Young czech Bass Jan Martiník was born in 1983 in Ostrava where he studied on Janáček Conservatory and on the University of Ostrava with Eliška Pappová. 2003 he won the International Singing Competition Antonín Dvořák in Karlovy Vary in the category Junior and was also rewarded with the second prize in the category "Lied". Jan Martiník is laureate of the International Competition Jelena Obraztsova, where he won the special prize for the best Tchajkovsky romance. 2007 he was finalist in Placido Domingo´s Competition "Operalia" and in 2009 in Cardiff Singer of the World, where he won the category "Song".
While studying at the university he appeared in roles at the NDM Ostrava, including Pistola (Falstaff), Leporello (Don Giovanni) and Truffaldino (Ariadne auf Naxos). At the National Theatre Prague he sung roles including Masetto (Don Giovanni), Larkens and José Castro (La fanciulla del West), Leporello (Don Giovanni) in the new production in Estates theatre.
From 2008 to 2011 Jan Martiník was a member of Komische Oper Berlin, where he sung roles including Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Colline (La bohème), Surin (Pique Dame) and Nachtwächter (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg). In Volksoper Vienna he sung Betto (Gianni Schicchi), 1.Nazarener (Salome) as well as Zuniga in Carmen. Since 2012/13 Jan Martiník is a member of Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, where he performes roles including Colline (La Bohéme), Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Eremit (Der Freischütz), as well as Father Trulove (The Rake´s Progress).
In concerts the young Bass was working with well known orchestras such as Czech Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Brimingham Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as the King´s Consort and the Collegium 1704. Amongst other pieces of the concert repertoire he has performed Jesus in St. Matthews Passion, as well as the Aria Part, the Bass Parts in Mozart, Dvořák and Verdiʼs Requiem, Dvořák Te Deum, Beethovens 9. Symphony and Haydns Schöpfung. Jan Martiník is already known for his sincere interpretations of Schubertʼs Winterreise and Dvořák Biblical Songs.
The beauty of his voice matches with a splendid technique and a comical talent, which makes him one of the leading singers of the young generation.
The mezzo-soprano Veronika Hajnová studied singing at the Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava under Ľuba Baricová. In 2002 she was a semifinalist of the Belvedere International Singing Competition in Vienna, where she won the CNIPAL prize. In 2002 she was nominated for the Thalia Award for the role of Delilah in Saint-Saëns’s Samson and Delilah at the Pilsen Opera. As a guest she sang Jean of Arc (in Tchaikovsky’s The Maid of Orleans), for which she was nominated for the Thalia Award again in 2010. Since 2004 she has been a soloist of the Prague State Opera where she mostly appears in dramatic roles in operas by Verdi such as Amneris (Aida), Azucena (Il Trovatore) and Fenena (Nabucco), as the Witch in Dvořák’s Rusalka and in the title role of Bizet’s Carmen. Thanks to the range of her voice she can also perform in Mozart’s operas as Dorabella in Cosi fan tutte and Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro.
She is a frequent guest of the National Theater both in Prague and Brno as well as other opera houses. She has sung the role of Amneris and Carmen on several tours abroad, namely in Japan, Spain, Portugal, France, Hungary, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Seoul in South Korea. She appears at international and national music festivals (Festival Internazionale della Musica in Milano, Gars am Kamp Festival, Prague Spring, etc.) and collaborates with leading Czech and Moravian orchestras. In addition to opera her repertoire consists of oratorios and songs.
Hibla Gerzmava graduated from the Vocal Department of the Moscow Conservatory in 1994, and finished her postgraduate course there in 1996. Since 1995 she has been the soloist of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre in Moscow. She has also performed at the stages of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, the Théâtre des Champs Elysées and the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, Teatro Comunale di Firenze in Florence, the Sofia Opera and at the Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo. The repertoire Hibla sings at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre includes such parts as Adina (L'elisir d'amore by Donizetti), Mimi (La bohème by Puccini), Violetta (La traviata by Verdi), Lucia (Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti), Antonia/Olympia/Giulietta (Les contes d'Hoffmann by Offenbach). In 2010, her performance of Lucia in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor brought her the highest Russian theatrical award – the Golden Mask, as well as Casta Diva Critics Award and the Moscow Government Award for achievement and contribution to the world of arts and culture. Hibla Gerzmava has appeared with recitals in Sweden, France, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Spain, Greece, the USA, Japan and Turkey. Hibla Gerzmava is often invited to take part in oratorio concerts. In 2013, Hibla Gerzmava appears in Simon Boccanegra at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in Turandot at Metropolitan Opera and in La Clemenza di Tito at the Wiener Staatsoper.
