VIAF 2015

A formidable weekend of concerts, starting with the amazing Martinů Quartet tomorrow

It’s a long weekend, with a public holiday on Monday, and the Victoria International Arts Festival committee thought it appropriate to concentrate three massive concerts on three consecutive days, to make it possible for both locals and visitors to add that extra spice to their weekend vacation!

Starting tomorrow, with the formidable Martinů Quartet from Prague, we are in for a wonderful time enjoying a programme consisting of two of the more important quartets in the canon, namely, Haydn’s String Quartet in G Minor op. 74 no. 3 (The Rider), and Antonin Dvorak’s String Quartet in C Major op. 61.

Martinů Quartet, originally the Havlák Quartet, was formed in 1976 by the then students of the Prague Conservatoire. It is inspired by and modelled on such legendary string quartets as the Vlach and the Smetana. They put favourable circumstances to good use by intensive practice and study of the Quartet repertoire, resulting in seven prizes at important international competitions, namely, the ARD – Munich, Evian – France, Yehudi Menuhin – Portsmouth, and the famous Prague Spring Competitions. These successes stand at the start-line of the Quartet’s brilliant international career, placing it firmly in the internally-respected Czech string-quartet tradition.  Originally called The Havlák Quartet after its leader, it changed its name in 1985 as a token of its commitment to promote the work of one of the great masters of Czech music, Bohuslav Martinů. Their efforts have been rewarded by a MIDEM prize in Cannes in 2004 for the best CD of the year in the chamber music/solo category – the CD being the second of three NAXOS CDs with Martinů’s seven quartets and other chamber compositions.  Although the main weight of its repertoire is centred on the music of the world’s great composers, the Martinů Quartet takes pleasure in seeking out neglected works and in giving first performances of pieces by contemporary composers. It has received an MW Classical Music Web’s CD of the Month award for its recording of works by Sylvie Bodorová (Terezín Ghetto Requiem) and Ronald Stevenson. It is also engaged on a long-term project of performing and recording the complete quartet output of the leading Czech composer resident in the U.S.A., Tomáš Svoboda. Apart from its busy concert schedule, which sees the Quartet performing in the most prestigious venues world-wide, the Martinů Quartet plays on Czech Radio, as it has done on the BBC, Radio France, ARD, and ORF.

This year has seen the Martinů issuing a double CD entitled S. Taneyev Complete Quintets with the recording label Supraphon, Prague. The critics had this to say about this recording: “The Martinů Quartet (formerly Havlák Quartet), which in my view belongs among the elite not only in the Czech Republic but worldwide and plays with unbelievable enthusiasm and virtuosity, invited high-quality guests to the studios….  The rendering of the three quintets as a whole seems to me essentially perfect, I somehow cannot imagine a better one!… The recording of Taneyevʼs quintets is precious, both in choice of material and in its rendering, and rightly deserves to be the Editorʼs Choice. This review was published in the critical periodical HARMONIE this March.  Martinů have just returned from a highly successful tour of the U.S.A., and further concerts include performances at Kings Place, London, and tours in Holland, Poland, France, and Slovakia.  They will also be engaging with further recordings for Czech Radio later on this year.

Victoria International Arts Festival is very proud to welcome Martinů Quartet to perform again this year. This is the Quartet’s sixth consecutive time that they have performed during our Festival.