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Škampa Quartet

Helena Jiříkovská - violin
Adéla Štajnochrová - violin
Martin Stupka - viola
Lukáš Polák - cello

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aboutIntroduction

Wigmore Hall London - 5 June 2014
"Their interpretations and performances of the music of their homeland have been foremost in establishing the Škampa Quartet’s esteemed reputation, and in this recital it was plainly evident why they have been celebrated as masters of the Czech repertoire."
Claire Seymour, ‘Seen and Heard International’

The Škampa Quartet is among the very finest of an outstanding group of current Czech string quartets that has represented their country in major Concert Halls around the world for almost twenty-five years.

Prizes at International Competitions, Awards from the Royal Philharmonic Society and others - and appointment as the first-ever Resident Artists at Wigmore Hall provided recognition which led to invitations to perform at major Festivals world-wide including Prague Spring, Schwetzingen, Edinburgh, Schleswig-Holstein and Melbourne.

These engagements included collaboration with many fine internationally recognised artists including Melvyn Tan, Itamar Golan, Josef Suk, Michael Collins, Kathryn Stott and Janine Jansen among many others.

The Škampa Quartet have been award-winning recording artist for Supraphon for most of the Quartet's career. They are now also among the elite artists whose performances have been selected for release on the Wigmore Hall Live label.

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Škampa Quartet - Kaprál, Kaprálová, Martinů: String Quartets
Škampa Quartet - Kaprálová

Kaprálová: String Quartet, Op. 8 - III. Allegro con variazioni


"The Škampa Quartet has confirmed its great reputation on this recording. Their playing is admirably refined, emotional and full of extraordinary musical fantasy. The players have not only understood the hidden musical „programme“, but also managed to translate it to the listeners up to the finest expression vibrations. Not only for this „programme“ alone the listening of all three quartets becomes almost an adventurous quest – and it is definitely worth joining it together with the Kaprál and Martinů."
(Věroslav Němec, Harmonie magazine, 03/2013)

 
Škampa Quartet & Iva Bittová & Pavel Fischer - Morava
 

On May 6, 2012 the Škampa Quartet together with singer Iva Bittová and composer Pavel Fischer presented its latest album MORAVA. Combined concerts are planned in 2014.

Pavel Fischer: String Quartet No. 3 'Mad Piper' - III. Sad Piper

“It is a hugely exciting disc, and opportunities to hear the new Škampas live in this repertoire should not be missed.”
(Musical Pointers, June 2012)
 
 
Škampa Quartet & Iva Bittová - Janáček: Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs
Nikita Mndoyants & Zemlinksy Quartet Woe
Hazel Nut
Apple Tree
Lover Killer
Kolín Town
Fence

 “One of the most striking concerts at London Wigmore Hall was one when the Škampa Quartet shared the stage with great singer Iva Bittová. She was wandering through the auditorium singing Czech songs while the Škampa were playing Janáček from the stage.”

Biography

Biography Škampa Quartet

Download biography as PDF

 

“Škampa Quartet proves reputation well-founded, the group exhibited wonderful musicality and an amazing sense of interpretation. They brought passion and excitement to their playing and their interpretations were perceptive, intelligent, lucid and thoughtful. The Skampa is indeed a quartet that will be around for a long time.”

The Škampa Quartet is among the very finest of an outstanding group of current Czech string quartets that has represented their country in major Concert Halls around the world for almost twenty-five years.

Through their mentors, the legendary Smetana Quartet, they trace their roots to the earliest quartets - such as the Bohemian Quartet - in a land described in the 18th century as the Conservatoire of Europe and that remains, to this day, the very cradle of European Chamber Music.

To this innate musicality they have added their own particular research to inform their understanding of the folk-song and poetry, rhythms and dance from which their native music grew - to the extent that their recordings of the quartets by Janacek and Smetana particularly are quoted as the bench-marks against which other performances are judged.

This research resulted in, among other things, the production of an illustrated talk - ‘Janáček and his Moravian Roots’ - and led to collaboration with singer Iva Bittova which successfully crossed many musical boundaries.

Prizes at International Competitions, Awards from the Royal Philharmonic Society and others - and appointment as the first-ever Resident Artists at Wigmore Hall - marked the solidity of their early years and provided recognition which led to invitations to perform at major Festivals world-wide including Prague Spring, Schwetzingen, Edinburgh, Schleswig-Holstein and Melbourne.

These engagements included collaboration with many fine internationally recognised artists including Melvyn Tan, Itamar Golan, Josef Suk, Michael Collins, Kathryn Stott, Janine Jansen and Kit Armstrong among many others.

From the beginning they have established a close relationship with BBC Radio 3 resulting in regular broadcasts from Wigmore Hall, St John’s Smith Square, LSO St Luke’s and the Chamber Music Proms.

The Škampa quartet have been award-winning recording artist for Supraphon for most of the Quartet's career. Their most recent CD’s include ‘Morava’, the Škampa’s performing among other works Pavel Fischer’s Three String Quartets together with singers Iva Bittová and Pavel Fischer, and one with String Quartets of Václav Kaprál, Vítězslava Kaprálová and Bohuslav Martinů.

Education has long been an important facet of their work, and one that they find particularly rewarding. They teach in many places around the world but particularly at the Royal Academy of Music in London where they were appointed Visiting Professors of Chamber Music in 2001.

