Chichester: Quartet proud of their Czech heritage

The Wihan Quartet continues to fly the flag for Czech music as they celebrate their 30th anniversary this year

They offer the next concert in the Chichester Chamber Concerts series in the Assembly Room in the Chichester Council House in North Street on Thursday, March 19 at 7.30pm (tickets 01243 781312).

Wihan Quartet

Wihan Quartet

Leoš Čepický (violin), Jan Schulmeister (violin), Jacub Čepický (viola) and Aleš Kaspřík (cello) offer Mozart – String Quartet in D minor K421; Smetana –String Quartet No 1 From my Life; and Beethoven – String Quartet in F Op.59 No 1.

As Leoš says, they are proud of their heritage, the fact they are part of the great Czech tradition of music-making.

“When we are abroad, many promoters ask if we could play Czech music, one piece in our programmes. I have to say we are very happy to do that. We try to show people what wonderful music Czech music is because I have to say not enough people know Czech music very well. Mostly people know Smetana or Janacek, but many people don’t know those names at all.”

The UK is a regular and popular place for the quartet: “We play there about eight times a year, I would say. We won the London String Competition in 1991, and from that we have a real affection for England. Our agent is from London and looks after us very efficiently in the UK, and we can still find a few places in the UK we haven’t played before.

“It’s our 30th anniversary which is a bit crazy, but we are very glad we can still play together after so long. We stopped playing with our viola player last March after many years, and from that we have taken on a new member, which is a crazy situation as well! It is my son. It is not very usual for father and son to play together in the same group. Normally you can find brothers and sisters playing together, but not so often father and son. But I have to say it works very well.

“I teach him at the Academy. He has studied for six years in Prague, and he is finishing his studies this year. There is no musical difference for us. The other two players like him very much.”

The quartet grew out of the Academy for the Performing Arts in Prague: “We were very happy we could play together. It was a very good school, and after the London competition, we had the opportunity to study with other people.”

Since then, they have developed an impressive international career, making highly-acclaimed tours of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan and are frequent visitors to the Wigmore Hall in London.

Part of their success, Leoš believes, is that especially for eastern European musicians, there were big opportunities to be enjoyed.

But as he says, the downside is competition: “When you are in a quartet, a lot of times people have to explore other possibilities as well, such as playing in an orchestra, if they want to make their living at it. You can find many excellent quartets around, and it can be quite difficult to find a good agent and to make being in a quartet your main job.”

Leoš combines the quartet with teaching work: “I can be sure that if anything happened, I would have the teaching, which is important.”