Column Hall, 1st Castle Courts

Nocturne in tribute to the cello virtuoso and composer Antonín Kraft

Miroslav Vilímec - violin
Dominika Weiss Hošková - cello
Jiří Hošek - cello


JOSEPH HAYDN (1732–1809): 
Duo for Two Cellos in D major No. 1, Hob. X: 11
Finale. Presto 

ANTONÍN KRAFT (1749–1820)
Duo for Violin and Cello in C major
Rondo. Allegro 

ANTONÍN KRAFT (1749–1820): 
Sonata for Two Cellos, Op. 1, No. 1 in C major 
Allegro moderato
Rondo. Allegro 


ANTONÍN KRAFT (1749–1820): 
Grand Duo for Violin and Cello in D minor, Op. 3 No. 1
Adagio Maestoso. Allegro ma non tanto
Adagio cantabile
Finale. Allegretto

Divertimento pro smyčcové trio Es-Dur, K. 563


The Wiener allgemeine Musikalische-Zeitung issue published on 28 August 1841 contains a brief note: “In 1820, Antonín Kraft, the first cellist of Prince Lobkowitz’s orchestra, died in Vienna at the age of 70. He studied composition with Haydn and contemporary musicians highly regarded his works.” The two short sentences in the newspaper’s column titled “Historical Hindsight” actually refer to a wrong date of his birth, thus making Kraft three years younger. Regrettably, on the basis of obsolete lexicons, this misinformation has been used to this day. Another error appearing in some historical sources is the claim that Kraft wrote Joseph Haydn’s Concerto for Cello in D major, which Haydn actually composed for Kraft, his colleague in Prince Esterházy’s orchestra. This misassumption, evidently caused by mistaking the prepositions “for” and “from”, was only undone in the middle of the 20th century. Nevertheless, we can surmise that Kraft co-created the solo part of Haydn’s piece. Kraft’s cello artistry was commended by Ludwig van Beethoven and other of his contemporaries. Kraft has also bequeathed us a small number of his own, valuable works, most of them written for his instrument.

Antonín (Anton) Kraft was born on 30 December 1749 in Rokycany, Bohemia. He received his initial musical training from his father, a brewer by profession and an amateur musician, who hoped that his son would attain a higher social status. After completing his secondary school studies, in 1769 Antonín Kraft enrolled at the Prague University, while he further honed his skills with Franz J. Werner, the cellist of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. He went on to study in Vienna, where in 1778 he was appointed first cellist of Prince Paul II Anton von Esterházy’s orchestra, whose member he would remain until 1790, when, after the death of Nikolaus I Joseph, the ensemble was dissolved. Kraft and Haydn, who from 1766 was the orchestra’s Kapellmeister, inspired each other – Kraft’s style was markedly influenced by Haydn’s music, while Haydn was stimulated by Kraft’s aptitude as a performer. Joseph Haydn’s Duo for Two Cellos in D major is one of the numerous cassations and divertimenti for a variety of instrumental configurations, which were composed for regular performances at the Esterházy Palace in Eisenstadt and at the Esterháza chateau in Burgenland, built in 1760. Haydn wrote his Duo around 1770, eight years before Kraft joined Esterházy’s orchestra. In all likelihood, Kraft performed the piece on many occasions and drew from it inspiration for his own works for the same instruments. He also played the baritone, a six-stringed instrument, of which Prince Esterházy was particularly fond of.

After the dissolution of Esterházy’s ensemble, Kraft served in Prince Anton Grassalkowich’s and Prince Joseph Lobkowitz’s orchestras, and he also performed for Prince Karl Lichnowsky and was a member of the Schuppanzigh Quartet, the very first ensemble of this kind to have given public concerts in Vienna. Shortly before his death, Kraft was named the first teacher of the cello playing at the Konservatorium der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna. His sons, Nicolaus (1778–1853) and Friedrich Anton (1807–1874), were also distinguished cellists.

In the 1780s, Antonín Kraft made several concert tours of Europe. In 1789, he met in Dresden Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with whom he gave a performance at the local court. In a letter to his wife Constanze in Vienna, Mozart wrote: “I played with Anton Teyber (who, as you know, is the court organist here) and Herr Kraft (the cellist of Prince Esterházy), who is here with his son. I myself contributed to the musical evening with a trio I wrote for Herr Puchberg. It was quite listenable.” Anton Teyber (1756–1822), hailed from a family befriended with the Mozarts, was named court organist in Dresden in 1787. Mozart’s letter pertains to the three musicians’ concert on 3 April 1789, at which they performed Mozart’s Divertimento for String Trio in E flat major, with Teyber playing the violin and Mozart the viola part. Mozart composed the piece at the end of the summer of 1788 for Michael Puchberg, his Masonic brother, who provided him financial support. In the above-cited letter, Mozart wrote that he received a “really beautiful case” for his performances at the Dresden court, although he failed to add that the case contained 100 ducats, which are mentioned in the Dresden court records. The self-same files also reveal that the reward for Antonín Kraft, who with his 11-year-old son Nikolaus performed “sonatas for two cellos”, was 50 ducats. The two pieces most likely included Kraft’s Sonata in C major from the Trois sonatas, Op. 1, published in 1790 in Berlin by J. J. Hummel. Kraft’s Trois grand duos concertants for violin and cello, Op. 3, was probably published in 1792 in Leipzig. A survived 1795 actuarial document attests to a performance Kraft gave with Anton Siegel, the violinist of Prince Lobkowicz’s orchestra, at the Schwarzenberg Palace in Vienna, while a period print of the composition is today kept within the Schwarzenberg musical archives. The term “basetl” in the Czech title of Kraft’s Duo for Violin and Cello in C major was still used in the middle of the 19th century, before the Italian word “cello” would take over.

