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International Music Festival Prague Spring - May 29th 2000, Rudolfinum - Dvorak Hall

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"Concert of the Suk Chamber Orchestra, May 29th" >>>

The Festival Program of the Suk Chamber Orchestra was both traditional and modern. The masterpieces of the two doyens of Czech music were framed by famous works of Josef Suk, full of emotion and depth. The whole evening was enhanced by the high technical professionalism of the group, by perfect intonation and rhythm. The musicians could thus fully concentrate on the interpretation of the unique message of the music.

The "Meditation on the old Bohemian choral "St.Wenceslas", op.35/a, is at first crystal clear, fragile, lyrical and truly meditative. Yet in the culmination point between the second and third movement the dramatic expression prevailed. The final part enclosed the whole work by the mood and expression of the introductory part, which in fact prevailed in the whole work.

There followed a Concerto for Two Harps and Strings by Jan F.Fisher (1997), with Jana Boušková and Kateřina Englichová as soloists. To start with the string orchestra seems to play the leading part, but very soon the initiative was taken over by the harps and for the remaining parts the two solo instruments and the orchestra played in healthy symbiosis. The structure of the composition and the performance of the orchestra evoked successfully a Concerto Grosso atmosphere. František Vajnar was engaged as conductor (though otherwise the Suk orchestra plays without a conductor). Thanks to him and the excellent soloists a compact and well balanced rendition of Fisher's concerto was presented. The ovations of the public were so great that the soloists had to offer an encore, a short, brilliant work by the same composer. Then followed Otmar Macha´s (born 1922) "Homage to Josef Suk", written in 1997-8, which was also heartily applauded. Here the main credit goes to the concert master Martin Kos, whose breadth of musicality and invention was he equally divided between his own playing and the leadership of the orchestra. Mácha´s "Homage to Suk" has indeed Suk´s spirit (yet without any ecleticism). Already in the first movement the widely spread song of solo violins culminating in the third movement was truly rendered by M. Kos with perfect technique and nobility.

The final part of the concert was the "crown jewel" of the Suk Orchestra's repertoire - The E-flat major Serenade by Josef Suk, Op.6. In this particular piece of music the perfection of performance was duly appreciated, in its "pastel colors", lyrical emotion and sensitivity. I appreciated more than at other occasions the gently individualized shading of the different movements with their incredible dynamic grading. The success of the Suk orchestra earned the musicians three encores-- two works by Dvořak, one by Janaček.

The impact of the whole evening can be well characterized by a statement I overheard when leaving the Rudolfinum: "My God, was that beautiful"!

PhDr. Julius Hůlek
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Concert in Season of Advent – 13. 12. 2005, Rudolfinum - Suk Hall

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"This is what the "advent concert” by the Suk Chamber Orchestra provided us on December13th." >>>

The advent has always been considered among other things to be a period of reflection and meditative contemplation, and also a time of interesting cultural experiences, which of course may not be related to the advent or Christmas theme. This is what the "advent concert” by the Suk Chamber Orchestra provided us on December13th. It offered serious – although in terms of mood also lightened – works of its kind. First was the Suite for Strings “From Holberg’s Time” one of the examples of the music of Edvard Hagerup Grieg. The following concertante work was the Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra in D Minor by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. The second part of the program featured the Serenade for Strings in C Major, op. 40 by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky.

The ensemble’s protagonist, violinist Martin Kos, wonderfully fulfilled what Mendelssohn-Bartholdy “embodied” in his Concerto in D Minor, an earlier, but in terms of artistic value, a no less serious counterpart of the violin Concerto in E Minor The expression of this humble, but uncommonly effective multifaceted and confident interpretation is careful, above matters, exact in terms of intonation and rhythm, truly virtuoso, but unaffected in phrasing. He effectively “directs” joy to listen and follow it – from the first violin not spectacularly. Radost ho poslouchat i sledovat – od prvních houslí totiž neokázale, ale i účinně „diriguje“ The Suk orchestra players have had luck in constructing its repertoire. Among others, its specialties include a selection of literature of the serenade type, reminiscent of not only the most beloved, but also those most valuable works. The proof may be the original Grieg Suite, whose performance brought out mainly the creation of the mood of this work. And what can one say about the conclusion featuring Tchaikovsky? That was not only a proper, but in content and delivery a true apex of the evening – stressing the glowing and tasteful attaining of the melodic side and instrumental color, which reflects mainly the technically mature level and unique nuances of chamber play in terms of phrasing, that the Suk Chamber Orchestra has undisputedly proven capable of over the 32 years of its existence.

PhDr. Julius Hůlek, Hudební rozhledy XI., XII. 2004
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Debut of a new ensemble at Červený Hrádek - 2003

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"This time the Knight Hall hosted several outstanding musicians. However, the name of the six-chamber artists - The Mladota Ensemble - was unknown to most of us.. " >>>

In the framework of the project poetically named Musical Jewels at Cervený Hradek that began last year with the successful performance of Jiri Stivin, another concert was held on 6th September 2003 again an extraordinary one.

