Wednesday, June 6, 2012: A 30th (or 50th) Jubilee
Prague is rightfully known as a City of Music. Its roots run very deep.
And that’s why Opus Osm tries to dig a little under its rich surface of popular venues, well-publicized performances, and top artists, to also bring to light some very well qualified, but lesser known, classical artists.
Such is the case with the Quattro Corde orchestra which is celebrating a major jubilee this year: either its 30th or 50th — or maybe both — year of existence. Its next concert is June 14 at the Czech Museum of Music.
The origin of this string orchestra dates back to 1962 (50 years ago) when it was an ensemble of pupils at the Voršilská music school, led by Zdeněk Tomáš. But after his retirement in 1982, the orchestra stopped and the cooperation within the school was no longer possible, as today’s concert master Jan Šmydke tells Opus Osm.
But that year (30 years ago), the determined members formed an independent ensemble, found a new home organization, renamed the orchestra “Quattro Corde” (“four strings” – no woodwind instruments) and began a new era. For the first couple of years the orchestra was led by the-then student Miriam Němcová, today a teacher and conductor at The Prague Conservatory, among other things.
The character of Quattro Corde was mainly formed by famed conductor Eduard Fischer; the orchestra continues this tradition, under the baton of Fischer’s student Jiří Kubík. And Mr Kubík continues to lead the ensemble, even though he has a full-time job as a conductor of The Castle Guard and Czech Police Band. He is also a former assistant conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and former conductor of the North Czech Philharmonic, Teplice.
Interestingly, Quattro Corde musicians have day jobs in various fields — engineering, science, medicine, teaching. Some members are old enough to remember the early years of the orchestra (even Tomáš’s original ensemble), others came later, and some are quite young, according to violinist Šmydke.
Nonetheless, the Quattro Corde concert next week offers the audience a balanced, mixed program of Respighi, Mozart, and Czech contemporary composer Zdeněk Lukáš. “There’s no specialty in our repertoire,” the concert master tell us; “nevertheless, we always play with joy the 20th century music.”
The concert starts with three ancient dances by Respighi, Early Baroque-late Renaissance joyful, lyrical music produced “by the sound of the modern string orchestra,” he says. It’s followed by Mozart’s famous soprano aria Exultate Iubilate, a beautiful example of the classical period, which everyone can recognize, and is easy to follow. (“But not at all easy to play,” he admits.)
The second part of the concert features Lukáš’ Canti, which Mr Šmydke characterizes as four pieces of “very warm Czech music with many aspects of South Moravian folk music.”
The orchestra isn’t planning any special events to celebrate this double anniversary. Instead, they celebrate every year with a final concert and private party. As the final part of the concert next week, Mr Šmydke hints, “We are playing something more – but let’s let the audience be surprised.”
If you haven’t yet heard Quattro Corde, their concert is an excellent chance for you to explore some of the deep roots of our local music and its history.– oo
– Mary Matz
Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička