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Vlach Quartet Prague

  • Jana Vlachová - violin
  • Karel Stadtherr - violin
  • Jiří Kabát - viola
  • Mikael Ericsson - cello

In 1982 the Czech violinist Jana Vlachová founded the Vlach Quartet of Prague (Vlachovo kvarteto Praha), but the ensemble’s history goes back to 1949, when Vlachová’s father—the important violinist, conductor, and teacher Josef Vlach—founded the original Vlach Quartet with musicians from the Czech Chamber Orchestra. In the decades that followed until 1975, the quartet made a significant contribution to the history of interpreting the Classical and Czech literature for string quartet, in both concerts and recordings. The characteristic, astonishingly faithful, powerful, and rhythmically solid playing of the quartet, whose membership changed over the years, was praised and admired internationally. The New Vlach Quartet (Nové Vlachovo kvarteto), as the new group initially called itself, was soon—thanks to the active support and sage advice of Josef Vlach, the father, mentor, and source of their name—able to pick up the thread of the great Czech tradition of the first generation of founders, establish an unmistakably individual tone and sound, and expand the repertoire they had inherited in every direction, in terms of both geography and period. Following a master course with the renowned Melos Quartett, their teachers gave their young colleagues the strongest possible recommendations: “Jana Vlachová, the quartet’s first violinist, radiates a special charisma; she casts her spell on the listeners and inspires the ensemble to play in perfect harmony. This homogeneity is strengthened by the masterly performance of the middle voices and ideally supplemented by cellist Mikael Ericsson."

In 1983 Jana Vlachová and her fellow musicians were awarded the prize for the best interpretation of a contemporary Czech composition in the Czech String Quartet Competition in Kromĕříž; in 1985 they received an award as the best string quartet among the European competition at the International String Quartet Competition in Portsmouth, England; in 1991 the prize of the Czech Chamber Music Association followed; in 1992 they received the prize of the Czech Music Fund for a CD with string quartets by Smetana (“From My Life”) and Janáček (“Intimate Letters”). In 1995 the Vlach Quartet Prag began a long-term project with the Naxos label to record the complete chamber music of Antonín Dvořák. Following the release of the String Quartets in F Minor, Op. 9, and in A Minor, Op. 16, the British magazine Gramophone wrote that this CD was all but obligatory for any curious fan of Dvořák. In October 2000 the Vlach Quartet Prague and the clarinetist Dieter Klöcker received one of the coveted annual prizes from the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik for their cpo recording of Esquisses Hébraïques: Clarinet Quintets on Jewish Themes. The text of the award certificate explained the choice as follows: “Klöcker and the phenomenal Vlach Quartet Prague manage in almost breathtaking fashion to bring this entire unique musical cosmos to life. A riveting musical event from the first note to the last!"

The Vlach Quartet Prague performs concerts throughout Europe that have been broadcast by the Bayerischer Rundfunk, the Südwestrundfunk, Danmarks Radio, and Radio France; Czech Television devoted a film documentation to the Vlach Quartet, both old and new. In addition to successful appearances in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Greece, and Luxembourg, the quartet has toured in the United States, New Zealand, and Japan—their debut concert in Japan was broadcast by NHK, the country’s largest television station. In 1997 the Vlach Quartet was quartet in residence in the Japanese university town Gifu. Their first concert in New York in July 2004 was praised in a review titled “Vlach Magic” in the specialist journal The Strad as one of the “musical highlights” of the season. The Vlach Quartet Prague was said to be among the world’s finest quartets: “The players’ tonal blend and intonation seem close to perfection, and while their sound is as smooth as glass, it’s never hard or glaring.” Following their Californian debut in February 2005 the Los Angeles Times raved about the “legendary Central European style and passionate, dark, rich sound” of the Vlach Quartet Prague: “Unique national features of a culture of performance survive in a inexorably united world.” In their interpretation of the G-Major Quartet, Op. 106, by Antonín Dvořák the four musicians were said to have painted a “huge symphonic landscape."

In 2004 the Vlach Quartet Prague as Quartet-in-Residence in Schengen, Luxembourg.

Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana, Leoš Janáček, and Bohuslav Martinů—the pioneering Czech composers are naturally the focus of the Vlach Quartet Prague’s concerts and radio and CD recordings. And of course the classics of the history of the string quartet as well: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and on to Bartók and Shostakovich. But the quartet’s programs also include many surprises, rarities, finds, and discoveries, such as the string quartets of Arriaga, Fernström, and Fuchs. With musician friends such as the cellist Maria Kliegel, the pianists Jenö Jandó, Ivan Klánský and Helena Suchárová, the clarinetists Eduard Brunner and Dieter Klöcker, the guitarist Maximilian Mangold, Vlach Quartet places quartets and quintets in various arrangements and enrich their repertoire with rarely performed chamber music works. The Vlach Quartet Prague also headed courses in interpretation at  universities in Ingesund and Gothenburg, Sweden and master classes in several high schools in USA and Japan.

 In spring 2009 was VQP invited from the Palacio Real in Madrid to play a concert on the famous collection of Stradivari instruments.

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