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Czech Chamber Music Society • Doležal Quartet

At the beginning of the year, Suk Hall will resound to the music of Josef Mysliveček, a Czech composer who was neglected until recently. The Doležal Quartet and Michaela Hrabánková will play his little-known oboe quintet. An early quartet by Novák will be followed by contemporary music.

Subscription series HP | Duration of the programme 1 hour 15 minutes | Czech Chamber Music Society


Josef Mysliveček
Oboe Quintet No. 1 in B flat major (12')

Ondřej Štochl
composition for string quartet (world première) (13')

— Intermission —

Vitězslav Novák
String Quartet No. 1 in G major, Op. 22 (26')


Doležal Quartet 
Václav Dvořák violin
Alexej Rosík violin
Martin Adamovič viola  
Vojtěch Urban cello

Michaela Hrabánková oboe

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society • Doležal Quartet

Rudolfinum — Suk Hall

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Doležal Quartet  

The Doležal Quartet is the only ensemble to win the Czech Chamber Music Society Award twice (1989 and 2015); in 2022 it celebrated 50 years since its founding. Throughout its history, the ensemble has celebrated success not only on concert stages, but also in competitions such as the International Competitions in Bordeaux (1977), the Prague Spring (1975) and the Leoš Janáček Competition (2010 and 2015). At presents its members are Václav Dvořák and Alexej Rosík (violin), Martin Adamovič (viola) and Vojtěch Urban (cello).

In 2016, the Doležal Quartet received a scholarship at the Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía in Madrid in the class of Günter Pichler (Alban Berg Quartet). Among others, the players have been coached and mentored by Milan Škampa (Smetana Quartet) and they have established an especially cordial relationship with Natalia Prishepenko (Artemis Quartet). The Doležal Quartet has performed in many countries across Europe, the USA, in Japan and China. They have collaborated with prominent musicians such as Jean-Guihen Queyras, Maximilian Hornung and Ivo Kahánek. It was to encourage collaboration with famous soloists that the ensemble founded the Qu@rtet+ chamber music festival, which has been running in Prague since 2021.

The ensemble has recorded a number of highly rated CDs. The latest album created in collaboration with Supraphon represent the world premiere of Josef Mysliveček’s String Quartets together with the hitherto missing Oboe Quintets, rediscovered by this ensemble and recorded in collaboration with the oboist Michaela Hrabánková. For its fresh stylistic interpretation and musicological contribution, the recording was highly praised by the Diapason magazine and is currently among the five best-selling classical music albums in the Czech Republic. Another Supraphon album, recorded in 2017 together with the pianist Jan Bartoš, received a highly positive review in the Fanfare magazine, while the album of chamber compositions recorded in collaboration with the solo clarinetist Blaž Šparovec of the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln received an exceptionally high rating in Klassik heute (2014).

Michaela Hrabánková  oboe

Michaela Hrabánková, a Czech oboist living in Paris, has been the solo oboist of the prestigious Orchestra of the Opéra Royal de Versailles since 2019. With this orchestra she has had the opportunity to perform with musicians such as Plácido Domingo, Lang Lang, Gautier Capuçon and Jakub Josef Orliński. She is regularly invited to guest perform with leading European orchestras (e.g., Les Arts Florissants, {oh!} Orkiestra Historyczna, the Ensemble Matheus) and is also a recording artist. The CD Divertissements, which she recorded together with the guitarist Gabriel Bianco, has received many positive reviews in professional journals; her recording of the Vivaldi oboe concerto, made in Versailles in July 2023, is soon to be released.

Michaela is devoted not only to the modern oboe, which she studied at the Hochschule für Musik in Karlsruhe and subsequently in the class of Jacques Tys at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris, but also to historical instruments and related historically informed performance. She completed her Master’s degree in the interpretation of Baroque and Classical music on historical instruments at the Royal Conservatoire in Brussels under the guidance of Benoit Laurent. Michaela is supported by the famous French oboe manufacturing company F. Lorée / de Gourdon and plays their Etoile model.


Josef Mysliveček
Oboe Quintet No. 1 in B flat major

Josef Mysliveček was born in Prague into a family of a miller who ran his business in Sova’s Mills on Kampa in Prague. Later the Myslivečeks lived in the Blue Ship House in the Old Town (today’s Melantrichova Street No. 13). Josef graduated from the Jesuit academic grammar school in Klementinum and learned the miller’s trade. At the same time, he showed considerable musical talent and became a good violinist and harpsichordist, and subsequently studied composition with František Habermann and Josef Seger. Mysliveček’s first symphonies impressed Count Wallenstein, who gave financial support to the young composer so that he could travel to the Mecca of art – Italy. Mysliveček worked his way up from humble beginnings in Venice to his first great success, the opera Il Bellerofonte (1767), composed for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. Other opera commissions start pouring in, Mysliveček’s inventive and melodious music attracted the best singers, and successful productions again confirmed the reputation of the composer, called Il Boemo because his own name was hard to be pronounced. Mysliveček also excelled in oratorios (his Abramo ed Isacco was considered one of the top works of this genre) and chamber music (outstanding string quintets and wind octets). His progressive illness and the failure of his opera Armida in Milan in 1779 heralded Mysliveček’s decline from fame. In the end, Mysliveček, who contributed significantly to the development of Classicism in music, died sick and abandoned in Rome.