Programmes

pRogramme Proposals

 

Programme I
Haydn: Quartet Fragment in D minor, Op. 103
Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 3 in F major, Op. 73
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132

Programme II
Janáček: "On an Overgrown Path" (arrangement for string quartet)
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 12 in E Flat major, Op. 127
Smetana: String Quartet No 1 in E minor "From my life"

Programme III
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95 "Serioso"
Fischer: String Quartet No. 3 "Mad Piper"
Dvořák: String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 "American"

Programme IV
Dvořák: String Quartet No. 10 in E Flat major, Op. 51 "Slavonic"
Janáček: "On an Overgrown Path" (arrangement for string quartet) - String Quartet No. 2 "Intimate Letters"

Programme V
Suk: Meditation on the Old Bohemian Chorale “St. Wenceslas”
Janáček: String Quartet No. 1 „Kreutzer Sonata“
Fischer: String Quartet No. 1 „Morava“
Dvořák: String Quartet No. 13 in G major, Op. 106

Reviews

Sheer Delight from the Škampa Quartet
 

Wigmore Hall london, 5 june 2014

Haydn Op.77 No.2 - Borodin No.2 in D - Dvořák Op.96 (‘American’)
 
Their interpretations and performances of the music of their homeland have been foremost in establishing the Škampa Quartet’s esteemed reputation, and in this recital – in which the Slavonic melodies by turns bloomed with buoyant optimism and wept with nostalgic longing – it was plainly evident why they have been celebrated as masters of the Czech repertoire.

But, our journey ‘home’ began in neighbouring Austria, with Haydn’s final complete string quartet, the Op.77 No.2 in F. ...... I felt that the quartet took a little time to settle at the opening of the Allegro moderato, but by the time the repeat of the exposition was reached the easy conversation was in full swing, the first violin’s melody full of beguiling grace, its elaborations effortlessly delivered by Helena Jiříkovská, leading to increasing enrichment by the inner voices.

The fairly light, airy sound of the first movement was succeeded by a more earthy robustness in the Minuet; here, the temporally destabilising rocking fifths and octaves of the cello assumed a rustic flamboyance as the players raced through the jokey Presto. ...... Similarly, the idiosyncrasies of the Andante were absorbed into the compelling, at times quite operatic, whole.

...... The Vivace finale showcased Jiříkovská’s nimble finger-work, but each player assumed individuality within the busy four-voice texture. The canonic complexities were lucidly distinguished, and the concentrated material felt fresh and invigorating. With the closing bars growing ever softer, the forte cadential chords were rich and sunnily positive.

We entered a world of a completely different hue with Borodin’s Quartet No.2. ...... The animated passages were invigorated by fluid syncopations and resonant accents; the rallentandos were coaxingly suave. But the expressive sensibility of this movement was nowhere more powerfully communicated than in violist Radim Sedmidubský’s resonant cantabile, his viola turned towards the audience (the violist was seated opposite the first violin) to sing forth opulently.

The Scherzo sparkled, and once again the formal complexities and tensions were assuredly negotiated, the chromatic waltz-like runs deliciously unhurried and dreamy. The impassioned Notturno was a tragic drama; the cello’s opening soliloquy throbbed with controlled intensity.

...... The halting introduction – hints of Beethoven’s ‘Muß es sein’? – to the Finale was despatched fairly swiftly, the unison pairings perfectly attuned, and the ensuing Vivace cast a nod in the direction of the previously heard Haydn frolic, although the contrasting brooding passages resonated more darkly. Thus, there was joy, fervency and wistfulness in this extremely gratifying performance of Borodin’s musical ‘love letter’.

Despite its popular nickname, Dvořák’s ‘American’ Quartet seems to me full-bloodedly Bohemian, and the Škampa relished the romantic idealism and pride expressed in the composer’s impassioned idiom, Sedmidubský’s opening tune dancing with life and bursting through the shimmering, oscillating violin thirds.

...... Moreover, the way the individual voices – dignified cello pizzicato, violin syncopations, rocking arpeggios from the viola, and the first violin’s pensive melody – blended into a whole at the start of the Lento was both impressive and moving. The movement was unfailingly songful throughout, but the viola’s chromatic disturbance of the closing cello lament injected a subtle but telling note of tragedy.

An incisive unison for cello and second violin kicked off the Scherzo with briskness and fleetness, and the displaced rhythmic motifs – twos against threes – were made to feel relaxed and natural, creating a carefree mood. In the more mysterious Trio, the players’ attention to detail brought forth every nuance of the varying timbres and textures.

In the Finale, I doubt that there was a foot in the Hall that was not tapping to the beat of the vigorous dance that the Škampa launched with joyful freedom. The lucidity of the brief Meno mosso brought a temporary respite before the unstoppable, effervescent verve resumed, sweeping to an exhilarating close.

Claire Seymour - 'Seen and Heard Internaional'

 
Unsurpassed intensity
Dazzling performance by Škampa Quartet at Accordate Concert in Aachen - 20 January 2013

On the program works by Josef Suk, Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana. Dvořák’s favourite pupil and son-in-law Suk was represented by a short Meditation on an old Bohemian Choral in which the Škampa Quartet held the audience in trance by an exemplary variation and ever changing timbres.

Dvořák's later quartets are not very popular on the concert platform. Also the G major Quartet Op. 106 is far from easy-on-the-ear. But performed by the Škampa Quartet it overwhelms by the sheer force of expression, the intensity of tone-colour and the technical perfection. Here every phrase is exciting, dynamically well-differentiated and perfectly balanced in tone. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that here four equally able musicians meet who combine professional expertness with a clearly visible joy of making music.

It goes without saying that this intensive approach also contributed to a meaningful rendition of Smetana's First Quartet in E minor "From my Life". This happened in such a forceful way that a cello string broke just before the beginning of the tinnitus tone which Smetana wove into this quartet as a first sign of his approaching deafness. The inevitable break was bridged by viola player Radim Sedmidubský's explanation of the work in perfect German.

An spirited "Karpatská" by former quartet member Pavel Fischer was offered as an extra.

Thomas Beaujean