“They live the music and you can’t help but to live it with them.”—BBC Music
Is great music making in our genes? The Bach family of Germany might think so; so might the Mozarts and the Mendelssohns. And so might the Páleníček family of Bohemia. Eighty years ago, in 1934, the legendary pianist Josef Páleníček formed a piano trio. Now, 80 years later, that living history and passion for chamber music is continued by his son Jan and Jan’s wife, Jitka Čechová, in the Smetana Trio, joined by violinist Jiří Vodička. In this all-Czech program they give us a history of the piano trio from 1855 to the present.
Smetana Trio Pianist Jitka Čechová has provided an Artist's Note, which you can read by clicking the Program Notes above.
Jitka Čechová, piano
Jiří Vodička , violin
Jan Páleníček, cello
SUK: Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 2
MARTINŮ: Piano Trio No.2 in D minor, H. 327
HAAS: Multicultural Suite for Piano Trio (New York premiere)
SMETANA: Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 15
This concert is approximately 70 minutes long, with no intermission.
This event is supported by the Czech Center New York.
92Y Concerts at SubCulture is a co-presentation of 92Y and SubCulture.
This concert takes place in SubCulture, 45 Bleecker St.
by Jitka Čechová
Since the Czech government has designated this year as Czech Music Year 2014, the same year we also celebrate our own 80th anniversary as an ensemble, we bring tonight a hearty helping of folk-inspired, dark, classical music from all different periods of our history. It was our intention to create a program that not only emphasizes our ensemble’s name (Smetana), but also brings more current Czech music to our audience’s attention.
The 20th century is full of important composers who are native of the Czech Republic, including Suk and Martinů. While their musical styles are very different—Suk was caught in the shadow of Dvořák while Martinů explored everything from expressionism and jazz to neo-classicism—both maintain a true Czech musical heritage. With the New York premiere of the young Czech composer Roman Haas’s Multicultural Suite, a new link in the chain for Czech music is established.
The second half of the program builds on our theme of minor-mode pieces and Czech tradition by displaying the most nationalistic composer of our country. A generation older than Dvořák, Smetana participated in revolutionary protests against the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburgs and wrote music portraying his pride in his country.
Smetana was grieving when he wrote his emotional jarring trio; his oldest daughter Bedřiška, a young girl of great musical abilities with whom Smetana had an especially close relationship, had just died at the age of four from scarlet fever. This piece provides a dramatic capstone to our program of Czech works. It is fitting that we play our namesake’s piano trio to celebrate a year of Czech history and music.
The Smetana Trio, founded in 1934 by the legendary Czech pianist Josef Páleníček, is today’s foremost Czech chamber ensemble and one of the most renowned piano trios in the world. Currently comprised of pianist Jitka Čechová, violinist Jiří Vodička and cellist Jan Páleníček, the Smetana Trio perpetuates the interpretational ideals created by its illustrious predecessor as well as other superlative 20th-century soloists active in chamber music.
Following a successful North American tour in April 2013, the Smetana Trio is returning to the US this month for a cross-country tour. It begins in San Diego where the trio will be joined by members of the San Diego Symphony for a special performance of Bruch’s rarely heard 8 Pieces for Clarinet, Cello and Piano. The Trio will then be presented by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, the Czech Center New York and the Gettysburg Community Concert Association, and it will end its tour October 23 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. This is the Trio’s 92Y debut.
The Smetana Trio has toured extensively as both a chamber music ensemble and orchestral soloists, working with such orchestras as the Bamberg and Prague symphonies, Orchestra della Svizzera italiana Lugano, Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire and Prague Philharmonic. Its festival and concert series engagements include Cambrai, Aix-en-Provence and Nice in France and Munich, Würzburg and Tübingen in Germany. In 2011 the Smetana Trio toured the USA, Brazil, the UK, France, Switzerland, Italy and Egypt.
With an extensive discography recorded exclusively for Supraphon since 2000, the group’s latest recording—featuring the complete piano trios of Shostakovich and Ravel—was released in March 2014 and quickly garnered critical praise throughout Europe and the US. Their all-Dvořák disc received BBC Music magazine’s Chamber Award for 2007 and the French Diapason d'Or. Among its other recent CDs, it recorded the triple concertos of Beethoven and Voříšek with the Moravian Philharmonic Olomoucm and it released discs of trios by Dvořák, Fibich and Martinů and by Smetana, Suk and Novák. The Trio’s recordings are also available on the Cube Bohemia and TRIART Recording labels.
All members of the Smetana Trio maintain active solo careers. Pianist Jitka Čechová is currently recording Smetana’s complete piano works in a 7-CD project for Supraphon. Violinist Jiří Vodička is a permanent soloist of the Janáček Philharmonic, and his concerts are frequently recorded by Czech Radio and Television. Cellist Jan Páleníček (who is married to Ms. Čechová) is soloist with such orchestras as the Prague Symphony, Lugano Festival Orchestra and Monte Carlo Philharmonic. Both Mr. Vodička and Mr. Páleníček serve on the faculty of the Prague Conservatory of Music.
The Smetana Trio’s 2014 tour is supported by the Czech Center New York.