Vlasta Reittererová

Miroslav Vilímec – violin

After garnering accolades at a number of competitions and completing his studies at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (in the class of V. Snítil, a pupil of Jaroslav Kocian), Miroslav Vilímec joined the first violin section of the Czech Philharmonic, where from 1982 to 1987 he was deputy concert master and in 1992 was appointed concert master. As a soloist, he has performed with all leading Czech orchestras, including the Czech Philharmonic. He gained great acclaim with his performances of Niccolò Paganini’s three-movement Concerto in D major and Jan Kubelík’s Concerto in B flat major No. 4, which he gave together with the celebrated Czech violinist Jan Kubelík under the baton of Václav Neumann. With the Czech Philharmonic, Vilímec has also performed Eduard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, Camille Saint-Saens’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor, Josef Suk’s Fantasy, W. A. Mozart’s Concerto in A major and other pieces, and has made a recording of Vilém Petrželka’s Violin Concerto. Vilímec is the artistic director of the Harmony Prague chamber orchestra. He and his brother, the pianist Vladislav Vilímec, have given joint performances of Jan Kubelík’s compositions. Furthermore, he has regularly collaborated with the accordionist Jarmila Vlachová and the harpist Jana Boušková. He, his wife Jitka Nováková and his son Libor Vilímec have performed as the Tre Violini ensemble. Miroslav Vilímec is the director of the Jan Kubelík Society, which he himself founded. He has organised the annual Music in the Plzeň Region Synagogues festival and led numerous master classes (e.g. within the International Music Academy in Plzeň). Miroslav Vilímec has also composed music of his own (the Paganini-inspired 24 Caprices, Bachaniniana, etc.). He plays Nicolas Lupot’s 1810 violin and Otakar František Špidlen’s instrument, made in 1920.

Dominika Weiss Hošková – cello

After completing her studies at the Prague Conservatory (with V. Jírovec and V. Kočí) and taking private lessons from Miloš Sádlo, Dominika Weiss Hošková enrolled at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, from which she graduated under the tutelage of her father Jiří Hošek. She also studied at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance (the cello with Zvi Plesser and chamber music with Avi Abramovic). In 2000, she became the youngest ever Czech participant in the Prague Spring International Music Competition. The Czech Music Fund granted her its scholarship for the best students, and in 2006 it included her among the most gifted young musicians. Dominika Weiss Hošková won Israel’s Competition in Memory of David Gritz and Rose Choron Chamber Music Competition (2009). She attended master classes led by Csaba Onczay, Jean-Marie Gamard, Dudu Sella, Zvi Plesser, Hilel Zori and Itzhak Perlman. She has regularly performed with distinguished Czech and Israeli orchestras, appeared at international festivals (Prague Spring, etc.) and given solo recitals. In 2010, the Senate of the Czech Republic awarded her the Silver Medal for enhancing the country’s good reputation and propagating its traditions in Israel.

Jiří Hošek – cello

Jiří Hošek studied at the Prague Conservatory (1970-75, with Pravoslav Sádlo-Páv) and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (1975-80, in the class of Miloš Sádlo). He was also trained at the Conservatoire de Paris (Bernard Michelin) and within the Summer Academy in Nice (1981). Moreover, he attended a number of master classes, including the Bartók seminar led by Lászlo Mezö in Szombathely, Hungary. From 1982 to 1986, he participated in the Czech Music Fund’s scholarship programme, studying with Alexander Večtomov and Josef Chuchro. Between 1986 and 1990, he was a freelance musician, mainly performing as a soloist. Jiří Hošek has received a number of prizes at prestigious international competitions (Prague Spring, etc.), and he has worked as an educator in Greece, Germany and other countries. From 1991 to 1996, he held the post of concert master of the cello section of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra; between 1994 and 2014, he taught at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. In March 1998, he was named a soloist of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. Jiří Hošek has made numerous CD, radio and television recordings, and he has also worked as a researcher and music organiser. His most recent performance at the Prague Spring International Music Festival was in 2014.