Belfiato, the Five that’s Ten
The Belfiato Quintet celebrates its milestone 10th anniversary this year. Oboist Jan Souček tells us more about who they are and what they do.
One of the main challenges an ensemble faces is attracting the right mix of musicians, Jan Souček tells us over coffee. The original Belfiato members, all students, were attending different music schools; moreover, by the time they decided to push on and develop into a professional wind quintet, all the members were playing in different orchestras.
Masters of Time and Space
That’s because wind players can’t make a living solely from the small repertoire for wind ensembles. Belfiato’s current musicians are also members of The Czech Philharmonic, PKF-Prague Philharmonia, and the National Theatre Orchestra, among others, as well as various other small ensembles.
Their name comes from the Italian for ″beautiful breath.″ Members have all participated in master classes, competed abroad, and won many national and international honors. The members, and some of the other places you may know them from:
– Jan Souček, oboe (Prague Philharmonia, Arundo Wind Trio)
– Ondřej Šindelář, bassoon (several orchestras abroad)
– Kateřina Javůrková, French horn (Czech Philharmonic, Prague Philharmonia)
– Oto Reiprich, flute (Prague Philharmonia, Baborak Ensemble, Berg Orchestra)
– Jiří Javůrek, clarinet (Floex project; Carlsbad Symphony Orchestra)
Orchestral work is refreshing, he says. But to continue with the quintet at the same time requires a lot of commitment and time. ″We meet only every two months, rehearse the program, and try to put two or three concerts together. It’s not possible to do it any differently,″ he says.
″We are like five soloists together, but who can’t really act the same way as when they are [performing] alone. You have to be close to each other in a personal way.″
That’s why, he says, most of the best ensembles are not necessarily the top musicians, but rather, the people who have worked together for a long time, are able to react well together, and produce something special with their fellow musicians.
A Crossroads of Styles
For their repertoire, The Belfiato Quintet likes to ″make a bit of crossroads between every century.″ That ranges from the 18th-century Anton Reicha (Rejcha) to several 20th-century composers such as Janáček, Haas, and Foerster.
Watch this excerpt from JB Foerster’s Wind Quintet Opus 95, performed by The Belfiato Quintet in Dec 2014:
Like all musicians, classical to rock, the members of the Belfiato Quintet have paid their dues, also on the road – putting in many hours performing at music festivals, in large well-known venues, and on the road in town halls and village churches.
He recalls several concerts that Belfiato performed as part of the Circle of Friends program linking musicians with small concert agencies’ programs all across the Czech Republic. Sometimes the lights suddenly switched off or their music was accompanied by traffic noise just outside the hall.
As the ensemble’s oldest member he suddenly found himself appointed their spokesman, introducing their music in short speeches to audiences of about 50 people. ″We said a little bit about the instruments, about the history of a piece.
″Actually I learned a lot about how not to be boring and not to be too professor-like,″ he admits.″Because nobody comes to a concert because he wants to be taught about Czech music.″
They come, in audiences large and small, just to listen and enjoy the quintet’s music (and they may learn something in the process). And that’s why despite the challenges, The Belfiato Quintet has achieved its landmark ten-year anniversary.
In Prague, you can hear The Belfiato Quintet in concert Nov 26 at 7:30 pm at the Kostel Sv Vavrence (Church of St Lawrence); on Radio Vltava ″Live″ Jan 6; and in concert Jan 8 at the Lichtenstein Palace.
– Mary Matz, Opus Osm editor
Photo Credits: Photos: Belfiato Quintet website; video, Miroslav Setnička