Rudolf Buchbinder is firmly established as one of the world’s foremost pianists and is frequently invited by major orchestras and festivals around the world. His comprehensive repertoire encompasses numerous 20th-century compositions. Rudolf Buchbinder’s emphasis lies in his meticulous study of musical sources. He owns 35 complete editions of Beethoven’s sonatas and has an extensive collection of autograph scores, first editions and original documents. In addition, he possesses copies of the autograph scores and piano parts of both Brahms concertos.
More than 100 recordings document the scope and diversity of Rudolf Buchbinder’s repertoire. Notable recordings to his credit include Haydn’s complete works for piano, which caused a stir and earned him the Grand Prix du Disque, as well as Waltzing Strauss, a CD featuring piano transcriptions. Today Rudolf Buchbinder favours live recordings, a preference which has resulted in a CD with the Brahms piano concertos (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Nikolaus Harnoncourt) and in two DVDs featuring six Mozart concertos with Buchbinder as pianist and conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic at the 2006 Vienna Festwochen. Another live recording of the two Brahms piano concertos, released in 2010, was made together with the Israel Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta.
In May 2011, Rudolf Buchbinder’s performances as pianist and conductor in Beethoven’s five piano concertos at Vienna’s Musikverein together with the Vienna Philharmonic were released on DVD and Blu-ray. In November 2012, Rudolf Buchbinder presented a live recording of Mozart concertos with Concentus Musicus Wien and Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
The interpretation of the “new testament” of the piano repertoire has developed into a core interest for Rudolf Buchbinder. He continues to set standards with his performances of the complete 32 sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven in more than 40 cities, among them Vienna, Munich, Zurich, St. Petersburg, Buenos Aires, Beijing and Milan. In the 2012/2013 concert season Rudolf Buchbinder performs his entire Beethoven cycle in Berlin.
Throughout the 2010/2011 season he maintained a particularly close cooperation with the Staatskapelle Dresden as the orchestra’s first Artist in Residence. His cycle of all Beethoven piano sonatas at the Semperoper in Dresden was recorded live and released in May 2011 as a CD box by Sony/RCA Red Seal. In 2012 it won the prestigious Echo Klassik Award in the category “Instrumentalist of the Year” and the Choc de l’année 2012.
Rudolf Buchbinder is the founding artistic director of the Grafenegg Music Festival near Vienna, which has quickly gained its rank among the major orchestra festivals in Europe since its foundation in 2007. In his biography Da Capo (which includes an introduction by German music critic Joachim Kaiser), Rudolf Buchbinder offers insights into his life as one of today’s most distinguished pianists.
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.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) created five piano concertos, leaving unfinished the sixth one which he began in 1815. He built on Mozart’s legacy and developed it further in the presentation of the solo part; he strived for the unity of thought within movements as well as in their mutual relationship, and expanded the harmonic means. The introduction of Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 5 in E flat major Op. 73 confirms the main key; then comes the orchestral exposition which is repeated in modified harmonies. The whole first movement oscillates between the major and minor keys; the change of moods is supported by a contrast of the thematic material. The second movement anticipates the Romantic period by its meditative lyricism. Its conclusion features the theme of the final movement, which moves from the second movement into the third one without interruption. Formally, it is a sonata rondo with an extensive coda.
Piano Concerto in E flat major was composed in 1809 and completed in February 1810; Beethoven dedicated it to his pupil and patron Archduke Rudolf of Habsburg. That same year the concert was published in London; the epithet Emperor was coined by its English publisher. In 1811 the score was also published by Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, where on 28 November 1811 the concerto had its world premiere at the Gewandhaus with the soloist Johann Christian Friedrich Schneider. The Vienna premiere the following year, on 11 February 1812, was performed by another pupil of Beethoven, Carl Czerny. Within a very short time Piano Concerto in E flat major became the most popular of all five piano concertos by Beethoven.
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.
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!
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.
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