In November 2018, the Dvořák Piano Quartet released their debut
album containing Antonín Dvořák's Piano Quartets No. 1 & 2. The
ensemble began performing as the Dvořák Piano Quartet after having received
approval for using the name of the world-renowned composer from his direct
descendant, Mr. Antonín Dvořák III. We asked the violist Petr Verner a couple
of questions about the new release, about members of the quartet as well as
about their plans for the future.
Mr. Verner, can you tell us whether you were always certain that you
would opt for Dvořák’s piano quartets to be featured on your debut
By no means did we want to hasten our decision concerning the recording. When we
began giving thought to our first CD, we were only sure that it would include
the second of Dvořák’s quartets, Op. 87, and initially we intended to add
to it Johannes Brahms’s famed quartet, Op. 25. Nonetheless, we changed our
mind when we were further exploring Dvořák’s first piano quartet, Op. 23,
which so enthralled us that we fell for it. Ultimately, a “pure” repertoire
choice prevailed. Yet at the time of our decision-making we of course had no
inkling that the album would be released on Supraphon. We are really pleased
that the label undertook the project.
What are Antonín Dvořák’s quartets like?
Antonín Dvořák was maturing throughout his artistic career, constantly coming
up with ever more wonderful, ever more inspired compositions. Following Opus 9,
all his pieces are splendid. The reason why his earlier works have been –
regrettably – less frequently performed is the fact that he wrote such an
enormous amount of magnificent chamber music. Piano Quartet No. 1, Op. 23, which
Dvořák composed in the wake of his gracious serenade for strings, already
bears all the traits of his mastery. At the time, he was enjoying success at
long last. Opus 23 teems with animation, youthful spirit and strength, yet when
it comes to the atmosphere and form in terms of style, it starkly differs from
Dvořák’s far more frequently performed Opus 87, written concurrently with
Symphony No. 8, just before he reached the creative apex. The two quartets are
clearly and discernibly Dvořák’s, albeit they are charmingly
Is there a “leader” of your ensemble?
I personally think that piano quartets should be led by the pianist, who as
though through a “Bluetooth” should be connected to the first violinist, who
now and then must take the reins and be equally bold. In our conception, the
pianist naturally plays the predominant role, which is possible owing to Slávka
Vernerová, who in addition to perfectly mastering her instrument possesses the
virtues of a thoughtful analytical musician with a refined taste. That, however,
does not mean that all the other ensemble members are not afforded scope for
voicing their own suggestions and inspirations. Our quartet is made up of four
strong and experienced personalities.
Do you often play Dvořák’s quartets at your
Yes, we have performed them very often. And I think that the two quartets can
be played within a single concert. We have done so on several occasions, and
I would like us to perform them next to each other more frequently. Given that
Dvořák created the two pieces within an interval of many years, they are, as
I have said, contrastive, and their juxtaposition could be quite intriguing for
What about your core repertoire? Which works have you performed most
We usually put programmes together in, say, the conventional way. The majority
of our concerts start with music dating from the Classicist era (Mozart,
Beethoven), following which we strive to present new works. To date,
contemporary Czech composers have written half a dozen or so works for us. And
we also like performing grand Romantic pieces, by Schumann, Brahms or Dvořák
in particular. We have a penchant for novel, unusual projects. At the Prague
Spring festival, for instance, we played an unknown, yet wonderful
Impressionistic quartet by the French composer Mel Bonis.
Could you introduce your colleagues in the ensemble?
Yes, with great pleasure. I would like to begin with the lady I have mentioned
earlier – the pianist Slávka Vernerová-Pěchočová, a top-notch soloist
and chamber musician, who has often been invited to work with renowned
orchestras and ensembles. Her style has been influenced by her having taken
lessons over the long term from the legendary pianist and educator Ivan Moravec,
who thought highly of her, expressing so great a respect that I cannot even
specify, although I heard him utter his sincere appreciation many times. Yet an
extremely modest person as she is, Slávka would never and nowhere refer to
having received such praise herself.
Our cellist Jan Ždánský, a man of many talents and piercing intellect, has
worked both in the Czech Republic and Austria. Besides being a brilliant player,
he is an organiser and collector. In our quartet, he is a sort of supervisor of
the musical order, which is a task of the utmost importance.
Our first violinist is Štěpán Pražák. I got to know him years ago as a
remarkable, emotionally pregnant first violinist of a string quartet. He and
I share very similar artistic opinions, and I am happy that he is now a member
of the Dvořák Piano Quartet, the ensemble that I dreamt up a long time ago
and which I deem to be my “beloved child”.
What concerts are you scheduled to give soon, and which of them do
you look forward to the most?
We are scheduled to perform in the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria. When it
comes to the next season, we are negotiating about giving concerts in Canada and
France, and returning to the UK. We look forward to all of them, as we do not
think of how prestigious the venues we appear at are.