THE SMETANA TRIO Jitka Čechová, piano Jirí Vodička, violin Jan Páleníček, cello
Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 2
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
Allegro Andante;Adagio Vivace
Piano Trio No 2 in D minor, H. 327
e Smetana Trio
Bohuslav MArTINů (1890-1959)
Allegro moderato Andante Allegro
roman HAAS (b. 1980)
Multicultural Suite (U.S. West Coast Premiere) Preludium und Walz zusammen Interludio Y Bolero Juntos Postludium es Czardas közösen
- I N TE r MI S SIO N Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15
Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)
Moderato assai Allegro, ma non agitato Finale: Presto The Smetana Trio’s recordings are available on the Supraphon, Cube Bohemia and TrIArT recording labels. North American representation: Kirshbaum Demler & Associates, Inc. 711 West End Avenue, Suite 5KN, New York, NY 10025 www.kirshdem.com The Smetana Trio’s 2014 tour is supported by the Czech Center New York.
This concert is generously sponsored by Mr. Sam B. Ersan Exclusive Print Sponsor Photographing or recording this performance without permission is prohibited. Kindly disable pagers, cellular phones, and other audible devices. Although rare, all dates, times, artists, programs, and prices are subject to change.
SUK: Piano Trio in C Minor, oP. 2 Born in a rural Czech village, Josef Suk learned to play both violin and piano as a boy and entered the Prague Conservatory at age 11. There he became Dvořák’s favorite composition student, and he married Dvořák’s daughter Ottilie in 1898. While still at the Conservatory, Suk became the second violinist of the Czech Quartet, which would give more than 4,000 concerts over the next four decades. Suk taught for many years at the Prague Conservatory, numbering Bohuslav Martinů and Fritz Reiner among his students, and his grandson was the violinist Josef Suk (1929-2011). Suk composed prolifically as a young man, though the demands of teaching and performing left little time for composing during his later years. At age 58, however, he was awarded a prize for his march Toward a New Life, composed for the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. Suk originally composed the Piano Trio in C minor, his only piano trio, in 1889, when he was only 15 and still a student at the Prague Conservatory. He came back to it the following year and completed his revision in 1891, so this trio is the work of a 17-year-old composer. Beautifully written for all three instruments and full of confident energy, the trio suggests how talented the young Suk was. The key of C minor is a dark one, and its opening Allegro is dramatic music, full of tension and a soaring, impassioned lyricism. It contrasts two different themes—the powerful opening gesture and the cello’s expressive second subject, which Suk marks espressivo. Much of the writing for the violin here is unusually high for chamber music, and the movement drives to a full-throated climax. The mood changes sharply with the central movement. Suk marks it Andante, then specifies that it should also be dolce. Its folksong-like main subject moves gracefully along dotted rhythms, and Suk springs a surprise at the end: he slows the tempo to Adagio and mutes the
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Saturday, October 18, 2014, 8pm Irvine Barclay Theatre
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strings—the movement glides to a quiet close on that subdued sound. The Vivace finale dances energetically along its 6/8 meter. Suk builds this movement on its opening idea, full of rhythmic energy and syncopated pulses, and a flowing second theme. This finale avoids the dark tensions of the opening movement and dances home in a great rush of good-spirited energy. MarTinů: Piano Trio no. 2 in D Minor, H. 327 We remember Bohuslav Martinů as one of the greatest Czech composers of the twentieth century, yet Martinů spent very little time in his Czech homeland, choosing instead to live as an exile in Paris, the United States, Italy, and Switzerland. Martinů had his early training in Prague, and he became a good enough violinist to join the Czech Philharmonic. But he sought a richer environment, and in 1923 he moved to Paris, which would be his home for the next seventeen years. The Nazi occupation drove Martinů to flee to the United States, where he would spend the next decade. Martinů found life in the United States alien, but he was welcomed here as a composer: he taught at leading music schools, and his symphonies were premiered by the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, and Philadelphia Orchestra and performed by many other orchestras. At the end of World War II, Martinů hoped to return to Czechoslovakia, but the communist takeover there eventually made that impossible. In the meantime, he suffered a catastrophic accident. Invited by Koussevitzky to teach at Tanglewood in 1946, Martinů was enjoying his summer there when on the evening of July 25 he stepped off an un-railed balcony in the dark and fell a story to the ground, crushing part of his skull and spinal chord. He was unconscious for two days and in the hospital for five weeks. His recovery was slow: he suffered from headaches and dizziness, he had to re-learn to walk, and he would never fully escape the effects of this injury. By 1948, Martinů had recovered to the point that he was able to accept a three-year appointment to the faculty of Princeton, and it was while he was teaching at Princeton that he composed his Piano Trio No. 2 in D minor. The trio, however, was commissioned by another university—Massachusetts Institute of Technology—and was first performed there on May 19, 1950, by a trio made up of MIT faculty members: violinist Klaus Liepmann, cellist George Finckel, and
