Monday, September 19, 2011:Young and Happy

Relieved the concert's over: Pianist Jan Bartoš (left) and violinist Josef Špácek

A Young Festival Hosts a Young Talent

Last Tuesday the Rudolfinum’s Suk Hall was host to the young and talented Czech violinist Josef Špaček. The 24-year-old was accompanied on piano by the somewhat unjustly overshadowed Jan Bartoš as part of the Dvořák Prague Festival (Dvořákova Praha).

Talent and youth were a recurrent theme that evening; the Dvořák Prague Festival, in only its fourth year, is still relatively young and, oddly enough, is the first festival in Prague to bear the remarkable Czech composer’s name.

Antonín Dvořák started his musical career relatively young, at the age of six, which just happens to coincide with the age at which Josef Spaček began devoting his life to the violin. The violin recital opened with a few words of introduction from Mr Špaček’s mentor, the internationally-known violinist Václav Hudeček, from their time at a summer school in the famous Czech spa town of Luhačovice, a place which Dvořák is known to have visited as well.

Mssrs Bartoš and Špaček, in concert Sept 13 at the Dvořák Prague Festival

After Mr Špaček played Franz Schubert’s Rondeau Brillant for Violin and Piano in B Minor D 895, and Dvořák’s Mazurek for Violin and Piano Opus 49, his mentor returned to speak about the extraordinary career of this young musician and to tell a little about him as a person. He also dared speculate on what would happen if the young violinist were to take part in one of those ubiquitous pop culture talent competitions. Would he drop out in the first round or would he win hands down?

The concert culminated in a standing ovation.

Just Glad It’s Over

So what is Josef Špaček really like? Opus Osm was granted an exclusive after-the-concert interview Sept 13 to find out.

Few of us perhaps realize that such a performance is actually hard work not only mentally and emotionally, but also physically; therefore, he said that after the concert, he was “relieved that it is over.”

Mr Špaček explains that he comes from a musical family – his father is a cellist. But why the violin? The story is that when he was 2 or 3 years old, he found a violin in the apartment and started playing with it. His parents recognized that he had good hearing … and the thin fingers necessary to become a great violinist.

Mr Špaček has also been fortunate enough to study abroad. He was made very welcome in the US, he says. The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he studied is a very prestigious school that has maintained an all-scholarship policy since 1928. With an enrollment of about 165 students, he had gotten to know everybody within two weeks and felt “spoiled” for the duration of his five years of studies there – full tuition and room and board were all paid for through a full scholarship.

But study abroad also comes with its perils. As of June 2011, after winning the audition, he took up the position of concertmaster for the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, but he is still living with his fiancée in the US who has not completed her studies. Consequently, he is contemplating the possibility of commuting to the Czech Republic, as actual concert time takes up only half of the month.

This would not be the first such sacrifice he has made in order to continue playing in the Czech Republic. Most of his concert honorarium for a recent Brno concert covered only the airfare, which he accepted simply so that he could perform there.

Such a person whose character complements his gift would win any talent show, hands down. – oo

– Hana Škrdlová

Photo Credits: Dvořákova Praha

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