Josef Špaček

Violin

Praised for his remarkable range of colours, his confident and concentrated stage presence, his virtuosity and technical poise as well as the beauty of his tone Josef Špaček has gradually emerged as one of the leading violinists of his generation. His performances of a wide range of repertoire demonstrate his “astonishing articulation and athleticism” (The Scotsman) and “a richness and piquancy of timbre.” (The Telegraph).

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Praised for his remarkable range of colours, his confident and concentrated stage presence, his virtuosity and technical poise as well as the beauty of his tone Josef Špaček has gradually emerged as one of the leading violinists of his generation. His performances of a wide range of repertoire demonstrate his “astonishing articulation and athleticism” (The Scotsman) and  “a richness and piquancy of timbre.” (The Telegraph).

He appears with orchestras including the Orchestre de Paris, the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, the Bamberger Symphoniker, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the WDR Sinfonieorchester, the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique du Capitole de Toulouse, the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI Torino, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, SWR-Symphonieorchester, Robert-Schumann-Philharmonie, Bochumer Symphoniker, the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, the Symfonieorkest Vlaanderen and the Kammerakademie Potsdam.

Highlights in the 2023/24 season include debuts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Jakub Hrůša, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Nathalie Stutzmann, the Dutch Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Tomáš Netopil, the BBC Philharmonic and Anja Bihlmaier, as well as a residency with the Residentie Orchestra The Hague with Anja Bihlmaier and Jun Märkl. 

Josef Špaček collaborates with eminent conductors such as Jakub Hrůša, Semyon Bychkov, Manfred Honeck, Thomas Adès, Krzysztof Urbański, James Gaffigan, James Conlon, Maxim Emelyanchev, the late Jiří Bělohlávek, Petr Popelka, Thomas Søndergård, Cornelius Meister, Michael Sanderling, David Zinman, Eliahu Inbal, Tomáš Netopil, Pietari Inkinen, Marc Albrecht, Aziz Shokhakimov, Christian Vasquez, Sylvain Cambreling, Jahja Ling  and Lio Kuokman.

He equally enjoys giving recitals and playing chamber music and is a regular guest at festivals and in concert halls throughout Europe (among others at the Rudolfinum in Prague, the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ in Amsterdam, the Kronberg Academy, the Evian Festival, the Kaposfest and at Schloß Elmau), Asia and the USA (among others at Kennedy Center, Washington D.C., 92Y in New York,  La Jolla in San Diego, the ChamberFest Cleveland and the Nevada Chamber Music Festival). In the summer of 2021 he made highly successful debuts at the Verbier Festival and Leif Ove Andsnes’ Rosendal Festival.

With cellist Timotheos Gavriilidis-Petrin and pianist George Xiaoyuan Fu he forms the Trio Zimbalist.

Other chamber music partners include Gil Shaham, Kian Soltani, James Ehnes, Clemens Hagen, Julian Steckel, Gerhard Oppitz, Noah Bendix-Balgley, Máté Szücs, Miroslav Sekera, Tomáš Jamník, Federico Colli, Sharon Kam, Kristóf Baráti, Zoltan Fejervari and Suzana Bartal.

Josef Špaček has made several recording for Supraphon. His latest album was released in 2023 and includes the concerto for violin, piano and orchestra by Martinů, played with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and Petr Popelka, coupled with works for violin and piano by the same composer, with pianist Miroslav Sekera. Previous recordings include an album with cellist Tomáš Jamník with works for violin and cello by Janáček, Martinů, Schulhoff and Klein, including a transcription of Janáček’s string quartet no. 1 for violin/cello duo, as well as a highly praised recording of the violin concertos of Dvořák and Janáček, coupled with the Fantasy of Suk, with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek. The Sunday Times wrote: “The violinist’s individual, deeply considered and virtuosic account of Dvorak’s solo part is the highlight of this keenly conceived programme”, adding that “in this repertoire, Špaček is second to none today.” It was the “Recording of the week” of The Sunday Times, “Recording of the month & of the year” of MusicWeb International and it received 5* in Diapason. Other recordings to date are a recital disc with works for violin and piano by Smetana, Janáček and Prokofiev with pianist Miroslav Sekera (Supraphon), works for violin solo and violin and piano by H.W. Ernst (Naxos) and an early CD with the complete Sonatas for Solo Violin by Eugène Ysaÿe.

Josef Špaček studied with Itzhak Perlman at The Juilliard School in New York, Ida Kavafian and Jaime Laredo at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and with Jaroslav Foltýn at the Prague Conservatory. He was laureate of the International Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, and won top prizes at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in New Zealand, the Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition in Denmark and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York.

