvořák’s chamber music, most frequently featuring his piano trios played by Prague Conservatoire professors: violinist Ferdinand Lachner, cellist Hanuš Wihan, and the composer at the piano. In Dvořák’s oeuvre, there are four preserved piano trios. He wrote his second trio, the Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 26, in January 1876, less than a year after his first trio, from which it greatly differs. Dvořák was constantly driven headlong by his innate desire to discover, experiment, and solve difficult problems. A born melodist, Dvořák never suffered from an inadequate supply of tunes, but in this trio he was deliberately economical in using thematic material. No movement has more than two themes, and the second movement is in fact based on just a single theme, and yet there is still sufficient internal contrast. The Piano Trio in G minor was played on the farewell tour in several towns in Bohemia and Moravia. At a concert at the Rudolfinum (18 February 1892), it was performed by the three Prague Conservatoire professors as the opening work on the programme.

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