This time the Knight Hall hosted several outstanding musicians. However, the name of the six-chamber artists - The Mladota Ensemble - was unknown to most of us. The name has been freshly lent to the interpreters by the owner of the castle, baroness Henriette Mladota, whose presence, together with an introductory speech by the mayor of the town of Sedlcany, Mr. Jiri Burian, rendered the evening not only a festive atmosphere, but also one that was sociably attractive. How did these six musicians come together? Very simple: They are current or former members of the Suk Chamber Orchestra, performing every year at Red Castle on the occasion of the Suk Festival at Sedlcany. They were invited by Josef Suk to collaborate on a new recording. And as they understood each other both humanly and artistically they started performing regularly as a group. Well, for that reason one has to have a registered name...

For their first official performance the Mladota Ensemble - consisting of violinists Martin Kos and Dana Klimánková-Truplová, violist Karel Untermüller, cellist Tomáš Strašil, double bass-player Tomáš Vybíral and pianist Štěpán Kos - chose the works where varied instrumental configurations could be introduced to the audience. Smetana´s Duo No.2 in G Minor for violin and the piano "From my homeland", op. 74 (B. 148) and Schubert's Quintet in A Major for piano, violin, viola, cello, and double bass, D 667 ("The Trout"), Dvorak's Quintet in G Major, Op.77 with double bass, and Rossini´s masterly Duo for cello and double bass.

Hana Jarolímková - November 2003
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The "75" Concerto or In honour of Leos Janacek and Zdenek Lukas

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"Especially in summer the chamber orchestras are known as not very hard working on their programme offer. " >>>

Even the best of small chamber bodies usually like better repeat the most popular pieces of their well-tested musical repertoir / Mozart, some of the romantic serenades and Vivaldi, of course/ ad nauseam. All this seems to be much easier than an attempt to connect a pleasant well-tried musical piece with some new experience.

The uncommon dramaturgy that Suk´s Chamber Orchestra has presented at the break of spring and summer this year was a real pleasure. It was a special festival called The Prague Musical Treasures and it took thirteen days. Within this time we could také part in five topically accomplished musical evenings and one matinée. All these concertos presented not only the very famous musical miniatures by Mozart and Vivaldi but we could listen also some other, less known pieces of a German romantic period. Last but not least there was presented the temporary music too. The most vigorous activity, the very different one to compare it to other quite boring , trite pieces, was given in the Martinu Hall, 21st of June/ such a called The "75" Concerto. The number reminds about both the anniversaries - the birth of Zdenek Lukas and the death of Leos Janacek 75 years ago. This concerto presented the early Suite for the strings by L. Janacek and three /!/ compositions of the Z.Luka´s workshop all together. By the way all the three pieces seemed to be strikingly related to that Janacek´s work…

Suk Chamber Orchestra presented the Suite in a very interesting and unusual way. Thanks to the detailed accentation and rather slow beat this well-known music could emanate definitely deeper colours and stronger inner fight /the viola contra part in Adagio, the sound of the chorus in the second Adagio/. Regarding the minimum of the casting players /13 only/ I was very interested in Presto, that use to be very exerted in its sound. But it sounded very fully in its marginal parts even if we realized how small the orchestra was. Suk´s Orchestra gasped all the Luka´s compositions with a masterful contrive. An audience could feel that this kind of music was one of its repertoir basics. We know that Suk´s Chamber Orchestra use to be very successful in many countries all over the world - in the South America etc. But anyone who regurally follows the Lukas´orchestra and its concerto activities is definitely not surprised. It is a music that anyone can recognize just after the first few beat times. It always starts from a well-tried musical idea and than it goes thoroughly and entitely on and on. It sounds like to be born in one whole and trait although we could sometimes feel it rather strange and subtile in this hectic 21st century. So during that evening The Lukas´Canties were presented. Their consonant, smooth second part was based on its charming and continuous, uninterrupted stream, on the very clear simple points and despite this it was exciting. The two Lukas´compositions sounded to be made just for this kind of orchestra. The first was The Double Concerto for the violin, double bass and strings written in 1999 and dedicated to both the violin master Josef Suk and Tomas Vybiral, nowadays a very peculiar and mature personality among the double bass players. The second composition was Concertino Dedicato for the violin and orchestra. In this case Martin Kos took up the Suk´s part. He is an inventive player who can feel music in its spirit and very soft details. He played together with an experienced, full of the disposal and brilliant Tomas Vybiral. The audience could hear what may such dedications mean in practice. Both the creations not only fully disclosed their moving musical charm but thanks to the self-confidence and the honest rehearsal they were able to present some splendid, relieved music. Probably the strongest feeling of this we could taste by listening of The Lukas´ Doubleconcerto.

