On Monday, the premier performance of Prague’s American Spring International Music Festival was by violinist Josef Špaček and cellist Tomáš Jamník. It was a joint concert held at DOX Multifunctional Hall in Holešovice district. Their performance was impeccable! Covid vaccination proof was required to enter the concert hall, where masks were worn.
You learn much about a country when exploring its music and art. Prague’s 2021 music scene is highly eclectic, but my two favorites, jazz and classical, don’t disappoint! Classical music is a major part of Czech national culture and history, “representing the soul of the country”.
The audience was decidedly different than those I’ve experienced at other Prague venues. Locals are encouraged to get involved in DOX, an “independent, non-profit, private initiative of individuals”. DOX provides Prague with cultural support and promotes creative contemporary art, design, and architecture.
It was a young, local audience of DOX supporters who knew each other. The crowd of around 300 spoke mostly Czech, so it was difficult to interact. Some brief details on the DOX “vision” are provided in this blog post. You can read about the DOX cultural initiative on their website.
American Spring International Music Festival Prague
Prague’s American Spring Music Festival began introducing first-class artists and young musical talents in 2006. The festival “features jazz, classical music, theater, workshops with top personalities, film and stage performances, and discussions on current social issues”. The introductions and commentary were in Czech, so I didn’t stay for the short after-concert discussion with the artists.
“Today, when more and more people tend to think dangerously alike, art’s capacity to suspend, even for a moment, our habitual ways of seeing may be its greatest value.” Dox.cz
“The Spring Music Festival concept is based on mutual cultural relations and cooperation between America and the Czech Republic.” The year 2021 marks the festival’s 16th anniversary.
The concert lasted two hours and included the compositions below by four Czech composers – Bohuslav Martinů, Erwin Schulhoff, Gideon Klein, and Leoš Janáček. Although their works enjoy worldwide fame, they were new to me. The compositions were brilliant, each with a unique and sometimes tragic story reflecting the tumultuous lives and experiences of the composers. During the performance, Špaček and Jamník respectfully portrayed the sensitivity and seriousness of each piece presented:
- Bohuslav Martinů – Duo for Violin and Cello No. 2 (1958) Three Movements
- Erwin Schulhoff Duo for Violin and Cello (1925) Four Movements
- Gideon Klein Duo for Violin and Cello (1941) Two Movements
Josef Špaček Violinist
Recognized for his “confident and focused demeanor,” Josef Špaček is a “violinist who conquers audiences from all over the world with his playing”. He’s “one of the most significant talents of his generation”. Špaček’s “interpretation excels in technical poise and certainty, virtuosity, and distinctive expression”.
Another quality Josef Špaček is praised for is the “beauty of his tone”. The wide range of his repertoire demonstrates his “astonishing articulation and athleticism” and “a richness and piquancy of timbre”.
He’s appeared with major orchestras worldwide, collaborated with famous conductors, and enjoys giving recitals, playing chamber music, and appearing at festivals and in concert halls throughout Europe, Asia, and the US. His recording of Dvořák, Suk, and Janáček Violin Concertos with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra has been praised highly.
Josef Špaček studied with Itzhak Perlman at The Juilliard School in New York, Ida Kavafian and Jaime Laredo at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and Jaroslav Foltýn at the Prague Conservatory. He was laureate of the International Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, and won top prizes at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition New Zealand, Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition Denmark, and Young Concert Artists International Auditions New York.
Špaček is the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra’s youngest concertmaster in history. The orchestra named him Associate Artist in January 2016. After the 2019/20 season, he left the post to devote himself exclusively to his solo career.
Josef Špaček performs on a ca 1732 LeBrun; Bouthillard Guarneri del Gesù violin, on loan from Ingles & Hayday. He lives in Prague with his wife and their three children. In his spare time, he enjoys cycling.
Tomáš Jamník is one of the “most prominent cellists on the Czech interpretation scene”. At the age of five, he began his musical training in the Czech Republic under renowned Czech cello teachers Mirko and Martin Škampa and Josef Chuchro.
After graduating from the Prague Academy of Performing Arts (HAMU), Jamník continued his education in Berlin under Jens Peter Maintz and at the Karajan Academy. He graduated from the Universität der Künste in 2010, and currently lives in Berlin.
Jamník is noted for his “in-depth knowledge of pieces he performs, attention to detail, and interest in bringing less-well-known music to a wider audience”. He performs both classical and contemporary music, including works by Czech composers Miroslav Srnka, Slavomír Ondřej Kukal, Jiří Gemrot, Slavomír Hořínka, and Marko Ivanović.
In 2006 at the age of 21, Jamník won the Spring International Competition. Harmonie Magazine described his 2007 album as “the Czech debut of the decade”.
In 2010, he won a position at the renowned Karajan Academy in Berlin and performed with the Berlin Philharmonic. The same year, he recorded the complete works of Czech composer Antonín Dvořák for cello and orchestra with the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Tomáš Netopil. The recording included Dvořák’s “almost unknown Concerto in A Major, in Jamník’s own arrangement.
In 2011, Jamník was a finalist at the Pierre Fournier Award in London. He collaborated on chamber music concerts at the Berlin Philharmonic, and was a founding member of the Dvořák Trio, with violinist Jan Fišer and pianist Ivo Kahánek.
In 2012, Jamník made his debut with the Czech Philharmonic, followed by performances in the USA, Israel, Spain, Japan, and Germany. In 2016, he made his debut in England, with the Philharmonia Orchestra London under the direction of Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša.
During the 2019/20 season, Jamník “premiered his own version of Antonín Dvořák’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra No. 104” at the Prague Dvořák Festival. In 2018, he played cello at the world premiere of the Narcissus Cello Concerto by Czech composer Jan Ryant Dřízal.
Tomáš plays the Lorenzo Storioni instrument from 1784, “kindly borrowed from the collection of Mr. Aleš Voverka”.
DOX + Centre for Contemporary Art
The multifunctional DOX Center for Contemporary Art focuses on the presentation of contemporary art, architecture, and design. DOX opened in 2008 and occupies a refurbished former factory in Prague’s Holešovice district.
“The name DOX is derived from the Greek word doxa, which, among other things, means a way of understanding things, opinions, beliefs”.
DOX Gulliver Airship
In December 2016, the DOX Center expanded with construction of the stunning Gulliver Airship, designed by architect Martin Rajniš and known as “one of the world’s most interesting architectural projects of the last ten years”. Lectures are held inside the airship, which also serves as a lookout.
An “experimental dance and music hall” was added to the DOX complex in 2018. The outbuilding made of “exposed concrete is covered with a soft façade reminiscent of upholstered furniture.” Monday’s concert was conducted in this hall. Another feature of the complex, the DOX by Qubus design shop, houses top Czech and foreign design studios.
“An airship between heaven and earth. Between dreams and reality. Between art and literature.” The DOX Gulliver
Although I visited Holešovice during a previous trip to Prague, this is my first time at DOX. I will return to further explore the artistic haven.