He served as concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the youngest in its history. The orchestra named him “Associate Artist” as of January 2016. He held this post until the end of the 2019/20 season and has since devoted himself exclusively to his solo career.

Josef Špaček performs on the ca. 1732 “LeBrun; Bouthillard” Guarneri del Gesù violin, generously on loan from Ingles & Hayday.

He lives in Prague with his wife and their three children. In his spare time he enjoys cycling.

Representation

General Management: Nymus Artists
Germany, Austria, Switzerland: Intermusica
Japan: Amati Tokyo
China: Armstrong Music and Arts

Concerts

  • July 23, 2024, 7:30 pm
    Verbier (Bagnes)
    Église de Verbier
    Verbier Festival
    Viola: Lars Anders Tomter, Cello: Edgar Moreau, Piano: Lucas Debargue
    Chausson – Piano Quartet in A major, op. 30

    https://www.verbierfestival.com
  • July 24, 2024, 7:30 pm
    Verbier (Bagnes)
    Église de Verbier
    Verbier Festival
    Viola: Blythe Teh Engstroem, Piano: Yunchan Lim, Cello: Pablo Ferrández
    Dvořák – Piano Quartet no. 2 in E flat major, op. 87

    https://www.verbierfestival.com
  • July 26, 2024, 7:30 pm
    Verbier (Bagnes)
    Église de Verbier
    Verbier Festival
    Cello: Kian Soltani, Piano: Lucas Debargue, Viola: Lars Anders Tomter
    Fauré – Piano Quartet no. 2 in g minor, op. 45

    https://www.verbierfestival.com
  • July 28, 2024, 2:30 pm
    Verbier, Switzerland
    Salle des Combins
    Verbier Festival
    Orchestra: Verbier Festival Junior Orchestra, Conductor: James Gaffigan
    Barber – Violin Concerto, op. 14

    https://www.verbierfestival.com
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Reviews

