The catalyst for this initiative, which is due to extend over three years, was the Czech Philharmonic’s 2018 visit to the UK under Semyon Bychkov, who also holds the Otto Klemperer Chair of Conducting at the Royal Academy as well as being the Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic. Students and members of the Czech Philharmonic then performed the Overture to Smetana’s The Bartered Bride together for a concert marking the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovak independence.
“I’ve played for Bychkov twice, it was amazing. He has been the best conductor I have ever worked with. His musicality! He knew what he wanted, every note, every accent.” – Alberto Moreno, trombonist
Sadly, already during this period, coronavirus was looming. At the time of writing, that trip to Prague’s Obecní dům, due mid-May, was cancelled for epidemiological reasons. There will be other opportunities; the richness implanted by the Czech musicians in London hinted at something very special ahead.
The Angela Burgess Recital Hall at the Royal Academy, right in the heart of London, was the venue for the masterclasses, a bright space that allowed violinist Josef Špaček, bassoonist Ondřej Roskovec and trombonist Robert Kozánek, all from the Czech Philharmonic, to impart their wisdom. All three teachers shared a common trait of a gentle delivery of the most golden nuggets of advice, nurturing their students; all were nevertheless insistent of the highest standards. Fascinating to see how the Academy students were receptive, too, both Sophie Hinson (violin) and Songeun Choi (piano) adapting beautifully in Mozart’s E-minor Violin Sonata (Špaček was the teacher who not only commented on the principal instrument but made multiple suggestions to the pianist also).
Two fertile concerts
Two concerts were the very definition of Czech-English collaboration: a delightful lunchtime concert in the David Josefowitz Recital Hall of all-Czech wind music with Roskovec and Czech oboist Jana Brožková performing alongside Academy musicians in Rejcha, Janáček and Mysliveček; and the Academy Trombone Ensemble with Kozánek in the main Duke’s Hall playing music by Czech composers and arrangers. All of this was extraordinarily fertile; a cruel blow of fate to rob the English players of the Czech experience.
“Špaček has such a good vibe, chilled, calm, funny, friendly; he seems very modest. I felt good on stage, I felt really inspired. He could isolate exactly what each student needed.” – Elizabeth Jiřičková after her masterclass