Album detail
Catalogue number: SU 4230-2

The Belfiato Quintet are yet another exciting Czech chamber ensemble active in the international arena. The members of the young wind quintet perform with renowned orchestras (the Czech Philharmonic, the Philharmonia Orchestra, etc.), and both as individuals and collectively have garnered accolades at competitions (Kateřina Javůrková’s victory at the ARD Munich, first prize for the Belfiato Quintet at the competition in Semmering, Austria, etc.). This acclaim, however, has not gone to their heads, with their performances above all revealing their attitude: “We enjoy it!” Find out more about their debut album (SU 4230–2) and their music attitude in our interview with Kateřina Javůrková (french horn), Jan Souček (oboe) and Oto Reiprich (flute).

How did you select the music for your debut album?
Jan Souček: Our first album serves to mark the ensemble’s tenth anniversary. Accordingly, we have opted for the most significant quintet pieces, while at the same time focusing on Czech music, as we are, after all, a Czech ensemble. So we have chosen works by Leoš Janáček and his pupil Pavel Haas, as well as Josef Bohuslav Foerster’s Wind Quintet in D major, one of the few Romantic quintets there are.
Oto Reiprich: All the pieces we have included on the album have been in our repertoire for quite a long time, we have regularly performed them at our concerts. That was one of the reasons why we have chosen these particular works.

What do you think these compositions have in common and what aspects make them different?
Jan Souček: We have selected three pieces that came into being within a mere two decades, yet they starkly differ as regards the style. When composing his Quintet in D major, Foerster was 50 years of age, so we can say that he was at the zenith of his creativity. Janáček wrote his sextet “Youth” when he was in his 70s, while Haas was only 30 when he composed his Wind Quintet. The narrow time range within which the works were written has given rise to the album’s coming across as an interesting whole, even though the individual pieces are stylistically contrastive.

Which of the featured compositions was the greatest challenge for you?
Oto Reiprich: I think it was Foerster’s Quintet. It was definitely the most challenging for me in technical terms.

Jan Souček: I would say it is because of the symphonic score. Even though Foerster possessed high instrumentation skills, he wrote the quintet in a very “piano” manner, with the parts not overly going into the hands of the individual instruments. Therefore, they are extremely difficult to play. Noteworthy is the fact that Foerster composed the Quintet in 1909 to commission for a virtuoso ensemble formed by members of the Wiener Philharmoniker, and upon Gustav Mahler’s direct recommendation.

Could you reveal to us how you got together to set up your ensemble?
Kateřina Javůrková: The idea of establishing a quintet was put forth by my brother and his classmate, when they enrolled at the music grammar school in Prague. And as at the time Ondřej Šindelář, our bassoonist, was studying with Ondřej Roskovec, a member of the Afflatus Quintet, we were very lucky to have received from him the best start.
Oto Reiprich: While still students, all of us really liked the Afflatus Quintet, and when we were admitted to the Prague Conservatory, most of us became students of the Afflatus Quintet’s members. I was given lessons by Roman Novotný, while Ondřej Šindelář was taught by Ondřej Roskovec. Subsequently, we enrolled at the Academy of Performing Arts, where Kateřina Javůrková studied with Radek Baborák for some time, and Jan Souček with Jana Brožková.
Jan Souček: I would like to point out an interesting thing – the majority of wind ensembles only get together at the moment when their members have launched their professional careers or have finished their studies at academies, whereas we (to be more precise, almost all of us, as since the ensemble’s fou­ndation two of our players have been replaced) have been together since the time of our conservatory studies. Kateřina Javůrková was actually still a pupil of a primary art school when she set up the quintet. I don’t think that it is entirely common. As a matter of fact, everything began with our friendship, and the professional musical ambition only emerged during our studies.

Most of you play with leading Czech and international symphony orchestras. How much time do you have for giving joint concerts?
Oto Reiprich: We are currently more time-pressed than when we were still students. Owing to our duties resulting from performing with orchestras, all of us are much busier. We strive to encompass the majority of our ensemble concerts within four to five blocs a season, during which we have the time and opportunity to work together, rehearse and give concerts with great intensity. Furthermore, every summer we get together to rehearse the repertoire for the next season.

How do you select the repertoire for your concerts?
Jan Souček: If the organisers give us free rein, we have in store several programme variants. We perform a cross-section of the repertoire for our type of ensemble, ranging, chronologically, from music by Antonín Rejcha, the founder of the wind quintet, to contemporary pieces. Our programmes include works of the French repertoire, which is the most extensive for quintet. We regularly perform Czech music, as well as 20th-century pieces and arrangements of well-known opuses. And we also like to present programmes with the piano, so we regularly perform with Lukáš Klánský.

When it comes to arrangements of well-known pieces, could you mention a few that you have included in your repertoire?
Jan Souček: We most frequently play Dvořák’s famed String Quartet No. 12, the “American”, as splendidly arranged by the French oboist David Walter. There are numerous arrangements we have performed, from Mozart to symphonic pieces. So as to keep our repertoire variegated and intriguing, we simply have to include arrangements. Yet our programmes are predominantly made up of original works, and one arrangement within an evening suffices.

Will you be performing the music featured on the present album at your concerts?
Oto Reiprich: In the near future, we will appear in Birmingham, subsequently we are scheduled to give concerts at the Radio France festival in Montpellier. In the autumn, we will make a tour of Japan. In February 2018, we will visit Hamburg, where we will perform at the new Elbphilharmonie hall with a Czech chamber music project, along with the Benewitz Quartet and the pianist Lukáš Vondráček.

Artists certainly have plenty of music in their heads that they would like to record. Could you reveal to us what will be your next recording project?
Oto Reiprich: We would like to make another album featuring Czech music. At the present time, we are seeking and pondering which of the contemporary composers to address.

Kateřina, how do you feel as the one and only woman in an otherwise male ensemble?
Kateřina Javůrková: I feel great. As a horn player, I am used to being surrounded by men. Yet it is different with the Belfiato Quintet, as we are like a family. We have played together since we were very young and we know virtually everything there is to know about each other. We also spend plenty of time together without our instruments, we are a good bunch of friends. One girl in the ensemble is enough, I think :-).

Kateřina, given your busy schedule, how difficult is it for you to find time for the Belfiato Quintet? And what role has the ensemble played in your artistic career?
Kateřina Javůrková: Of course, we have to plan our concerts with respect to the Czech Philharmonic, but my wonderful colleagues in the orchestra have many a time made it possible for me to give preference to the Belfiato Quintet, which is a highly personal matter to me. In general, I find performing chamber music more satisfactory than playing solo. I simply enjoy working with a collective more than on my own. So I am really lucky to be a member of a permanent ensemble that has been operating for over a decade. In my professional life, the Belfiato Quintet clearly occupies a prominent position.

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© Photo taken by Tomáš Hejzlar

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