Josef Špaček is fast emerging as one of the most accomplished violinists of his generation. He studied with Itzhak Perlman at The Juilliard School in New York, Ida Kavafian and Jaime Laredo at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and with Jaroslav Foltýn at the Prague Conservatory. He was laureate of the International Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, and won top prizes at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in New Zealand, the Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition in Denmark and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York.
Future highlights include return visits to the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI Torino and James Conlon and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Marc Albrecht, as well as debuts with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo and Tomáš Netopil, the Orchestre Philharmonique du Capitole de Toulouse and Thomas Søndergård, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and Christian Vasquez, the Sønderjylland Symphony Orchestra and Johannes Wildner and the Symfonieorkest Vlaanderen and Adrien Perruchon. Highlights in 2016 included subscription concerts with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Valery Gergiev, his debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek, his Berlin debut with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin and Thomas Sanderling, his Amsterdam Concertgebouw debut with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Thomas Søndergård, his Tokyo debut with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and Jakub Hrůša and the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto and Gerard Korsten, as well as recital debuts in among others Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and La Jolla, San Diego. He also was the soloist of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek during their Asia tour.
Josef Špaček has served as concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the youngest in its history. The orchestra has named him “Associate Artist” as of January 2016.
In addition to the aforementioned orchestras, Josef Špaček makes solo appearances with orchestras across Europe, the US and Asia, such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Essener Philharmoniker, Tonkünstlerorchester Niederösterreich, Orchestre National de Belgique, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Orquesta Filarmónica de Málaga, Kansas City Symphony and Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
He collaborates with conductors such as Christoph Eschenbach, Manfred Honeck, Asher Fisch, Roy Goodman, Eliahu Inbal, Jun Märkl, Giordano Bellincampi, Tomáš Netopil, Marco Angius and Rossen Milanov.
Josef Špaček gives numerous recitals in Europe (including at the Konzerthaus in Vienna and at Schloß Elmau), Asia and the USA.
April 2015 saw the Supraphon CD release of his highly praised recording of the violin concertos of Dvořák and Janáček, and of the Fantasy of Suk, with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek (among others “Recording of the week” of The Sunday Times, “Recording of the month and of the year” of MusicWeb International and 5* in Diapason). In 2013 Supraphon released his recording of works for violin and piano by Smetana, Janáček and Prokofiev with pianist Miroslav Sekera.
Josef Špaček plays a violin made in 1855 in the workshop of Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume.
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Czech Philharmonic
Principal Guest Conductor, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor Laureate, BBC Symphony (London)
Renowned Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek was appointed Music Director and Artistic Director of the Czech Philharmonic in 2012, following on from his successful tenure as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, of which he is now a Conductor Laureate. He was Chief Conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra (1977–89), Music Director of the Prague Philharmonia (1994–2004), was appointed President of the Prague Spring Festival in 2006. From 2013 to 2017, he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
In opera, he has collaborated with the Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, the Teatro Real Madrid, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Zurich Opera, and the National Theatre in Prague. He has also conducted and recorded several opera-in-concert presentations with the BBC Symphony, to great acclaim. Confirming his preeminence as the conductor of Janacek, this past season he conducted the Czech Phil in a concert presentation of Jenůfa at the London Royal Festival Hall, as well as in full production the San Francisco Opera. This was followed by a performance of Janacek The Makropulos Case with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
Under his leadership the Czech Philharmonic is enjoying unprecedented success both at home in Prague, and on extensive tours. Together they have toured in the past three seasons on three continents, including Europe, Asia and North America. Their recent residency in Vienna at the Musikverein was a great success, and has lead to similar events being planned in other world capitals. The Czech Philharmonic announced in January 2017 that their partnership with Maestro Bělohlávek is now officially extended to 2022!
