Young Careers: Jiří Kabát’s Many Careers

Opus Osm

Jiří Kabát guest-conducted the Talich Chamber Philharmonic in a wide range of music.

Opus Osm last reported on viola musician Jiří Kabát in 2011 when he was premiering some new compositions. Since then, he’s graduated from Prague Conservatory in composition, studied at a university in Scotland, begun work as an arranger, and made his debut as a conductor!

“Conducting started more or less just as a way for me to make my own music, if needed,” Jiří Kabát tells Opus Osm. “But after various experiences, I have to say, it really got me!”

We saw him smoothly guide members and guests of the Talich Chamber Ensemble (TKF) through a roller-coaster of music in late November. The program ranged from tenor Miroslav Orság (a student at the Jan Deyl school) performing an aria from Mozart’s Figaro, to the contemporary composer (and HAMU student) Jakub Potoček’s premiere of Ozveny Pouště. Schubert’s more delicate Symphony No 8 and Schostakovich’s rollicking Piano Concerto No 2 performed by Marek Poláčik rounded out the evening’s musical ride.

Jumping in with Both — Hands
The concert was his “kind of conducting debut” with a professional orchestra, Mr Kabát explains. He admits it was a challenge and “a bit scary,” not the least because they had time for only two rehearsals before the performance.

“I had played a few concerts with the TKF myself, so to stand on the opposite of the orchestra was new and exciting,” he says. “Also, I personally know most of the regular members, which could have been a bit counter-productive. But I found it very useful and I was very nicely surprised by the way they responded to my gestures and requests.”

Indeed, watching Mr Kabát conduct is richly rewarding, because he brings so much of himself to the podium, in transparent gestures and expressions clear to the audience as well as the orchestra. And he obviously, infectiously, just loves the music.Opus Osm

Mr Kabát reveals another advantage he enjoys: “I also think it’s great that I had a chance to study viola and composition and to be able to look at the music ‘from the inside,’” he says. He continues to play viola with the well-known Vlach Quartet (concerts are already scheduled in France, Luxembourg, Germany, and at home); and his first symphony and third string quartet premiered recently. He’s also working on arranging for the Swiss label EMR and even preparing an educational project for China, he notes.

So, “I have a little break in composing right now,” he explains. “But I am still dreaming about a new symphony. It’s in my head, and if I get some time, I will certainly write it down!” He modestly adds, “You know, there were so many genius composers throughout the history of music. I am just trying to express what I feel, and if people and interpreters like my music, I am happy.”

Mr Kabát adds that he has added something else to his job description — “one exciting and most beautiful new role” – as the parent, along with his wife Ester, of Samuel Michael Kabát.

It’s “Probably now the most important news in my life!” he says, and obviously yet another new role which he clearly enjoys. – oo

– Mary Matz, editor of Opus Osm

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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