Mysliveček first met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (then 14 years old) and his father Leopold in 1770 in Bologna. Wolfgang considered Mysliveček to be his role model and by studying his compositions earned valuable experience. However, their friendship broke down. Mysliveček tried to use Leopold’s influence to ingratiate himself with the Prince-Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg, and demanded various intercessions and support from Mozart’s father. In return, he offered to get a commission for Wolfgang for a new opera in Naples. Leopold tried to comply, but Mysliveček, despite his promises, did not actually lift a finger for Wolfgang. Leopold realized that Il Boemo was only using him and his son. The over-trusting Wolfgang visited Mysliveček on 11 October 1777 in the hospital in Munich, where Il Boemo was recovering from an operation. He was horrified and pitied Mysliveček for his sufferings. “The surgeon Caco, that ass, burned off his nose, imagine the pain now! It is a veritable bone cancer!” he wrote to his father. In his reply of 15 October 1777, Leopold harshly criticized Mysliveček’s opportunistic behavior and opened his son’s eyes by identifying the origin of Mysliveček’s condition as a serious venereal disease brought on by Il Boemo’s sexual promiscuity.

This letter from Leopold Mozart to his son also contains important information about Mysliveček’s new six quintets with obligatory oboe. Mysliveček sent them to Prince-Archbishop Colloredo and Leopold was to arrange for their performance in Salzburg. These were certainly the Six Quintets for Oboe or Flute with String Quartet, written by Mysliveček in Munich where he was still composing despite his deteriorating health. These compositions were also advertised in Breitkopf’s catalogue in the period 1782–1784. However, the manuscripts deposited in the Bibliotheca Palacio Real in Madrid are incomplete. Only three of these six quintets are actually available today. In the first movement of the Oboe Quintet No. 1 in B flat major, the technically exposed voice of the first violin plays the leading role. The oboe comes to the fore in the second movement with cantabile solos. The final movement is a charming minuet, somewhat hard to dance to, while despite expectations it is not followed by a fast finale.

Ondřej Štochl
composition for string quartet (world première)

Ondřej Štochl studied viola and composition at the Prague Conservatory and continued his studies in composition at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague in the class of Marek Kopelent. While still a student, he took part in a number of composition courses, where he also acquired experience in the interpretation of contemporary music. He composes mostly chamber and orchestral works, often with a vocal or electronic component. Štochl’s creative background is the Konvergence ensemble, in which he serves as the artistic director, composer and violist. He teaches composition and music theory at the Jan Deyl Conservatory in Prague. Štochl’s music has been performed at major festivals such as the Exhibition of New Music in Brno, the Forfest in Kroměříž, the Mélos-Ethos in Bratislava, the Unerhörte Musik in Berlin, the Prague Spring and the Prague Premieres. Štochl represented the Czech Republic at the ISCM World Music Days 2007 in Hong Kong. In addition to his home ensemble Konvergence, the performers of his compositions include the Luxembourg Sinfonietta, the Ensemble Bern Modern, the Moens Ensemble, the Ensemble Platypus Wien, the Yun Trio Prague, the cellist Petr Nouzovský, the clarinetist Karel Dohnal, the vibraphonist Cécile Boiffin, the percussionist Martin Opršál and the pianists Iris Gerber and Martin Kalhous.

Štochl’s profile CD is entitled On the Way to Kindness. Štochl’s innermost theme is kindness and his compositions deliberately aim at achieving the emotional state of peace of mind. The second CD, Echo Fragile, also has a spiritual dimension. Štochl is able to convey fragility, delicacy or vulnerability in an exceptional musical way thanks to his work with autistic children at the Deyl Conservatory. “They are fragile inside and each one needs to be treated individually. Their lives are not lacking in drama, although it is not apparent on the outside,” he explains. “But the fragility is not lost in the positive moment of expressing closeness and in the hope that we can understand the hard-to-notice movements of the human soul.”

Anticlimax for String Quartet was composed in 2023 for the Doležal Quartet. Anticlimax as the opposite of climax means a gradual weakening of expression. “My new string quartet came into being after a long hiatus during which it was impossible to compose,” says Štochl. “It reflects a challenging period in which the very meaning of any creative work was shaken – it seemed inaccessible and, in fact, useless compared to the themes of every day. My music created after this period is not fundamentally different in terms of the means of expression. It again deals with the subtle relationships between harmonic polarities and colors, the static and fleeting kinetics and the fragility of musical expression – these are probably the constant features which will continue to be found in my music. According to me, the music should be like a retina, hearing and quiet. But something is different in my music, there is gradual reduction and simplification of sound and expression. The anticlimax as a form... It is as if the only thing, direct and actually specific that is supposed to pass beyond the retina and remain, is filtered through. It is hard to say which is more important. Calm, ascetic... reconciliation? Or the process leading to it?”

Vítězslav Novák
String Quartet No. 1 in G major, Op. 22

Vítězslav Novák was born in Kamenice nad Lipou. He spent his childhood in Počátky and graduated from the grammar school in Jindřichův Hradec. His musical talent was developed by his piano teacher Vilém Pojman from Jindřichův Hradec. After graduating from grammar school Novák moved to Prague and enrolled in the Faculty of Law and later in the Faculty of Philosophy at Charles University. At the same time he studied piano and composition at the Prague Conservatory, where he did not get along with the pedantic Karel Knittel, but in the third year he became an enthusiastic student of Antonín Dvořák. After graduation he received a state scholarship of 400 guldens a year, which enabled him to devote himself to composing. From 1901 he worked for 40 years as a professor at the Prague Conservatory. In 1919 he founded the Master School attached to the Prague Conservatory, which was attended by a plethora of 20th century Czech and Slovak composers.

In the summer of 1896, the 26-six-year-old Vítězslav Novák came to Velké Karlovice in Moravian Wallachia for a holiday with his friend Rudolf Reissig, a violinist and later the choirmaster of the Beseda Philharmonic Choir in Brno. Novák was captivated by the forgotten region, its distinctive people, their songs, dances and the ubiquitous folk music. He returned there again and again and began to study the local folklore; his interest soon expanded to southeastern Moravia and Slovakia. In 1897 he met Leoš Janáček in Brno, from whom he gained valuable folklorist knowledge. He also befriended the playwright brothers Alois and Vilém Mrštík and composed an overture to their theater play Maryša. His Moravian friends included the painter Joža Uprka and the architect Dušan Jurkovič. Novák became an honorary member of the Brno Art Club, and when the world premiere of his symphonic poem The Tempest took place in the Moravian capital in 1910, it was a major cultural event. He paid tribute to Slovakia, whose mountains he had traversed as an avid hiker and active mountaineer, with his symphonic poem In the Tatra Mountains (1902). His most popular composition in the long term remains the Slovak Suite (1903).

Folklorism manifested itself in Novák’s music through thematic quotations and elaborations of folk songs. Janáček abandoned this way of working after Lachian Dances, aware of the danger of being accused of a lack of his own inventiveness, which Vítězslav Novák had to face. In this respect, an interesting discovery was made by the Brno musicologist Miloš Schnierer, who specialized in the work of Vítězslav Novák, who found 28 of Novák’s Songs on the Words of Moravian Folk Poetry from 1896–1897 with absolutely no trace of quotations of folk melodies. Their lyrics is interpreted using the composer’s own invention, almost in the spirit of Janáček’s or Bartók’s “radical folklorism.”

Novák’s String Quartet No. 1 in G major, Op. 22 is characteristic in its application of compositional principles. It was completed on 15 October 1899 when Novák took it to the Court Councillor Adolf Schwerak to play the new score together with him on piano four hands. With his first string quartet, Novák competed for the 1899 Czech Chamber Music Society’s prize. He entered the competition anonymously, signing the score as “Anonymous”. He then learned from the pianist Karel Hoffmeister that the patron Josef Hlávka had opposed the award of the first prize to this work during the jury’s deliberations because of its “excessive tendency towards decadence”. The jury therefore did not award the first prize, and Novák’s quartet received the second prize, shared with the quartet by Hanuš Trneček, a Prague harpist and a co-founder of the Czech Chamber Music Society.

Novák’s String Quartet in G major summarizes the young composer’s impressions and memories from his holiday travels. The song from Moravian Wallachia – “Jak je to nebe vysoko, tak je má milá daleko” (As the sky is high, so is my beloved far away) as a minor theme is a unifying structural element permeating all three movements of the quartet and anticipating Novák’s tendency towards monothematic design. At the composer’s request, the program notes of the Czech Chamber Music Society at the premiere on 19 November 1900 in Prague – played by the Czech Quartet – explicitly included the designation “Po valašsku” [in the Wallachian way] for the second movement and “Po slovensku” [in the Slovak way] for the third movement (meaning expressively, not geographically, hence the lower case in the Czech adjective). Zdeněk Nejedlý criticized the new work for being an “ethnographic illustration” instead of chamber music, but praised the excellent compositional technique. He did not realize that the extra-musical symbolic meaning of this quartet was an admiration for the creative power of the inhabitants of those remote regions. Perhaps the strongest emotion expressed in the quartet is the sympathy for the unfortunate Slovakia, culturally and economically depressed by the Hungarians (perhaps hence the “decadence” that Hlávka disliked). Let us not forget, however, that Novák’s musical expression came at a time when no one could even imagine a free common state of Czechs and Slovaks!

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