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Czech Chamber Music Society • Václav Petr

Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is a famous work, but you probably have not yet heard the music played by eight cellos and a double bass. The idea for the new arrangement came from the concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic cello section Václav Petr, and he invited his colleagues from the orchestra to join in the performance.

Subscription series DK | Czech Chamber Music Society


Nikolai Kapustin
Nearly Waltz, Op. 98 
Elegy, Op. 96
Burlesque, Op. 97 

Paul Schoenfield
Café Music 

Roman Haas
Multicultural Suite

Dmitri Shostakovich
Piano Trio No. 1 in C minor, Op. 8

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky / arr. by Tomáš Ille 
Pictures at an Exhibition 


Jiří Vodička violin 
Martin Kasík piano 
Virtuosi di Basso
Václav Petr cello, artistic director

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society • Václav Petr

Academy of Performing Arts — Martinů Hall

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Price from 230 to 270 CZK Tickets and contact information

Single ticket sales for all public dress rehearsals:
from 11 September 2024, 10.00

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Dear listeners, the date of the concert will be moved from March 16 to April 6, 2024.
Thank you for your understanding.


Jiří Vodička  violin

Jiří Vodička

Jiří Vodička, a concertmaster, soloist, and chamber player, is one of the most important and sought-after Czech violinists, but it would not have taken much for him to have devoted himself to Latin-American dance instead of the violin. At age 12 he finally decided to devote himself fully to playing the highest-pitched string instrument. About his dancing, he comments coyly: “I got something from doing that, possibly in the area of feel for rhythm.” At the unusually early age of 14, he was admitted to the Institute for Artistic Studies at the University of Ostrava, where he studied under the renowned pedagogue Zdeněk Gola. He graduated in 2007 with a master’s degree. Even earlier, he had attracted attention by winning many competitions including the Kocian International Violin Competition and Prague Junior Note. In 2002 he also won the prize for the best participant at violin classes led by Václav Hudeček, with whom he later gave dozens of concerts all around the Czech Republic. His success continued as an adult, for example winning first and second prizes at the world-famous competition Young Concert Artists (2008) held in Leipzig and New York.

A father of five, he is the owner of the Wassermann Media production company, which he founded during the Coronavirus pandemic. In the 2023/2024 season, he has entered his ninth season as the concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic. He has made solo appearances not only with Czech orchestras like the Prague Philharmonia or the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, but also with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia, and the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra.

His professional activities are of greater breadth, however. In 2014, he recorded his debut solo album “Violino Solo” on the Supraphon label, and crossover fans can hear him on his worldwide Vivaldianno tour. He recently appeared at Prague Castle with Tomáš Kačo on the occasion of the state award presentation ceremony, he was formerly a member of the Smetana Trio (two more Supraphon CDs). He has performed chamber music with the outstanding Czech pianists Martin Kasík, Ivo Kahánek, Ivan Klánský, David Mareček, and Miroslav Sekera. Many of the concerts of the “Czech Paganini”, as Vodička is sometimes called because of his extraordinary technical skill, have been recorded by Czech Television, Czech Radio, or the German broadcasting company ARD. Besides all of that he teaches at the University of Ostrava.

The instrument he plays, a 1767 Italian violin made by Joseph Gagliano, came into his possession by what he calls “good old-fashioned patronage”. He received the violin for long-term use from the Czech Philharmonic’s former chief conductor Jiří Bělohlávek.

Martin Kasík  piano

Martin Kasík is widely acclaimed for his inventive, poetic approach to performing, through which he captures the mood of the moment. He studied at the Janáček Conservatoire in Ostrava under M. Tugendliebová, the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under I. Klánský and participated in masterclasses under L. Berman, G. Ohlsson, and P. Badura-Skoda.

His path to stages around the world (Carnegie Hall, Wiener Musikverein,Gewandhaus Leipzig, Suntory Hall Tokyo etc.) was opened by victory at the 1998 Prague Spring Competition and at the 1999 Young Concert Artists Competition in New York. Since then, he has been collaborating with the most important ensembles including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Rotterdam Philharmonic, or Czech Philharmonic. His recordings on the Supraphon and Arco Diva labels have won top honours in the journals Gramophone, Repertoire, and Harmonie.

