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chamber series opening
Tuesday, September 10, 2019, 8.00 pm
Chamber Series

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Antonín Dvořák: Piano Quintet No. 2 in A major, Op. 81, B. 155Johannes Brahms: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34

Great chamber music works by two close friends – that would be a possible way to characterise briefly the content of the opening concert of the Dvořák Prague Festival Chamber Music Series. The piano quintets of Antonín Dvořák and of his great artistic model Johannes Brahms are some of the finest chamber music to have been composed during their times. The exceptional quality of these works will be demonstrated by five top instrumentalists: the American violinist Gil Shaham, who is the curator of this year’s Chamber Music Series, his young Czech colleague Josef Špaček who is enjoying a noteworthy international career, the wonderful violist Pavel Nikl, the cellist Kian Soltani, and Gerhard Oppitz, a star among pianists for many years who has long devoted himself to performing Dvořák’s chamber music and solo piano works.

  • Dress code: dark suit
  • Doors close: 19.55
  • End of concert: 21.50


Josef Špaček

The violinist Josef Špaček is one of the most prominent performers of his generation. He began his violin studies at the Prague Conservatoire, and at age 18 he was admitted to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. From 2009 he continued his studies at the Juilliard School in New York in the studio of Itzhak Perlman. Since 2011 he has held the post of concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic. He has appeared as a soloist in many important concert halls of Europe, the USA, Japan, and New Zealand, and he has collaborated with a number of illustrious conductors (Christoph Eschenbach, Manfred Honeck, Jiří Bělohlávek). He has appeared as a soloist with top orchestras around the world, including the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Konzerthausorchester in Berlin, and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. He has won a number of international awards, including the title of laureate at the famed Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 2012. He has also made a highly esteemed recording of works for violin and orchestra by Dvořák, Janáček, and Suk on the Supraphon label. The violin he plays is the “LeBrun, Bouthillard” Guarneri del Gesù (1732).

Pavel Nikl

The violist Pavel Nikl is a graduate of the P. J. Vejvanovský Conservatoire in Kroměříž and of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He is a laureate of several international competitions including the Johannes Brahms International Competition in Portschach, Austria. He has appeared as a soloist with the South Czech Philharmonic, the Moravian Philharmonic in Olomouc, the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic, and the North Czech Philharmonic, but he is most active performing chamber music. He is one of the founding members of the Pavel Haas Quartet, to which he belonged until 2016. That ensemble has won exceptional international recognition for its concerts and recordings, including a Gramophone Award for a recording of Dvořák’s quintets. He has appeared at the world’s most famous concert halls including the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Tonhalle in Zurich, the Herkulessaal in Munich, London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall, and many more. Pavel Nikl also teaches, holding posts at universities in Europe, the USA, and Australia.

Pavel Nikl - viola

Gerhard Oppitz

The famed German pianist Gerhard Oppitz has been a fixture on the world’s concert stages for over 40 years since his triumph at the 1977 Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Competition. The fame he won there earned him invitations for more concerts in the United States, Europe, and Japan. The very next year, he was offered a position at the Musikhochschule in Munich, where he later became the youngest professor. His repertoire is exceptionally broad, from Bach’s keyboard music to the sonatas of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert and music of the 20th century. The music of the latter half of the nineteenth century holds a place of exceptional importance in his repertoire – for example, he has recorded the complete piano works of Johannes Brahms and Edvard Grieg. Oppitz is truly a Renaissance man: besides his busy schedule of concert, recording, and teaching activities, his interests include the study of foreign languages (he is a speaker of seven languages) and piloting aircraft – he often transports himself to his concerts around Europe.

Gerhard Oppitz - piano

Kian Soltani

Kian Soltani is often called one of the world’s most promising cellists of the younger generation. This twenty-seven-year-old Austrian native of Persian origin comes from a musical family. He began playing cello at the age of four, and at age twelve he began studying at the Academy of Music in Basel, Switzerland. He first attracted major attention in 2011 when he debuted at the Golden Hall of the Musikverein in Vienna. Two years later, he won the prestigious Paulo Cello Competition in Helsinki. In 2015, Daniel Barenboim invited him to give repeated performances of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto on a tour of the West–Eastern Divan Orchestra, an international youth orchestra. Soltani has also collaborated with the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zürich, the Oslo Philharmonic, and other important ensembles. In 2017 he signed an exclusive recording contract with the Deutsche Grammophon label, for which he made an award-winning recording of the music of Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann last year. He plays on a rare Italian instrument, the “London ex Boccherini 1694” Stradivarius.

Kian Soltani - violoncello

Gil Shaham

The American violinist Gil Shaham belongs to the absolute elite of the world in his field, having won his outstanding renown thanks to a combination of flawless technique and ardent, intelligent expression. He began studying violin at the age of seven and only three years later debuted as soloist under the baton of Zubin Mehta with the Israel Philharmonic. His formal training included study at several music schools in succession, including the famous Juilliard School in New York. He has performed with practically all the world's most important orchestras and recorded more than thirty albums, among them the most important violin concertos (including Vivaldi's The Four Seasons) and Bach's sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin. Many prestigious international honours have been bestowed on him, including a Grammy Award. Shaham performed for Prague audiences with great success already in 2009 and 2015 in concerts of the Strings of Autumn Festival. He plays one of the most precious instruments by Antonio Stradivari, the 'Comtesse de Polignac' from 1699.

Gil Shaham - violin

Rudolfinum, Dvořák Hall

The Rudolfinum is one of the most important Neo-Renaissance edifices in the Czech Republic. In its conception as a multi-purpose cultural centre it was quite unique in Europe at the time of its construction. Based on a joint design by two outstanding Czech architects, Josef Zítek and Josef Schultz, a magnificent building was erected serving for concerts, as a gallery, and as a museum. The grand opening on 7 February 1885 was attended by Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, in whose honour the structure was named. In 1896 the very first concert of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra took place in the Rudolfinum's main concert hall, under the baton of the composer Antonín Dvořák whose name was later bestowed on the hall.