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.
VQP was invited several times from the Palacio Real in Madrid to play a concert on the famous collection of Stradivari instruments.
The Strad, October 2004
“Vlach magic: On a purely technical level, this must 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.”
Andrew Achenbach in Gramophone 4/1996, reviewing their CD with Dvořák’s String Quartets, Opp. 96 and 106
“On the face of it, the credentials of the Vlach Quartet of Prague would seem to be impeccable - the group’s leader, Jana Vlachová, is the daughter of the great Josef Vlach - and, indeed, the players make a most pleasing impression on this vividly recorded new Naxos coupling. They certainly produce a beguilingly rich, beautifully blended sound and bring to this music a big-hearted, songful fervour as well as textural mastery.”
The Washington Post, January 30, 1997
“Janáček’s first String Quartet was the highlight. . . . The Vlach Quartet Prague played it with its pronounced, gritty, Moravian modes intact. . . . The vigor of the performance of Dvořák’s American Quartet made perfect sense.”
Olaf Silberbach in the Lübecker Blätter 13/1998 reviewing their concert at the Lübecker Kammermusikfest
“It concluded with Antonín Dvořák’s final String Quartet in G Major, Op. 106, in a satisfying interpretation by the Vlach Quartet Prague. It was astonishing to hear the timbre of these sensuous sounds, the ability to achieve such extreme dynamics; in short, purse Dvořák!”
David Cairns in The Sunday Times, December 14, 2003, reviewing their CD with Dvořák’s Piano Quintets, Opp. 5 and 81
“Here all is pure Dvořák, and captivating. These fine Czech musicians—the excellent Ivan Klánský and the Vlach Quartet Prague—have it deep in their veins and give an affectionate vital performance.”
The daughter, master student, and successor of the great Czech violinist Josef Vlach was initiated into the sublime art of quartet playing in her early childhood. At fourteen, as part of a string quartet directed and taught by her father, she received the first prize in the international competition Concertino Praga. At fifteen—in advance of the usual age for entrance—she began studying violin with Prof. Marie Hlounová at Academy of Fine Arts (AMU) in Prague; soon she was appearing as a soloist; at seventeen she played Ernest Chausson’s Poème in a concert broadcast live on the radio; she toured, performed concerts in Czechoslovakia, in Scandinavia, in Germany, Hungary, and Russia; gradually she mastered the standard repertoire for violin and piano.
Chamber music has always been her special love. Together with the cellist Mikael Ericsson, her husband, she performs the rare and precious literature for violin and cello, including works by Ravel, Honegger, and Martinů that she has recorded for CD but also new works by Viktor Kalabis, Ondrej Kukal, and Zdenek Lukás that was composed especially for Jana Vlachová and Mikael Ericsson and dedicated to these two great performers. Naturally double concertos for violin and cello are often on their programs, including the famous one by Brahms and the little known one by Josef Rejcha. Together with Mikael Ericsson, the violinist Karel Stadtherr, and, since 2010, the violist Jiří Kabát, Jana Vlachová has been performing in the Vlach Quartet Prague that she founded as both a new group and as a revival, for a Vlach Quartet had existed before, until 1975, the legendary ensemble of her father and role model, Josef Vlach. With her own string quartet, which has now been successfully active for 30 years, Jana Vlachová performs the masterpieces of the Classical composers as well as nationalist, Romantic, modern Czech music. In 1995 the Vlach Quartet Prague began a project recording for Naxos the complete chamber music of Antonín Dvořák.
As concert master and artistic director of the Czech Chamber Orchestra, Vlachová represents the great tradition of music-making established by her father. In summer courses and master classes in Europe, the United States, and Japan the violinist passes on her musical and technical knowledge to a new generation of musicians.
Is a founding member of the New Vlach Quartet, to which he belongs since 1982 (apart from a few years of interruption). After studying violin at the conservatory in Plzeň, he played with the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra. Soon, however, he moved to become second concert master in the Suk Chamber Orchestra, which at the time was conducted by his revered teacher and mentor, the violinist Josef Vlach (the founder of the original Vlach Quartet). Karel Stadtherr also performed as a soloist with that ensemble. In 1989 he was appointed concert master of the Prague Chamber Orchestra, which usually performs without a conductor, and under his artistic direction the ensemble traveled the wide world of music, worked together with the most renowned soloists, and made much admired recordings. But in 1994 a yearning for chamber music brought him back to his friends and colleagues in what had since been renamed the Vlach Quartet Prague. Karel Stadtherr still fulfils his commitments as concert master to various chamber ensembles and is regularly invited to lead the rehearsals ambitious scores.
