Smetana Trio, Czech Republic
Jitka Čechová, piano
Jan Talich, violin
Jan Páleníček, cello
The Smetana Trio, founded in the year 1934 by the legendary Czech pianist Josef Páleníček, is today one of the foremost Czech ensembles. In 2014 the Smetana Trio celebrates 80th jubilee of its foundation. It can be seen frequently on leading concert stages both in the Czech Republic (Prague Spring, Janáček May, Moravian Autumn, Concentus moraviae, Malá Strana Chamber Festivities) and abroad (France, Germany, Switzerland, Great Britain, Benelux, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Japan, Brazil, USA, Canada, South Korea, Egypt).
The Smetana Trio works with leading conductors (such as Libor Pešek, Serge Baudo, John Axelrod, Michael Boder, Tomáš Hanus, Stanislav Vavřínek) and Czech and foreign orchestras, including, for example the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra della Svizzera italiana Lugano, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Philharmonic, the ONPL Orchestra Nantes, the Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra Olomouc.
The Smetana Trio has made a number of recordings for Czech and international labels and has recorded regularly for Supraphon since 2000. This cooperation has brought a number of prestigious awards both at home and abroad – e.g. a CD with works by Smetana, Suk and Novák (Supraphon 2005) received prestigious awards from the French magazines Diapason and Le Monde de la musique. This recording was also chosen by the British BBC Music Magazine as its chamber music recording of the month in August 2005. Another Smetana Trio recording, this time works by Dvořák (Supraphon 2006), was again voted by the BBC Music Magazine as the best recording of the month in September 2006 and later received the BBC Music Magazine Chamber Award for 2007 and also the prestigious French Diapason D’Or. The recording of Trios by Tchaikovsky and Dvořák (Supraphon 2008) received the BBC Chamber recording of the month in December 2008. Other Supraphon recording project, released in autumn 2012, are complete piano trios by J. Brahms. The most recent recordings are with works by J. Brahms – 1st part of complete concertos (Double Concerto and Piano Concerto No.1 – TRIART Recording 2013) and complete recording of trios by Shostakovich and Ravel (Supraphon 2014) – MusicWeb International – recording of the month, June 2014. In 2015 the Smetana Trio recorded the new CD of the complete trios by B. Martinu, which received many international awards immediately – BBC MM Chamber Award 2017, BBC MM Recording of the month, Diapason d´Or, Sunday Times Recording of the week, TIP of the Harmonie etc.
The newest recording of the Smetana Trio with piano trios by Zemlinsky, Rachmaninov and Arensky (issued in March 2019) receives its first world awards already – BBC Music Magazine Chamber Choice (May 2019) and France Musique´s Disc du Jour – the 29th May 2019.
The Smetana Trio performed many times on international stages in last times – for example in France, where the Smetana Trio very successfully cooperated with Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire conducted by John Axelrod – 7 times Triple Concerto by Beethoven for 10 000 listeners. In recent times the Smetana Trio played for many festivals and concert series in Europe, America and Africa – for example in France – Cambrai, Chalon, Nice and Aix en Provence, in England – London and many further cities of Great Britain, in Germany – München, Würzburg, Tübingen, Festival Hohenloher Kultursommer, but also in the USA, Brazil, Switzerland, Italy, France and Egypt. In 2018 the Smetana Trio mediates its art to the audience in the Czech Republic – incl. Prague Spring Festival, in England – incl. prestigious Wigmore Hall in London, in Italy, Germany, Rumania and again in the USA – this time in 12 cities for example on renowned stages in Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego. In 2019 the Smetana Trio continues in its successful tour in the USA and Canada, playes many concerts in the Czech Republic, England – incl. the new concert at the Wigmore Hall, in Italy, Switzerland, Spain and South America.
Jitka Čechová completed her piano studies at Prague Conservatory under Jan Novotný and continued at the Academy of Performing Arts under Peter Toperczer. She completed her postgraduate studies under Eugen Indjic in Paris and Vitali Berzon in Freiburg, and took master classes under Rudolf Kehrer in Weimar, and Eugen Indjic and Lazar Berman in Piesťany.
She has been the laureate of numerous international competitions and the subject of critical acclaim as a soloist in many European countries as well as in South Africa, South America and Japan. She performs regularly on prestigious international stages and festivals both at home and abroad (Edinburgh, Graz, Paris, Frankfurt, Baden-Baden, the Bodensee Festival, Prague Spring, Ticino Musica etc.). For Jitka Čechová, chamber music is one of the essential elements of her musical identity. She has made a number of solo and chamber recordings for Czech and international labels. In 2014 she finished a large project of the complete piano works by Bedřich Smetana for Supraphon (8 CDs). Presently she is realizing the new recording project of the Czech Radio – the complete sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti. In the spring 2016 will be released the new CD of the complete 3 piano concertos and Concertino by Josef Páleníček with the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by R. Zollman and S. Vavrinek.
Violinist Jan Talich is known nowadays an exceptional figure not only on the Czech cultural scene, but also internationally recognised. In his rich career he is able to connect, at the highest level, his knowledge and experiences of several professions. He performs as a soloist, chamber player, conductor and pedagogue the world-over.
His longest path has been that of his solo career. Whilst still at the Prague Academy he won the both national and international competitions (Zagreb 89). These helped him begin his solo career, which lasts until today. He has performed with piano partners such as Itamar Golan, Gottlieb Wallish, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Jean Bernard Pommier. For 5 years he was a member of the Kubelík Trio, with whom he recorded the complete Czech writings for piano trio. He left to take up the post of first violinist of the Talich Quartet. The quartet, founded by his father in the year 1964, is one of the world’s best ensembles. During the 20 years of his time in the quartet they have performed regularly in the best concert halls of the world and have recorded tens of CDs.
Jan Páleníček studied at the Conservatory and the Academy of the Performing Arts in Prague under Saša Večtomov and Miloš Sádlo. Close contacts with Paul Tortelier, the world-famous French cellist, made for a happy culmination to his early development. He studied chamber music under his father, Josef Páleníček, and in the class of Josef Vlach – first violin in the legendary Vlach Quartet.
Participation in international competitions has brought Jan Páleníček numerous awards. As a soloist he plays regularly with leading Czech and international orchestras, including the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava, the Lugano Festival Orchestra (Switzerland), the Suk Chamber Orchestra, the Hradec Králové Symphony Orchestra, the Pardubice Chamber Philharmonic, the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, the Brno State Philharmonic, the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra (Germany), the Prague Philharmonia, the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra Olomouc, and the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic-Durban (South Africa). His concert tours have taken him not only to numerous Europe countries, but to America, Africa and Japan as well. He has made numerous recordings for both Czech and internationals labels, and for radio and television. His recordings of the sonatas of Brahms, Martinů, and Rachmaninov and the concertos of Dvořák, Tchaikovsky and Haydn have been exceptionally well received.
For a number of years he teached at the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.