The International Record Review has described the Wihan Quartet from Prague as one of the best quartets in the world.
That is something to live up to. “I think it is because until recently all the four founder members have been playing together, practising together and more or less living together for thirty years,” says Jacub Čepický, the new member of the quartet and also the son of the violinist Leos Čepický. Jacub, who plays the viola, took over from Jiří Zigmund about eighteen months ago.
Asked if it is difficult to join such a close knit group, and one led by his father, Jacub answers with a laugh. “It has not been difficult at all. I’m the kind of person who loves a challenge and we all like and know each other, which made it easy for me. My father and I have often played together professionally and yes, he is my boss but also my father who I get on with really well.”
At present the quartet is in residence at Trinity College of Music in Greenwich and busy doing master classes for children as well as adult students and also performing regular concerts at the college. “It is something we really love,” says Jacub, “and that is another reason why we are working together with the Cavatina Trust, which has been a friend and supporter of the Wihan Quartet almost from the beginning. The Cavatina Trust, which gives inspirational concerts and master classes for young people, shares our desire to reach new audiences.”
At their concert in Dulwich Picture Gallery on 20 November, they will be performing the same programme they chose for their 30th anniversary concert at King’s Place in London last month. It will be an exciting mix of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. “We thought about some Czech composers such as Dvořák but our repertoire has always been very international.” Yet their recording of Dvořák op 30 was chosen as “Recording of the Year” by Music Web International and BBC Music said of their op 61 recording,” this is the finest recorded performance I have encountered to date.” It is not only their classical recordings which have been lauded, their CD of thirteen Beatles songs arranged by a Czech composer had the music critic Norman Lebrecht in raptures. He called it “edgy, intelligent and genre-bending arrangements superbly played.”
Since winning both First Prize and the Audience Award at the London International String Quartet Competition in 1991 the four members have travelled the world and picked up several more awards and prizes. The quartet consists of young Jacub and the three founder members Leos Čepický, who learnt to play the violin at six years of age and later spent six years at the Conservatoire in Pardubice, where he is now a Professor of Violin. And five years ago he was appointed Head of Strings at the Prague Academy of Performing Arts.
It was as a young student at the Academy he met Jan Schulmeister, second Violin, who comes from a famous musical family. His uncle Váša Černý was the founder of the famous Janáček Quartet and his great grandfather a fellow pupil with Dvořák. Aleš Kaspřík, the third founder member fell in love with the sound of the cello at the age of nine and it was his idea to form a quartet as he also studied at the Prague Academy of Performing Arts. Antonín Kohout of the famous Smetana Quartet became an early mentor and guide and no doubt it was Kaspřík’s suggestion to call the quartet after the renowned Czech cellist Hanuš Wihan, who died in 1920 and was considered the greatest cellist of his time.
There are still some tickets available for this quartet’s welcome return to Dulwich Picture Gallery. It promises to be a special evening.
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Friday 20 November 7.30pm
£20, £18 Friends, includes a glass of wine; under 18s £10
Phone: 020 8299 8750
Or from Friends Desk in the Gallery
This concert is arranged by Friends of Dulwich Picture Gallery