Vladimír Bukač is one of the foremost viola players in the Czech Republic. He was born in1964 and started playing violin at a very early age. He continued his studies with Nora Grumlikova at the Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and then with Wolfgang Marschner at the University of Music in Freiburg, Germany. Already during his studies Bukac gained attention by winning prizes in several domestic and international competitions.
Between 1990 – 1993 Vladimir was engaged in Japan as soloist and chamber music player performing in all prestigious venues of Japan, as well as touring Australia and New Zealand. After returning to Europe Vladimír Bukač was invited to join the renowned Talich string quartet. Over the past few decades, they have been representing Czech musical art through the whole of Europe, Japan, North & South Americas, and South Korea, making records and giving master classes.
Apart from Vladimir’s string quartet playing, he performs regularly as soloist and chamber music player at major music festivals in Europe (Helsinki, Sardegna, Prades…) and also in Israel, USA and Japan.
He has made several acclaimed recordings on viola for the Czech Radio and BBC. Some of his CDs were voted one of Classic CD magazine’s “Choices of the Month” and were also praised with similar enthusiasm from The Strad Magazine and the Gramophone.
Since 2002, Vladimir Bukač is also a much sought-after professor of viola at the Music University in Dresden (Germany) and is regularly guest teaching at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and giving master classes in Europe and the US. Apart from these activities, Vladimir Bukac has been repeatedly invited to judge international competitions (L.Tertis, ARD Munich etc…)
He plays a rare Italian instrument built by maestros Santini Lavazza (1725) and G.P. Guadagnini, Milan (1775).
Born in Arvika, Sweden, into a family of musicians, he began playing cello with the Danish teacher Hans Erik Deckert before continuing his education with Prof. Erling Blöndal Bengtson at the Conservatory of Swedish Radio in the castle Edsberg and at the Royal Danish Conservatory in Copenhagen. In addition he attended master classes with the French cellist Guy Fallot and the “cello legend” Gregor Piatigorsky. A meeting with the Czech violinist and teacher Josef Vlach brought him to Prague for further studies. In 1978 Mikael Ericsson made it to the finals of the famous Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow (the first Swede ever to do so); in 1980 he won the Prague Spring international competition as well as the prize for best interpretation of a contemporary Czech composition. Mikael Ericsson performs together with his wife, Jana Vlachová, in the Vlach Quartet Prague, which was founded in 1982 and is dedicated primarily to the classical literature for string quartet and the work of Antonín Dvořák. Since 1977 the couple has also performed as a string duo with chamber music repertoire that is all too infrequently performed; together they recorded a CD with compositions for violin and violoncello by Ravel, Honegger, and Martinů.
As a soloist Mikael Ericsson has performed with orchestras in Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Spain; he toured in Sweden with the Stockholm Radio Orchestra (and played Dvořák’s Cello Concerto); with the Czech Chamber Orchestra, with which he has associated as orchestral musician and soloist for many years he toured Spain. Mikael Ericsson’s curiosity and joy of discovery know no bounds in the history of music: his programs include a wide variety of solo, duo, and concerto works for violoncello—from Vivaldi to Schnittke, from Boccherini to premieres of contemporary works. Ericsson proved himself a musical treasure seeker with his discovery and first recording of the cello concertos of Josef Rejcha (which he recorded with the Czech Chamber Orchestra under Ondrej Kukal) and Carl Stamitz (that CD, recorded with the Suk Chamber Orchestra under Petr Skvor, was awarded the prize of the Czech Music Fund). Mikael Ericsson is also passionately interested in arrangements for string ensembles and polished solo cadenzas for cello concertos.
His last CD: Cello M.E. (containing only works, also from Ericsson himself, for cello-solo) obtained o.a. the reward "Jun-Kokusen" in the magazine Record Geijutsu in Japan.
M.Ericsson works as a cello tutor at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (from 2010)