pianist Gregory Tucker. The Trio in D minor is concise: its three movements span only about a quarter-hour. Some have heard the influence of Haydn, a composer Martinů very much admired, on this music, and perhaps that is true, particularly in its clarity and economy of means. But all the characteristics of Martinů’s own mature style are evident here as well: the sense of constant motion, an attractive melodic sense, endless energy, and a somber coloring. The Allegro moderato is built on the violin’s rising opening melody, which rides above an active accompaniment and glides through several different keys as it proceeds. The development is active, and the movement drives to a firm conclusion. Longest of the movements, the central Andante retains some of the subdued mood of the opening movement. The tempo may be moderate, but the movement’s spiky lyricism is underpinned throughout by the accompaniment’s steady pulse. The concluding Allegro is full of bristling energy. Martinů offers an attractive lyric interlude along the way, but the energy of the opening returns to drive the trio to its ebullient close. HaaS: MULTICULTURAL SUITE Composer Roman Haas was born in 1980 in Klatovy, Czech Republic, and began playing cello at the age of 6. He continued his studies of the instrument at the Conservatory of Pilsen, followed by composition with Bohuslav Řehoř at the Prague Conservatory. Since 2008 he has devoted his attention to teaching and composing in Prague. A representative of the younger generation of Czech composers, he is known for his communicative, directly emotional style which appeals to a large spectrum of audiences, from classical to modern. Roman Haas composed his Multicultural Suite during the last year of his studies at the Prague Conservatory. The suite, as indicated by its idiomatic title, is a set of dance movements based on folk elements of various ethnic backgrounds in which Haas finds his inspiration. Each of the movement’s names captures the essential dances of different countries and languages. Each movement begins with a thematic motif which helps indicate and distinguish the cultural mimicking. SMETana: Piano Trio in G Minor, oP. 15 Smetana wrote very little chamber music—two quartets, this trio, and a set of pieces for violin and piano—but that chamber music is particularly intense and personal. It was as if he poured his enthusiastic Czech nationalism into works like The Moldau and reserved a more personal kind of expression for chamber music. His best-known chamber work, the autobiographical String Quartet No.
1 (appropriately subtitled “From My Life”) reaches its climax when the first violin’s high E comes stabbing through the closing moments of the last movement—it was the sound of that high E piercing Smetana’s head that signaled the onset of his deafness and the insanity that led to his death. The Piano Trio in G minor springs from a similar personal tragedy. Smetana and his wife had four daughters in rapid succession, and just as rapidly three of them died. The greatest blow for Smetana was the death of the eldest, Bedřiška, a spirited little girl who showed promise of unusual musical talent. Her death from scarlet fever at the age of four on September 5, 1855, nearly drove Smetana mad. He plunged into a deep depression and was able to rescue himself only through his work. By the end of that month he had begun to compose the Piano Trio in G minor, and he worked steadily for two months, completing it on November 22. As might be expected, the mood of this music is dark: all three movements are in G minor. What might not be expected is that this trio has no true slow movement: a sonata-form opening movement and a rondo-finale frame a central fast movement. The Moderato assai first movement opens with the stark sound of the violin alone, playing the grieving idea that will dominate the entire movement; the chromatic descent of a fifth that shapes this theme will be felt throughout the first two movements. The second subject, announced by the cello, is somewhat gentler, but the development is anguished, and the opening theme returns to drive the movement relentlessly to its close. Despite its minor tonality, the second movement is not so intense as the first. It is a scherzo-like polka, and some commentators have felt that the polka theme depicts Bedřiška at play (the first movement’s stark opening subject makes a ghostly reappearance within this opening statement). Smetana interrupts this movement twice with trio sections (he calls them Alternativos); the first of these is lyric and heartfelt, the second powerfully inflected on dotted rhythms. The end of this movement is particularly effective: the return to the opening material at the close of the second Alternativo is halting and uncertain, and the movement is suddenly choked off. The beginning of the finale, a rondo marked Presto, drives ahead on pulsing energy; Smetana took this opening theme from his own Piano Sonata in G minor of 1846. The cello’s somber, lyric episode may break the energetic pulse of the opening, but it preserves the intense atmosphere that marks the entire trio, and at its close, this music remains—despite a move into G major—dark and grieving. Program notes by Eric Bromberger
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aBoUT THE SMETana Trio The Smetana Trio, founded in1934 by the legendary Czech pianist Josef Pálenícek, violinist Alexandr Plocek and cellist František Smetana, is today’s foremost Czech chamber ensemble. Currently comprised of Jitka Cechová (piano), Jiří Vodička (violin) and Jan Páleníček (cello), the Smetana perpetuates the interpretational ideals created by its illustrious predecessors as well as other superlative 20th-century soloists active in chamber music. “ There is nothing routine about the Smetana Trio’s approach to this engaging repertoire. Every aspect of their interpretation is carefully considered without losing an ounce of spontaneity. Individual lines are remarkable for their focus and beauty, though the powerful sense of ensemble is never sacrificed to individual display.” - BBC Music Magazine Following a successful North American tour in April 2013, the Smetana Trio returns to the U.S. in the 2014-15 season with concerts presented by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, Czech Center New York, Gettysburg Community Concert Association and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. In New York City the trio appears at 92Y’s intimate downtown venue, SubCulture, for an evening of Czech music which includes the New York premiere of Roman Haas’s Multicultural Suite for Piano
pianists Martin Kasík, Adam Skoumal and Lukáš Vondrácek, and is on faculty at the Prague Conservatory.