He also teaches at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and at the Prague Conservatoire, and he is the artistic director of the Chopin Festival in Mariánské Lázně.

Václav Petr  cello

Václav Petr

One of the finest Czech cellists, Václav Petr has served as concert master of the Czech Philharmonic cello section for over a decade. He has performed as a soloist since the age of 12. As a member of The Trio, he has also devoted to chamber music.  

Václav Petr learned the rudiments of viola playing at the Jan Neruda School in Prague from Mirko Škampa and subsequently continued to study the instrument at the Academy of Performing Arts in the class of Daniel Veis, graduating under the guidance of Michal Kaňka. He further honed his skills at the Universität der Künste in Berlin under the tutelage of Wolfgang Boettcher, and also at international masterclasses (in Kronberg, Hamburg, Vaduz, Bonn and Baden-Baden). He has garnered a number of accolades, initially as a child (Prague Junior Note, International Cello Competition in Liezen, Talents of Europe) and then in Europe’s most prestigious contests (semi-final at the Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann, victory at the Prague Spring Competition).

At the age of 24, after winning the audition, he became one of the youngest concert masters in the Czech Philharmonic’s history. As a soloist, he has performed with the Czech Philharmonic, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Philharmonia, the Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava and the Philharmonie Baden-Baden.

Václav Petr has made a name for himself as a chamber player too. Between 2009 and 2020, he was a member of the Josef Suk Piano Quartet, with whom he received first prizes at the competitions in Val Tidone and Verona (Salieri-Zinetti), as well as at the highly prestigious Premio Trio di Trieste. In 2019, he, the violinist and concert master Jiří Vodička, and the pianist Martin Kasík formed the Czech Philharmonic Piano Trio, later renamed The Trio. During the Covid pandemic, they made a recording of Bohuslav Martinů’s Bergerettes (clad in period costumes), which would earn them victory at an international competition in Vienna.

In December 2023, Václav Petr and the young Czech pianist Marek Kozák gained acclaim at the Bohuslav Martinů Days: “The interpretation of all the compositions reveals the signature of seasoned chamber musicians. The audience savoured the duo’s splendid work with tempo, agogics, dynamics and colour,” wrote Jiří Bezděk for the OperaPlus server. And who knows? Perhaps – just as at the festival – the two musicians will delight us with a piano-four-hands encore. 


Nikolaj Kapustin
Nearly Waltz, Op. 98 & Elegy, Op. 96 & Burlesque, Op. 97

During his lifetime Nikolai Kapustin’s music was always underappreciated. A lover of classical jazz and a pianist, composer and arranger by profession, Kapustin in his compositions combined jazz elements with classical musical forms. “I was never a jazz musician,” he said. “I am not interested in improvisation – and what is a jazz musician without improvisation? All my improvisations are written, of course.” Interest in Kapustin’s work has grown sharply thanks to a handful of performers – the pianists Steven Osborne, Marc-André Hamelin, Daniel del Pino and Masahiro Kawakami – who have presented his sonatas, preludes and fugues on international stages. At home in Soviet Russia he was only tolerated and the ice melted slowly. After the composer’s death in 2020, as is usually the case, interest in Kapustin’s work skyrocketed. The New York Times has published an extensive retrospective of his life and work, Kapustin’s original recordings are appearing and new ones are being made. Recently, a CD recording of Kapustin’s concertos and orchestral works performed by the Württemberg Chamber Orchestra conducted by Case Scaglione has attracted attention.

Nikolai Girshevich Kapustin was born in Gorlovka in the former USSR (now Horlivka in the war-torn Donbas region of eastern Ukraine). When he was four years old, his family, fleeing from the Nazis, was evacuated to Kyrgyzstan. At the age of seven Kapustin began playing the piano and at 14, after moving to Moscow, he was accepted at the Academic Music College into the class of Avrelian Rubbakh. This free-spirited teacher encouraged Kapustin’s interest in jazz. Kapustin devoured recordings of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman and Louis Armstrong at night on the radio station Voice of America and soon began a career of a jazz pianist at the National Hotel in Moscow. At the same time he continued his university studies at the Moscow Conservatory in the class of Alexander Goldenweiser.

