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Zdeněk Lukáš´s Compositions on an Inspiring CD; Pilsen Cultural Program – Culture – February 2009

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"The composer Zdeněk Lukáš (1928 – 2007) had a lot of ties with Pilsen. He used to work here as a radio editor and returned here also after he had moved to Prague, most often to the choir Czech Song"   >>>

The composer Zdeněk Lukáš (1928 – 2007) had a lot of ties with Pilsen. He used to work here as a radio editor and returned here also after he had moved to Prague, most often to the choir Czech Song, but also to other interpreters that he came to know during his activities. If music history is to evaluate Zdeněk Lukáš´s place in the development of Czech music after a lapse of time, it will describe his name with a number of unique attributes. He remains one of the most frequently played and most prolific composers, frequently sought after by interpreters. Performing his instrumental works, with their inventive pleasing melodies, requires perfect presentation. After all, the majority of his pieces were inspired by our greatest artists, including Josef Suk and the Suk Chamber Orchestra.

Mainly this collection has given rise to this CD that is unique both with its instrumentalists and the technical quality of its records. It was recorded at the Czech Public Radio studio in Pilsen by a team led by the music director Antonín Bulka in 2005-2006. Concertino Dedicato (1997), dedicated to Maestro Suk, and Double Concerto for Violin, Double Bass and Orchestra (2000) give a great opportunity to show excellent instrumental skills of the violinist Martin Kos and the double bass player Tomáš Vybíral. Both the artists are also members of another chamber orchestra – the Mladota Ensemble Prague, on the CD presented by Zdeněk Lukáš´s Sextet for Two Violins, Viola, Violoncello, Double Bass and Piano (2004). In addition to the artists already mentioned, the sextet members are: Dana Truplová (violin), Karel Untermüller (viola), Tomáš Strašil (violoncello) and Štěpán Kos (piano). The series of instrumental compositions, created during the last decade of the composer’s life, also includes Te Alle Cinque for Violin, Piano and Orchestra (2003) and Canti for String Orchestra, op. 175.

Thanks to the activities of local choirs, it is Zdeněk Lukáš´s vocal works that are better known to listeners in Pilsen. The present CD can expand their experiences by new dimensions. It is of great benefit for Pilsen that one of the protagonists of all the records – the violinist Martin Kos – is the Maestro’s successor in leading the Suk Chamber Orchestra. In resent years, he has also acted as concert master of the Opera Ensemble of the J.K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen.

Author: Marta Ulrychová , Kulture - Pilsen - February 2009
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CD Zdeněk Lukáš – Review; Musical Review - January 2009

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"There is no need to introduce the composer Zdeněk Lukáš (1928 – 2007) to music-loving audience – he is one of the most frequently played and sung Czech contemporary composers. " >>>

There is no need to introduce the composer Zdeněk Lukáš (1928 – 2007) to music-loving audience – he is one of the most frequently played and sung Czech contemporary composers. Despite its diversity, his musical language, distinctly inspired by folklore, is always clearly “recognizable”, and it is distinctive through its unlimited melodic invention with a clear formal as well as musical structure. All compositions on the CD are dedicated to the Suk Chamber Orchestra or its members and were written between 1982 and 2004.

Concertino Dedicato for Violin and String Orchestra is from 1997 and is dedicated to Josef Suk and the Suk Chamber Orchestra. It was first played at a concert within the Prague Spring International Music Festival as part of the composer’s seventieth birthday celebrations. After 2000, when Josef Suk closed his soloist artistic career, the SCO´s current concert master Martin Kos has added this composition to his repertoire and often includes it in concert programs. No wonder: in terms of interpretation, it is a rewarding piece of music, using fully both technical and acoustic possibilities of the violin. Melodic parts full of ardor alternate with impressive technical passages that from time to time (especially in two-voice passages in the third movement) sound like a distant reminiscence of some distinctive motives from the author’s cycle for male choir with solo violin The Spring Is Opening, which was composed in 1971--a beautiful piece of music which has not lost anything of its topicality and freshness.

