Re:Source-Young Violinist Špaček Records Czech Icons
This backgrounder information is provided as a service to readers by Supraphon, which conducted this interview with violinist Josef Špaček.
Young Violinist Špaček Records Czech Icons
Josef Špaček speaks about his album, Dvořák, Suk, Janáček, recorded live with The Czech Philharmonic, Jiří Bělohlávek conducting. (Supraphon recording SU 4182-2)
The renowned violinist Josef Špaček has recorded three major Czech violin pieces dating from the end of the 19th- beginning of the 20th centuries: Antonín Dvořák’s famed Violin Concerto in A Minor, Josef Suk’s Fantasy in G Minor, and Leoš Janáček’s concerto Pilgrimage of the Soul.
How did this recording project come about?
I could say that it came into being as a combination of many things and circumstances. The project entailed Czech Philharmonic subscription concerts, while, in addition, the Dvořák concerto was performed within the opening evening of the Dvořák Prague festival. And once we knew that we would record the Dvořák piece, we agreed that it would be good and interesting to add compositions by Suk and Janáček.
All three works were recorded live. What did it mean for you?
I was aware that I would spend much more time preparing than I would have in the case of recording them in a studio. So I tried to be more rigorous in rehearsing.
When the day of the actual recording and concerts arrived, I approached the evenings just like any other performances. I didn’t feel greater stage fright or stress, I didn’t think of whether I had one or two attempts at it.
How did you perceive the fact that you recorded the album with the Czech Philharmonic and its chief conductor, Jiří Bělohlávek?
It was amazing recording with my own orchestra. Working with people you are familiar with and see regularly, knowing that they are there, at the moment, for you, was terrific. In this regard, it was exceptional for me. What’s more, it was with the chief conductor, Jiří Bělohlávek, with whom I had previously worked on many occasions, so it was very pleasant indeed.
Dvořák’s Violin Concerto in A Minor is a composition that has been recorded on numerous occasions. Which of these recordings do you particularly esteem?
There are a lot of superlative recordings, and if I had to name a model or exemplary one, I would plump for that made by Josef Suk with the Czech Philharmonic. Suk was not only one of the major representatives of the Czech violin school, he was also a member of Dvořák’s family. Even though of late quite a lot of Dvořák recordings have been released, such as, for instance, Anne-Sophie Mutter’s or Frank Peter Zimmermann’s projects, I have the feeling that this wonderful work is still somewhat underestimated around the world,
with the frequency of its performance lagging behind that of works by Brahms, Beethoven or Tchaikovsky. And I think that’s a pity.
All of the three concertante works you have recorded are undoubtedly true gems of Czech music. Can you try to describe your relationship to Czech music?
I think that it is something absolutely natural, and I have the feeling that it is the same for all Czech musicians. Since we were born, we have lived and grown in Czech culture, and also developed within it. And we hear music by such composers as Dvořák, Suk, and Janáček virtually every day.
Did your studies in the USA make you create some distance from performing Czech music?
The American training is interesting in that the educational system there supports each and every individual, which in my case meant that they supported my being Czech, Czech musicianship, enhancing the development of my Czech identity. If I had to compare it with the Czech music education, here there is a given methodology you have to master. Whereas in the USA they teach you that you are the centre and that you should learn how to make
use of your qualities to the maximum. For me, it was a great advantage that I was from the Czech Republic, that I was different to the others.
The booklet of your new album specifies which instrument you are currently playing. Could you give us more detailed information about it?
I was really pleased to see it on the sleeve. In addition to getting to know which instrument I play, the listeners can also extend their awareness of the entire violin-making craft, which is currently experiencing an interesting boom. The violin I play is a French instrument, a Guarneri model, built by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume in 1855.
What concerts are you preparing at the present time and which of them are you looking forward to the most?
I’m looking forward to the concerts in Zlín [May 21, 2015] and the Smetana Litomyšl festival [June 11-July 5, 2015]. I will again be performing Suk’s Fantasy, in Essen with Tomáš Netopil and in Bratislava with the Slovak Philharmonic. In the next season I will also explore and play Philip Glass’s violin concerto in Shanghai. And I’m really looking forward to performing Beethoven’s violin concerto in Bolivia, where a large part of my wife’s family live.
– Lukáš Kadeřábek, Supraphon; edited for length by Mary Matz, Opus Osm
Photo Credits: Radovan Subin