After his graduation in 1961, Kapustin became the jazz pianist in Oleg Lundström’s Big Band. At the same time, he began composing and arranging for this ensemble, which was the showcase of Soviet jazz during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras. After marrying and starting a family, Kapustin chose a less time-consuming job with the Blue Screen radio orchestra and the State Cinematography Symphony Orchestra. From 1980 onwards, he stopped giving public solo concerts and only recorded. His last album was released in 2004.

Although Kapustin did not officially study composition, he wrote a total of 161 mostly piano opuses, including 20 sonatas, 6 concertos, as well as variations, etudes, and chamber piano trios. From the perspective of the modern listener, his music sounds modest, lucid and sometimes almost archaic, as if it were intended for the dance halls of the 1930s. It combines jazz with classical music forms. For example, Suite in the Old Style integrates the character of jazz improvisation into the structure of the dances of a Baroque suite in the style of Johann Sebastian Bach. The same can be said of the monumental 24 Preludes and Fugues for Piano, Op. 82, inspired by both Bach and Shostakovich, or Piano Sonatina, Op. 100, which is a “jazz piece of the Haydn type”.

The three works by Nikolai Kapustin to be heard today were dedicated to his friend, cellist Alexander Zagorinsky (born 1962), who premiered two of his cello concertos and two sonatas. In 1999, Kapustin composed three short pieces for cello and piano, Elegy, Burlesque and Nearly Waltz. Nearly Waltz, Op. 98, has the tempo and feel of a waltz, but because of the irregular alternation of the time signature between 5/4 and 3/4 it is not possible to dance to it. Elegy, Op. 96, might aspire to be a classical music meditation if it were not for the explosively improvisational middle section. Burlesque, Op. 97, employs jazz elements even more prominently, especially thanks to the assertively playing piano.

Modest Petrovič Musorgskij / arr. by Tomáš Ille
Pictures at an Exhibition

Pictures at an Exhibition, a piano suite by Mussorgsky, was inspired by a posthumous exhibition of drawings and watercolors by the composer’s friend Viktor Hartmann. This talented painter and promising architect died suddenly after returning from his travels at the age of only 39. The exhibition was organized in Moscow by Vladimir Stasov, the spiritual father of the group of composers called The Mighty Handful, to which Mussorgsky belonged. A plan was born in his mind to create a piano suite, in which the subjects of Hartmann’s individual pictures – picaresque, fairy-tale, historicist or genre ones – would be interconnected by a promenade. The promenade represents the viewer’s (in fact, Mussorgsky’s own) progress through the exhibition from picture to picture: sometimes he takes a closer look, sometimes he hurries on, and sometimes he stops and contemplates. Wonderful, timeless music has been born. Mussorgsky composed it during three weeks in June 1874, but he waited in vain for its premiere and in the end did not live long enough to hear it (it took place as late as 1886).

Pictures at an Exhibition began to live a second, even richer life in the brilliant orchestration by the French composer Maurice Ravel. But Ravel was not the only one to adapt this composition. In the war year 1942, Czech conductor Václav Smetáček developed his own arrangement for the Radiojournal radio station. This was allegedly in order to be able to perform Mussorgsky’s work during the Nazi occupation when Ravel was on the list of banned composers. There are many other orchestral arrangements, for example, that by the conductor Leopold Stokowski and an art-rock version by the English band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and others – in total over 90 arrangements for a variety of instruments.

The composer Tomáš Ille (born 1971), an experienced and successful arranger, based his arrangement for eight cellos and double bass consistently on the original piano version of the work. However, it was not possible to ignore some specifics of Ravel’s orchestration, such as the use of string glissandos in The Gnome, or the issue of Promenade V between the Two Jews and The Market Place of Limoges, which Ravel omitted. Ille’s arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition, to be heard for the first time tonight, was commissioned by the concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic and the protagonist of today’s program, the cellist Václav Petr.

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