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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

Programme

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 

Performers

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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CHANGE

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

Performers

Jiří Vodička  violin

Jiří Vodička

Jiří Vodička, concertmaster with the Czech Philharmonic, soloist and chamber musician, is one of the finest and most sought-after Czech violinists. An extremely gifted child, he made a name for himself by winning numerous prizes, notably in the Jaroslav Kocian International Violin Competition, the Prague Junior Note and Slovakia’s Čírenie talentov. In 2002, he came first in the Beethoven’ Hradec International Violin Competition, and received a prize for best pupil at Václav Hudeček’s violin classes. He later performed with Hudeček at dozens of concerts throughout the Czech Republic. In 2004, he became overall winner of the International Louis Spohr Competition for Young Violinists in Weimar. In 2008, he gained first and second prizes at the prestigious Young Concert Artists competition in Leipzig and New York.

At the tender age of 14, Jiří Vodička enrolled at the Institute for Art Studies at the University of Ostrava, where he studied under the renowned teacher Prof. Zdeněk Gola, graduating with a master’s degree in 2007.

Jiří Vodička has regularly performed as a soloist with a host of leading orchestras in the Czech Republic and further afield, including the Czech Philharmonic, the Prague Philharmonia, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra,  the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen. He has worked with Jiří Bělohlávek, Jakub Hrůša, Tomáš Netopil and other top conductors.

In 2014, he made his debut solo album, Violino Solo, released on Supraphon. Featuring some of the most challenging compositions for solo violin, it met with a positive critical response in the Czech Republic and elsewhere. Many of his concerts have been broadcast by Czech Television, Czech Radio and Germany’s ARD.

As a chamber musician, he has performed with the major Czech pianists Martin Kasík, Ivo
Kahánek, Ivan Klánský and Miroslav Sekera. In 2011, he was invited by the celebrated violinist Gidon Kremer to appear at his Kammermusikfest in Lockenhaus, Austria, together with many world-famous artists. He has regularly performed at such prominent festivals as the Prague Spring, Janáček’s May, the Grand Festival of China, the Hohenloher Kultursommer, and the Choriner Musiksommer. Since 2012, he has been a member of the Smetana Trio, with whom he has recorded two acclaimed CDs for Supraphon (BBC Music Magazine Award and Diapason d’Or).

In 2015, he was named concertmaster with the Czech Philharmonic. He teaches at the Prague Conservatory and at Ostrava University.

Jiří Vodička plays a violin made by Joseph Gagliano in 1767.

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

Václav Petr is one of the most prominent cellists of his generation. He was a semi-finalist of the international cello competition Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann (Germany), the winner of the 70th Prague Spring competition (Czech Republic), and the overall winner of Talents for Europe. He began his studies with Mirek Škampa at the Jan Neruda Grammar School in Prague before moving on to study at the Music Academy of Performing Arts in Prague with Daniel Veis and graduating from Michal Kaňka’s studio. He developed his playing with Wolfgang Boettcher at Berlin’s Universität der Künste and took part in the European Music Academy in Bonn. In 2015, he completed the Carl Flesch Academy masterclass courses with a solo performance alongside the Baden-Baden Philharmonic. He started his solo career at just 12 years of age, and he has since appeared with such orchestras as the Czech Philharmonic, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Prague Philharmonia. Being only 24 years old when selected as the Czech Philharmonic’s cello concertmaster, he became one of the youngest musicians to hold that post in the orchestra’s history. Václav Petr plays the “Teschenmacher” cello (1757) from Giovanni Battista Guadagnini’s workshop, on loan from a private collection.

Compositions

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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