In addition to his ongoing Prague seasons and touring engagements with the Czech, he continues to perform as a guest conductor with the world’s major orchestras, including recent appearances with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (including at the London Proms), New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Washington National Symphony, and Deutsches Symphony Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Vienna Symphony Orchestra. In the coming season, in addition to major projects with Czech Phil, he looks forward to engagements with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra Munich, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, St Petersburg Philharmonic, and more.
With the Czech Philharmonic, he will conduct a major Asian tour in Autumn 2017 with concerts in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, in addition to appearances on tour in Europe, the highlight of which will be a performance of Janáček Glagolitic Mass at the Salzburg Festival in August 2018.
Jiří Bělohlávek has recorded extensively, with recent projects with the Czech Philharmonic including the complete symphonies and concertos of Dvořák. The series with Decca continues in the coming season, when a major disc of Suk will be recorded.
In 2012 he was awarded an honorary CBE for his services to British music.
Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70,one of Antonín Dvořák’s masterworks, was written at the invitation of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, which made the composer an honorary member in 1884. At that time Dvořák already enjoyed in England the unshakeable position as one of the greatest living composers. In late November 1884, he completed the score of his cantata, The Spectre’s Bride, and since the Philharmonic Society planned to present the world premiere of Dvořák’s new symphony – to be conducted by the composer – as early as the spring of the next year, he quickly started work on it. He completed the opus within three months and on 22 April 1885 he could introduce it at a Philharmonic Society concert in St James’s Hall, London.
The dramatic, sombre atmosphere of the Seventh Symphony, rich in ideas and a masterpiece of form, is often put into the context of the Czech nation’s struggle for identity within the multinational Habsburg Empire. Even if we abstract from the possible connections with the social, cultural and political situations of the Czechs at the time, we see that the symphony’s message is readily intelligible as a general statement about human existence.
The opening movement – Allegro maestoso – unusually starts in pianissimo with a plaintive, gloomy main theme in violas and cellos. The auxiliary theme, in B flat major, brings a sudden change of atmosphere, but its clarity is soon disrupted: the internal struggle continues and the doubts are far from being dispelled. Despite an airy melody presented by the clarinet, the lyrical second movement gradually develops an increasingly urgent and agitated aspect. The third movement that follows – Scherzo – is perhaps the work’s best-known. It is distinguished by a strong rhythm in its main theme, but its carefree dance character is dampened both by the D minor tonality and a contrasting countermelody, adding a certain melancholy to its liveliness. Like the opening Allegro maestoso, the final movement is in sonata form. After a dramatic surge, the gloomy atmosphere lightens up – it is as if the conclusion, in D major, symbolised a firm determination and a convincing victory of the will.
Alongside the Fantastic Scherzo, the Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra in G Minor, completed in 1903,represents a turning point in Josef Suk’s (1874–1935) creative development. With these works, Suk’s 1890s period came to a definite end and he embarked on a new exploratory journey, marked at the outset by formal loosening (hence the “fantasy”), and soon leading to the symphonic poem Praga and the programmatic symphony Asrael. In the Fantasy one can follow the free development of Suk’s God-given melodic talent, so it is all the more surprising for us today that in the year of its composition, the musical critic Zdeněk Nejedlý reproached Suk for an alarming lack of melodic invention!
Proceeding from his intrinsic Russophilia and finding in the heroic image of the fight of the Zaporozhian Cossacks a mythical parallel to the contemporary struggle of his own nation as well as that of the Russians, whom he considered allies of the Czechs, during World War I Leoš Janáček created his own musical apotheosis of militant Slavic patriotism, the orchestral rhapsody Taras Bulba. Based on a Gogol novella of the same name, it is an inherently dramatic piece, which upon its premiere in 1921 resonated appropriately in the context of other works eulogizing the Czechoslovak Republic.