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“The programme sandwiched Beethoven’s Violin Concerto conducted by Joshua Weilerstein and played by Josef Spacek, a man who fully justifies…” →“The programme sandwiched Beethoven’s Violin Concerto conducted by Joshua Weilerstein and played by Josef Spacek, a man who fully justifies his reputation as a rising star, giving a virile reading that knew when to be lyrical but kept moving.” ←
– classical-musik.uk, 05/04/2023
“Warum Hrůša international als Experte fürs Böhmische gefeiert wird, verstand man vor allem in der zweiten Hälfte des knapp siebzigminütigen,…” →“Warum Hrůša international als Experte fürs Böhmische gefeiert wird, verstand man vor allem in der zweiten Hälfte des knapp siebzigminütigen, ohne Pause durchgespielten Programms. In der ersten stiehlt ihm hingegen der Solist des Abends die Show. Der Geiger Josef Špaček würzt Antonín Dvořáks Violinkonzert op. 53 nämlich mit jener so schwierig zu dosierenden Prise musikantischem Übermut, der auch schon einmal fünfe gerade sein lässt, aber umso mitreissender die folkloristischen Wurzeln von Dvořáks herrlichen Melodien offenlegt. Bei den elegischen Kantilenen auf der G- und der D-Saite kommt im Mittelsatz noch ein Schuss Melancholie dazu. Das Tonhalle-Orchester braucht ein wenig, um auf dieselbe glühende Betriebstemperatur zu kommen, das Tutti klingt anfangs etwas erdenschwer.” ←
– Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 30/04/2021
“Mendelssohnʼs Violin Concerto in E minor gave Špaček an opportunity to show a brilliant combination of technical prowess and emotional…” →“Mendelssohnʼs Violin Concerto in E minor gave Špaček an opportunity to show a brilliant combination of technical prowess and emotional expression. Špaček walked a fine line in this performance, balancing tenderness with intelligence, reaching deep for feeling without slipping into sentimentality. His animated body language added flair to agile runs, as if he were gliding through the music. Netopilʼs expertise as an opera conductor came to the fore in the accompaniment. He and Špaček set up just a few feet apart, so they could watch and take cues from each other. The result was a seamless melding of style and sound, with the orchestra showcasing soulful solo work. Their romp to an effervescent finish added a satisfying sparkle.” ←
– Bachtrack, 22/12/2020
“There are plenty of technical hurdles in the concerto (Martinů no. 2), including a short cadenza in each movement, yet…” →“There are plenty of technical hurdles in the concerto (Martinů no. 2), including a short cadenza in each movement, yet Špaček dispatched all with effortless panache. He subtly illuminated the tough and serious first movement with shafts of light, convincingly sweetened his tone for the lyricism of the intermezzo-like Andante moderato, and gave a dazzling display in the exhilarating finale. Zinman ensured strong playing from the ASO, never letting the attention slip, whether in the sunny introduction of the Andante moderato, or the stern buildups in the first movement. Špaček clearly conquered the Antwerp audience and announced with a smile the composer of his encore: Eugène Ysaÿe, delighting us once more with a riveting account of the Danse rustique from his Fifth Sonata.” ←
– Bachtrack, 05/05/2019
““Is he any good?” my neighbour asked worriedly. “I really wanted to see Tetzlaff.” He was referring to violinist Josef…” →““Is he any good?” my neighbour asked worriedly. “I really wanted to see Tetzlaff.” He was referring to violinist Josef Špaček, standing in for an indisposed Christian Tetzlaff as just one of two replacement performers in the SCO’s vivid, energetic concert. Špaček might be a less starry name than Tetzlaff, but he clearly has a musical personality every bit as strong and distinctive – and yes, in a beautifully lyrical, sharply defined Violin Concerto by his compatriot Dvořák, he was very good indeed. Špaček took the outer movements at quite a lick, but he was almost nonchalant about the Concerto’s showy pyrotechnics. He summoned a remarkable range of colours from his strongly projected Guarneri “del Gesù” instrument, and he delivered an account of the folksy finale so buoyant and translucent that it was hard not to be swept up in its enthusiasm. His encore – the finale from Ysaÿe’s Second Sonata – only served to demonstrate further his astonishing articulation and athleticism.” ←
– The Scotsman, 17/03/2018
“Ce grand jeune homme vif et sympathique venait se confronter à l’un des concertos pour violon les plus exigeants du…” →“Ce grand jeune homme vif et sympathique venait se confronter à l’un des concertos pour violon les plus exigeants du répertoire romantique, celui d’Antonin Dvořák. … Les difficultés accumulées n’intimident visiblement pas Josef Špaček qui se lance dans ce défi avec une énergie, une volonté, une virtuosité sans faille, lesquelles mobilisent tout son corps. Le violoniste danse autant qu’il joue cette pièce, avec une élégance naturelle. La clarté de sa sonorité passe aisément celle d’un orchestre très présent et dirigé avec vigueur et relief par Thomas Søndergård. Le soliste occupe tout l’ambitus, jusqu’aux extrêmes aigus avec la même ardeur. Le premier volet de la partition, constitué de l’enchaînement des deux premiers mouvements, est ainsi parcouru comme un conte épique, alternant les épisodes dramatiques et les plages de nostalgie caractéristiques de la « mitteleuropa ». Le violoniste n’élude aucune des difficultés accumulées par le compositeur : doubles cordes, sons harmoniques, trilles diaboliques sont restitués avec panache. Le final, Allegro giocoso ma non troppo, est pris au pied de la lettre. Le soliste et l’orchestre dialoguent sur un rythme de danse d’une jubilation contagieuse. Jusqu’à cette coda conclusive qui semble libérer toute l’énergie accumulée. C’est une acclamation unanime qui salue la performance. Rappelé avec insistance, Josef Špaček offre un bis tout aussi virtuose : le final de la Sonate n° 2 d’Eugène Ysaÿe « Obsession », parcouru du thème obsédant du Dies Irae. Frisson assuré !”” ←
– Classictoulouse, 16/02/2018
“Musicista dall’innata cantabilità, sorretta da una cavata di grande profondità e da un’intonazione vibrante e sicura, a Špaček sembra andare…” →“Musicista dall’innata cantabilità, sorretta da una cavata di grande profondità e da un’intonazione vibrante e sicura, a Špaček sembra andare un po’ stretto lo stile del Mozart più saldamente ancorato alla tradizione settecentesca quale è quello dei giovanili concerti per violino. La sua visione, comunque bilanciata nei passi concertati con l’orchestra, si libera appieno nelle tre cadenze alla fine di ogni movimento, con una libertà nel fraseggio che sarebbe parsa inaudita ai tempi dell’autore, ma oggi apprezzabile nel suo anelito a una rivisitazione in chiave contemporanea di una prassi esecutiva talvolta paludata in un eccessivo rigore filologico. Nell’attesa di ascoltarlo ancora in un opus magnum dell’Otto-Novecento non abbiamo potuto non riconoscere la sua versatilità anche nei due bis concessi a una sala trascinata dalla sua esuberanza giovanile e dal suo sorriso aperto, in grado di contagiare i presenti con l’entusiasmo di far musica. Tra uno sbalorditivo Ysaÿe (Les furies) con la sua ripetuta citazione del Dies irae e un più angelico Bach (Sarabanda dalla seconda partita in re minore) si fa strada la convinzione di trovarsi di fronte a un nome che potrà essere uno dei protagonisti assoluti del concertismo dei prossimi anni.” ←
– L'Ape musicale, 03/06/2017