The Smetana Trio has toured extensively as both chamber music ensemble and orchestral soloists, working with conductors such as Jirí Belohlávek, Libor Pešek, John Axelrod, Michael Boder, Tomáš Hanus and Stanislav Vavrínek and orchestras such as the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra della Svizzera italiana Lugano, Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Prague Philharmonic, Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice and Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra Olomouc. Festivals and concert series include Cambrai, Aix-en-Provence and Nice in France and München, Würzburg and Tübingen in Germany. In 2011, the Smetana Trio toured the U.S., Brazil, UK, France, Switzerland, Italy and Egypt.
Mr. Vodička is a permanent soloist of the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra at home and on tour. He also performs regularly with the Prague Philharmonia, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Czech Chamber Orchestra, National Theatre Orchestra and other ensembles. His concerts are frequently recorded by Czech Radio and Television. Often a guest at prestigious music festivals throughout the Czech Republic, Germany and also in China he is soloist with the Prague Symphony Orchestra and Wuhan Philharmonia. Jirí Vodička plays an Italian violin by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, made in Turin, 1779, kindly loaned by Florian Leonhard Fine Violins, London.
With an extensive discography recorded exclusively for Supraphon since 2000, the group’s latest recording— featuring the complete piano trios of Shostakovich and Ravel—was released in March 2014 and quickly garnered critical praise throughout Europe and the United States. Its all-Dvořák disc received BBC Music Magazine’s Chamber Award for 2007 and the French Diapason d'Or. Additional discs include works by Smetana, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn and Schubert.
Jan PálEníčEK studied at the Conservatory and Academy of the Performing Arts in Prague with Saša Večtomov and Miloš Sádlo while considering Paul Tortelier an important mentor in his early development. He studied chamber music with his father, Josef Páleníček, and Josef Vlach— first violin in the legendary Vlach Quartet.
JiTKa čECHová completed her piano studies at Prague Conservatory under Jan Novotný and continued at the Academy of Performing Arts under Peter Toperczer. Postgraduate studies were with Eugen Indjic in Paris and Vitali Berzon in Freiburg. She has been the laureate of numerous international competitions and the subject of critical acclaim as a soloist in many European countries as well as in South Africa, South America and Japan. Ms. Čechová performs regularly on prestigious international stages and festivals both in Edinburgh, Graz, Paris, Frankfurt, Baden-Baden, Bodensee, Prague and Ticino. Chamber music is one of the essential elements of her musical identity and she has made a number of solo and chamber recordings for Czech and international labels. Jitka Čechová is currently recording the complete piano works of Bedřich Smetana for Supraphon (7 CDs). Jirí voDičKa is among the most distinguished Czech violinists. In his early youth, he received attention as winner of the International J. Kocian Violin Competition, Prague Junior Note, Cirenie Talentov, International Violin Competition in Hradec Králové and the International Violin Competition Louis Spohr in Weimar. At age 14, he was admitted to the Institute of Arts at Ostrava University for study with renowned teacher Zdenek Gola. Since 2007 he has enjoyed performing duo recitals with major Czech
Participation in international competitions has brought Mr. Páleníček numerous awards. As a soloist he plays regularly with leading Czech and international orchestras, including the Prague Symphony Orchestra, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava, Lugano Festival Orchestra, Suk Chamber Orchestra, Hradec Králové Symphony Orchestra, Pardubice Chamber Philharmonic, Monte Carlo Philharmonic, Brno State Philharmonic, Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra-Zlín, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra (Germany), Prague Philharmonia, Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra Olomouc and KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic-Durban (South Africa). Concert tours have taken him to numerous Europe countries as well as America, Africa and Japan and he has made numerous recordings for both Czech and internationals labels, and for radio and television. Jan Páleníček is on faculty at the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He plays a replica of the 1712 Davidov Stradivarius, made by Czech luthier Petr Zdrazil.
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Trio. In San Diego, the trio is joined by members of the San Diego Symphony for a special chamber music performance.
Published on Oct 14, 2014