The following Double Concerto for Violin, Double Bass and String Orchestra opens a completely different world. The lightheartedness and playfulness of the previous piece changes to a mystic atmosphere, the first tones of which are characterized by a unison in the double bass as well as by a maintained f-tone in the violin; however, separated by six (!) octaves. This “out-of-space-and-time” tone starts to be interrupted in syncopated rhythm by short secco entries in tutti strings (in tone sequence f – g – as – f), and the atmosphere becomes full of tension. The composition as a whole then gradually develops into a beautiful dialogue of solo instruments (more and more frequently based on their large interval distance), into which the tutti players bring a constant element of disquiet. I have to add that the performances of both the soloists, the already mentioned Martin Kos and the double bass player Tomáš Vybíral, are fantastic; they mastered the extraordinarily difficult parts with such virtuosity that it is a wonderful musical experience to listen to this recording. The composition was dedicated to Josef Suk and Tomáš Vybíral and comes from 1999.

Also the next composition on the CD, Sextet for Two Violins, Viola, Violoncello, Double Bass and Piano, offers a wonderful listening experience. The composition’s dedication reads: “Composed for Mladota Ensemble in August 2004“. It is really pleasant and inspiring to perceive the artistry of individual players and, simultaneously, the harmony of this young choir. The Mladota Ensemble Prague was established as a chamber association of the Suk Chamber Orchestra, and on the recording it is represented by Martin Kos and Dana Truplová – violin, Karel Untermüller – viola, Tomáš Strašil – violoncello, Tomáš Vybíral – double bass, and Štěpán Kos – piano.

Having come back from hospital in 2003, the author composed the following: Te Alle Cinque for Violin, Piano and Orchestra as “a kind of resurrection … only for the Suk Orchestra I decided to compose this score“ (Zdeněk Lukáš). For me, this composition represents musical pictures with sound rising procedures typical of Bohuslav Martinů (and/or Antonín Dvořák), bringing a feeling of joy of creating as such, which are, in an original way, pervaded by perturbing motific streams resulting from the fresh hard life experience. The soloists, brothers Martin and Štěpán Kos, are excellent once again.

The concluding four songs for string orchestra called Canti, op. 175 represent Zdeněk Lukáš´s oldest works on the CD; with pauses, the author wrote them for the Suk Chamber Orchestra from 15 July to 28 August 1982 at his weekend house in Jílové. The individual parts are entitled: 1. Canto Dramatico – 2. Canto d’Amore – 3. Canto Corale – 4. Canto di Danza, and the music represents clearly the characteristics of those titles.

The CD was recorded in an excellent sound quality with spatially balanced and compact sound. It was released on 11 September 2008 during the second SCO-subscription-series concert at the Church of St. Simon and Juda in Prague. Listening to the CD will leave you with a feeling of delight in perfect harmony and, in places, folk “playfulness”, which a less familiar listener would hardly expect from a contemporary composer. And as the compositions are interpreted by such an excellent orchestra – the Suk Chamber Orchestra – the record will bring an extraordinary musical experience across various groups of listeners. Author: Petr Matuszek

Author: Petr Matuszek
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“Musical Jewels from Prague through Europe to the World”, 7th - 27th of June 2006, Rudolfinum - Suk Hall

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"In June, 2006, in Suk Hall of the Rudolfinum, under the patronage of the City of Prague, the tenth jubilee of the running of the cycle of chamber concerts “Musical Jewels from Prague through Europe to the World” was held" >>>

In June, 2006, in Suk Hall of the Rudolfinum, under the patronage of the City of Prague, the tenth jubilee of the running of the cycle of chamber concerts “Musical Jewels from Prague through Europe to the World” was held. The cycle was comprised of five concerts, (on June 7, 13, 18, 20 and 27), and was organized and performed by the Suk Chamber Orchestra. The second to the last concert was performed by the chamber orchestra Mladota Ensemble Prague. Some of the members play in both groups, and their dramaturgy and interpreting characteristics and effort can be somewhat perceived as one. The Suk Chamber Orchestra (SKO) began performing in 1974, today boasting over three decades of intensive work performing shows or recording at home and abroad. On the other hand, the Mladota Ensemble Prague (ME) was just created in 2003. But in that short time, it has attained quite noteworthy recognition. One must add that ME sprang from SKO, which explains its interrelation and kinship.

