Opus Osm Minutka: Kaprálová Quartet

Kapralova Quartet

Meet the Kaprálová Quartet, Simona Hečová, Eva Krestová, Veronika Panochová, and Simona Hurníková

When this women’s quartet was founded in 1995 as the Venus Quartet Prague, no similar group existed here; it was something the audience hadn’t seen before. Now, first violinist Veronika Panochová brings the story up to date.

Opus Osm Minutka (Little Minute):

Five Quick Questions for
the Kaprálová Quartet

1 What are the Quartet’s goals as a “non-traditional” (all female) quartet? What kinds of reactions have you encountered?

The reaction of the audience is really always positive. Often, people think that the performance/interpretation by women must be something different and specific compared to that of men. But mostly they are surprised that without seeing the visual, they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a man or a woman who is playing. What’s important is the personality and temperament.

2 One of the Kaprálová Quartet’s goals is to discover new composers of the 20th century. What have you found?

The Kaprálová Quartet  often performs with other artists and tours abroad

The Kaprálová Quartet often performs with other artists and tours abroad

Naturally, along with the founding of the quartet also came the idea to include women composers in our repertoire.

Unfortunately, as there are not many to be found in music history, we started addressing several contemporary Czech women composers and we were also approached by some.

We performed, for example, the works of Silvie Borodová, Ivana Loudová … and in 2009 through cooperation with the women’s composer association “Hudbaby,” our CD “I’m Waiting for You” came out.

The CD contains five compositions by Czech women composers, all of them inspired by Janáček’s composition I’m Waiting for You.

3 And so does that goal create a focused repertoire? Do you compose, yourselves?

The Kaprálová Quartet’s Latest CD, Mendelssohn-Verdi-Suk features the String Quartet Opus 12 No 1, a a small presentation of the String Quartet in E Minor, and a meditation on an old Bohemian chorale, St Václav, by these composers, respectively. (Supported by Geoffry Piper and Music Enterprise, Arco Diva 2015.)

Of course the Kaprálová Quartet doesn’t play music only by contemporary women composers, but also by men. Zdeněk Lukáš dedicated the quartet Concerto for String Quartet and Symphony Orchestra to us, which we performed with the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) and later with the Moravian Philharmonic of Olomouc.

None of the members of the Kaprálová Quartet composes, though. We’re interested only in interpretation.

4 For a recent concert in the Prague Philharmonia – PKF chamber series, for example, you chose to perform Richter, Kaprálová, and Martinu — and in that order. Why?

The choice of program was straightforward. This season the PKF and its chamber cycle is in the spirit of France; the season’s motto is, “With a drop of French charm.” We therefore wanted to link Czech music to France.

The clear choice for us was Bohuslav Martinů and his Fifth String Quartet. Martinů spent much of his life in France. He wrote the quartet right there and dedicated it to the young female composer Vítězslava Kaprálová, who influenced him a lot in France, and together they developed a deep relationship.

The choice for another part of the program was also clear, the String Quartet by Vítězslava Kaprálová. To start off the program we opted by contrast the early classical Quartet in C Major by František Xaver Richter, who was born in Bohemia, but later lived in France.

Watch The Kapřálová Quartet in excerpts from this concert. You can compare the styles of the three composers, in the order they were played that evening.

5 How would you describe the general public’s interest today in Vítězslava Kaprálová? and in Martinů?

She is definitely known and of interest in the Czech Republic as an interesting personality – a female composer and the first woman who conducted The Czech Philharmonic – and there is interest in her sad fate – she died [apparently] of tuberculosis at the age of 25. Her compositions are not as well-known among the general public, in my opinion.


Vitězslava Kapralová at 20

I think, though, last year when it was exactly 100 years since her birth, that led to including Kaprálová in concert programs and acquainted some of the Czech audience with her music. Since 1998 The Kapralova Society in Toronto has been taking care of Kaprálová’s works and among other things enabled the publication of her complete works.

As regards the audience interest – Of course there is a lot of interest in the person and works of Bohuslav Martinů by the public. His works are regularly performed and have lots of fans.

The next concert in the PKF chamber series, Mar 14 at The Czech Museum of Music, includes Martinů’s Intermezzo. Performers are M Mátlová, violin; J Pavliš, clarinet, and M Fila, piano.

– Mary Matz, Opus Osm editor

Photo Credits: Photos: The Kaprálová Quartet; video, Miroslav Setnička; Vitězslava Kaprálová, Wikipedia

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