The concentrated shape of the composition demonstrates Janáček’s mature style on all levels of the musical structure, especially in the so-called montage technique employing diverse blocks of music. The ubiquitous layers of what Janáček called “sčasovky”, i.e. typical figurations alternating two or more notes in quick succession, facilitate rapid change and especially the blending of moods, which are mostly tense, whirling, and restless. The resulting laconic expression is underlined by the terse and unusual orchestration, treating the orchestral apparatus in a chamber manner.
Although Bohuslav Martinůlived outside his homeland for most of his life, he was far from indifferent to the fate of Czechoslovakia, and was particularly concerned when the country was under threat during WWII. The Nazi extermination of the village of Lidice in June 1942 was a strong blow to the composer. The Czechoslovak government-in-exile suggested he write a work commemorating the tragedy, which Martinů began to sketch that summer. Thus a particularly distinctive piece of music for symphony orchestra started to come into being, entitled Memorial to Lidice H.296.
The composer completed the work on 3 August 1943 in Darien, Connecticut. He conceived it as a lament in one movement for the victims of the occupation. Its quiet, meditative tones, flowing in a broad melodic current, are an intense eight-minute remembrance of the Lidice event. Soft and subdued music transitions into a harshly painful cry in the french horns, leading to a quotation of the ‘fate motif’ from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – a motif imbued with extraordinary symbolic meaning during the war. Martinů wrote in his diary: “I do not want to excite the nerves, but to speak to the soul.” The first performance was on 28 October 1943 in Carnegie Hall at the occasion of the Czechoslovak Republic’s 25th anniversary, with Arthur Rodziński conducting the New York Philharmonic. A work much respected by the audience and critics alike, Memorial to Lidice was subsequently performed in other cities of the United States.
Bohuslav Martinů’s Sixth Symphony was originally entitled “Nouvelle Symphonie fantastique” as a reference to Berlioz’s Fantastic Symphony, but the composer changed its name to Fantaisies Symphoniques. Martinů personally wished to create a work for the conductor Charles Munch, and he dedicated the symphony to him as well. Its composition took almost two years, during which its concept changed dramatically. The symphony was completed in May 1953 and was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Munch on 7 January 1955.
Martinů’s decision to write it as a free fantasy enabled the complete freedom of the art of variations, in which the whole construction is being built up from a simple idea. Like the Third Symphony, the Sixth Symphony is in three movements, and there are other similarities between these two compositions. The four-tone first theme of the first movement, which is played by solo cello, has been taken from Dvořák’s Requiem – it is the same theme that had already appeared in the Third Symphony. A quotation or reference is also to be found in the second movement; this time it is the harmonious link used by Leoš Janáček in his symphonic poem Taras Bulba. The Music Critics Circle of New York City honored the Fantasies Symphoniques as the best orchestral work performed for the first time in New York in 1955.
Glagolitic Mass by Leoš Janáček (1854–1928) has a complicated genesis and is also a complex editorial problem. Although Janáček probably began to sketch it in 1920, he did not work on it intensely until 1926. The score of the mass was published after his death in 1929, and this “latest” version is a lot different from the version that was heard at the world premiere on 5 December 1927. Today we cannot document exactly when and why all those various changes were made by Janáček, but the preserved materials indicate that he primarily acted on an inner impulse, not due to the inability of performers of the time, as it has been mistakenly interpreted. Regardless of Janáček’s motivation, thanks to the thorough editorial work a version of the Glagolitic Mass prior to these extensive changes has been reconstructed. Janáček’s interventions made shortly after the premiere concern mainly three movements – Introduction, Kyrie and Credo. In Introduction Janáček simplified the complex polymetric structure, in Kyrie he replaced the original five-beat timing by the four-beat timing, and in Credo he crossed out the central part with tympani. But that these are by no means all changes. After the premiere Janáček instrumented the whole composition. Thus the “September 1927” version represents the full form of the first Glagolitic Mass in contrast to the previously published so-called original version, which has included only some spectacular moments from the first score. Although Janáček revised the composition after its premiere, giving it a perfect form, the premiere version holds a different value: great spontaneity, elemental force and raw expression.
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