This year’s “Musical Jewels”, just like the previous nine years, was an expression of not only program dramaturgy, but also of a high interpretation level and of its mission – to provide Prague’s citizens and visitors alike with meaningful music, from well-known titles and proven qualities, to music lesser known or completely unknown to the general public, but of no less a level of quality of the composition and its performance. Also, this year’s authorship and genre profile faithfully reflected the aim and efforts of both SKO and ME alike.

Attention was understandably dedicated to compositions of W.A. Mozart, and stylistically related tiers of works by the classicist authors of the 18th century, mainly Joseph and Michael Haydn, Jan Krtitel Vanhal and Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. SKO seems to have a bit of luck in building its repertoire, where it makes careful selections of literature of the serenade and suite type – let’s remember the unforgettable Josef Suk and Antonin Dvorak, as well as Leos Janacek and world-renown authors Ottorino Respighi, Edward Grieg and Benjamin Britten. Both of these ensembles, as it has already been stated, stylishly present entirely unknown works on the concert podium, which people would probably never hear otherwise. This time for instance, ME presented – at the beginning – the Quintet in H minor, Opus 40 of the South Moravian Slovak author, born in Budapest, Dora Pejačević. One of the group ME’s principles is that in this spirit, they perform unusual works of various, in reduced but yet sometimes complete assembly - from duets to sextets. Special, and for SKO and ME also characteristic attention is paid to works from romantic, and in terms of interpretation characteristic rendering in individual symbiosis of unsentimental, but glowing expression. Both groups also dedicate their work to newer period, and even entirely contemporary material, or Czech compositions. This year for example, listeners could enjoy the compositions of Zdenek Lukas.

The level of all performers participating is particularly well-balanced. All are expressive individuals, and they are also remarkable and balanced chamber players. We would like to name at least some of them. In the lead is the concert master, Martin Kos. The performance of this humble, but unusually sharp, multifaceted and conscientious conductor is careful, while yet above matters, precise in terms of intonation and rhythm. His conducting is truly that of a virtuoso, and it remains unaffected in terms of expression. It is a joy to listen and to watch him – from the first violin he unpretentiously, but effectively leads the entire orchestra and manages to imprint his seal of singular performance. Martin’s younger brother, pianist Stepan Kos, offers brilliant playing. His participation and sensitive approach in performing works, especially in double concerts, are truly creative. The play of violinist Karel Untermuller is known for its refined technique in terms of intonation and its serious expression, but never hiding its tasteful and ear-pleasing effect. We seldom meet up with such a unique chamber discourse of the contrabass as with Tomas Vybiral. His technique is perfect, and in terms of rendering phrases, it completely organically "falls into" an overall sound image. Even in his case, musical versatility and understanding are clearly displayed, as are the sensitive arrangements and reconstructions of selected compositions. He is also a noteworthy soloist, and his duet creations with inventive violin-cellist, Tomas Strasil, are especially pleasing.

Both of these groups are able to raise a fundamental page of a musical work, mainly its melodic qualities. They understand the sense for rendering a melody, and they present it as an expression of creative temperament and enflamed artistic passion. Moreover, they can literally play with the nuances of the musical message, including the colorfulness of the instrumentation. Each single player of both ensembles perfectly intonates, feels precisely and venerates the rhythmic bridge of interplay. Each fits together, either in and of himself, or within the total spectrum of the collective. What mostly captures the audience’s attention are the gently individualized differentiation of every line – exact and defined entrances, beautifully formed, and flowing phrases, as well as the closely watched conclusion, Ritardando and Agogico in general.

This cooperation results in exemplary, typical and compact chamber interplay. Here, performers of a young generation have their chance to perform, and their advantage in numbers is truly felt. This is without a doubt why the expression of SKO and ME is dynamic, energetic, and simply “full of juice”. All performers play with visible enjoyment and interest, but in an unaffected manner. They know how to enjoy the feeling of playing and to effectively lend this feeling to the listeners, providing them with music refined to the last detail. The sophistication of their interpretation reflects the taste of today’s demanding listener. Both of these ensembles – SKO and ME – are today found at the “top” of chamber musical interpretation in the Czech Republic, as are the values of its repertoire. They therefore deserve full support in realizing their concert and recording activity.

PhDr. Julius Hůlek
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