Miloš Pokora, Musical Review No. 8
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Musical Jewels fourth time round

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The Suk Chamber Orchestra performed the 4th cycle of Musical Gems at the Prague Castle within its historical settings from 8 to 28 June 2000. >>>

The Orchestra featured in all but one of the seven programmes (featuring the Martinů Quartet with Josef Suk), five of which were conducted by Gudni A. Emilsson and one by a guest from Japan, Sakae Sakakibara. Emilsson's engagement had a favourable impact on the programme selection: he carefully opted for a share of contemporary composers (including "Recollections" by a young Czech composer Martin Hybler and the Double Concerto for Violin and Double Bass by Zdeněk Lukáš) but he was also bold enough to present composers and pieces of music virtually unknown in this country, such as the Czech Dances as Folk Tunes by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931), the "La Folia" Variations for Violoncello and String Orchestra by French composer Marin Marais (1656-1728), the Capriol Suite by the prematurely-deceased Peter Warlock of England (1894-1930) and the Suite in A flat Major by the Swiss Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957). The rest of the programme, consisting of long-established pieces (by Bach, Haydn, Debussy, Bartók, Barber, Dvořák et al.), included Mahler's adaptation of the "Death and the Maiden" Quartet by Schubert, the "Rakastava" Suite by Sibelius and Elgar´s Serenade.

As far as invited artists are concerned, the organisers were also successful in avoiding conventionality, turning to Japan for the conductor, Sakae Sakakibara, who included a contemporary Japanese opus in his concert (the String Serenade by Hirochi Hara), and presenting the violinist Kanako Ito and pianist Emiko Imagawa; they also invited American pianist Susan Kagan, and a violinist of Lebanese background, Ara Malikian (he was finally kept from participating as he had to undergo an operation; his part had to be played by Jan Talich, who was excellent). Josef Suk was the prominent Czech performer; he played the Double Concerto by Lukáš together with Tomáš Vybíral, an excellent contrabassist. A gem of the cycle was the performance of harpist Kateřina Englichová. Tomáš Strašil, a promising violoncellist,appeared again in the variations by Marais. The orchestra musicians also participated: Martin Kos, Hana Hašplová and Karel Untermüller enjoyed playing with Jan Talich at the concert of famous double string concertos. I regret to have been present at only two of the seven concerts. The first one was to take place in the Rothmayer Hall on 24 June, but the Castle Administration decided to relocate it to the Spanish Hall. The Greek Dances by Skalkottas, which opened the evening, is not unknown to us; it is appreciated for its ingeniously worked out, highly-stylised folk inspiration, though not novel in sound or form. The two performances of Kateřina Englichová were outstanding; she played the concerti Opp. 3 and 6 by Handel with a feel for the arrangement, her instrument filling the hall with a surprisingly full sound - except for the subito transitions from forte to pianissimo, when the sound was, as it were, fading for a moment inside the hall. On the other hand, the Dances by Debussy were presented by this soloist and the orchestra as a sweet, pleasantly-rippling flow of music. The night had its splendid close in the Romanian Dances by Bartók.

The concert on 28 June (in the Spanish Hall again, this time as arranged, and played to a capacity audience) mirrored almost exactly the Suk Chamber Orchestra´s Prague Spring programme (28 May); only the Organ Concerto by Poulenc was omitted. Listening to the Capriol Suite by Warlock, I appreciated the original invention and regretted that the gifted composer decided to leave this world when he was only 36. The Double Concerto by Lukáš, with Suk and Vybíral repeating their performance, which was able to 'mature' by then, confirmed again the skill of Zdeněk Lukáš in composing a score that would appeal to the audience without being populist. The two concerts confirmed yet another point: a conductor must be present at performances of programmes such as this. Emilsson assumes a welcome matter-of-fact approach to his task - he does not make a show of his conducting gestures, but rather imprints his idea of the interpretation upon the ensemble. The cycle that became part of the project Musical Gems from Prague through Europe to the World 2000-2005, fulfilled its mission in the aftermath of the Prague Spring Festival. It proved both refreshing and attractive, offering better artistic value than guests to Prague can experience during summer "tourist" programmes in some churches in the old city.

Hudební rozhledy č.8 srpen 2000 Autor - Petar Zapletal
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International Music Festival Prague Spring - May 2000, Rudolfinum - Dvorak Hall

"...the premiere of Zdeněk Lukáš's Double Concerto for violin and double-bass, which was dedicated to the soloists (Josef Suk, violin and Tomas Vybíral, double-bass) allowed the Orchestra to extend its list of first performances, and the composer's brilliant compositional conception linking instruments of such diverse sonority, was realised by virtue of its sensitive accompaniment. The concert was conducted by G. A. Emilsson (Iceland)..."

Petar Zapletal, Hudební rozhledy No. 8, August 2000

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