MgA. Štěpán Fílípek, PhD. /CZ/ - cellist, composer, publicist and organizer


MgA. Štěpán Fílípek, PhD. /CZ/ - cellist, composer, publicist and organizer

Aktuální kompoziční zdroje v žánru klavírního tria

Actual compositional resources in the piano trio genre




For over 250 years, the piano trio has been one of the most important genres in chamber music. Basics of the piano trio form were established by many authors of early classicism era, however a solid form of the genre set in particular the so-called leaders of "Viennese Classicism" Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Even in later years, the piano trio attracted great attention from composers (listing all would be worth a separate paper), while it is more than gratifying, that the genre has not been preserved, but is still developing in an interesting ways.



  1. About project 3 premieres for Solaris3


The first ideas leading to the long-term project "3 premieres for Solaris3" were created sometime at the end of 2017 on the initiative of members of the trio Solaris3, Anna Veverková, Štěpán Filípek and Martin Levický. The original intention of the project was a probe into the current potential of the piano trio genre, while three authors of an original and individual handwriting were commissioned: František Chaloupka, Lukáš Sommer a Jakub Rataj. During 2018, all compositions were completed, performed several times and recorded for Czech Radio. The project met with an interesting media response [1] , and foreign interest [2] , while its culmination will be the publishing of documentary CD at the Radioservis label in the autumn 2019.




  1. František Chaloupka – Piano Trio


The first of the authors who contributed their points of views over the current state of the piano trio genre is the Brno composer František Chaloupka (*1981). He studied composition at the Janáček Conservatory in Ostrava and Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno, where he achieved his doctoral degree. He completed internships at the Royal Conservatory in Hague, Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna, or at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. His works were performed by Ostrava philharmonic, Moravian philharmonic Olomouc, or Hradec králové philharmonic. Specialised ensembles at home and abroad were also interpreting his work: Ensemble Modern, Prague Modern, VENI Academy, The New Century Players Los Angeles, Dunami Ensemble. Wider international response raised to his composition Masin Gun - Seven Rituals for Purging the Czech Lands from the Spirit of Communism. It was premiered in december 2012 at the Musica Viva Festival in Munich and was recorded by the Bavarian Radio. In 2016 he released profile profiles 2CD Selected Works 2006–2015 and in 2018 – as Iszek Baraque – eponymous song album.


He wrote the following authorial commentary on his piano trio:


„ Although I often use extra-musical inspiration in my compositions (these are some "mythical" plans), or the principle of duality, In this piece I decided to review the genre of piano trio as such. The accent here is on sonorism, way of notation, micro-tempo manipulation in parts of individual players and the rubato differences. The extent how much are performers playing not together in rhythmic unison are prescribed and notated exactly, but the interpreters has within these preset limits the possibility to move freely, to express themselves.”


In the first part of the composition, the author widely uses the sound possibilities of the extended piano techniques, mainly in the corpus. Here example of flageolet technique, ie the left hand plays the key, the right one touches the tone on the string:




Another interesting element in composition is sophisticated use of the so-called "seagull effect" in the canon of violin and cello:




Highly interesting is Chaloupka’s approach to polytempo structures. He solves this instrumentation problem as follows:



  1. Lukáš Sommer – Xcape


Another composer, who contributed to the project with his work is Lukáš Sommer (*1984).  He has already created extensive orchestral scores (Concerto for harp and orchestra, Gala Violin – for eight violins and orchestra), vocal (Missa brevis, musical Sindibad) and chamber (Sonata for flute and piano, String quartets I,II). The specificity of Sommer's artistic activity is author's unique guitar recital, which finds its way both on home stages and abroad. In 2017 his composition for chamber orchestra La fine del Tempo won the international composers' competition Concorso Novaro in Florence, Italy. His music is increasingly appearing on stages abroad and is created by ordering reputable artists and ensembles - sir Nicholas Daniel, Camerata dei Fiori, Italian Saxophone Quartet, Carlo Jans, Gaia Sokoli and others. In 2018 was finished and premiered his oratorio Weave of Time, which was composed in occasion of 100 years anniversary of founding the Czechoslovakia.


„ I like the idea, that time, as we perceive it, does not exist. My favorite Czech philosopher Josef Zezulka even claims, that time exists in all potentialities as a finished work, that only revive in our lives and from the vast ways of destiny, which are already prepared for us, we always choose only one – by the quality of our decision. Piano trio Xcape arose from the need of some sort of inner "escape", but at the same time enchanted by this hidden multiplicity. Life can be literally intertwined with these side motives, dead ends, gropings, stepping on the spot, but it always leads to a higher-order unity.”


The overall picture of the composition consists of seven movements, of which there are three solo cadences of each instrument named Monolog I.-III. :



The use of quartertones in rhythmic unison creates a pleasant tension between the violin and the cello, Sommer used this element in the first  movement named HardBob:



The seventh movement named Nenia is in its cycle Coda of its kind. Combination of wide harmony of bass in piano part and  high flageolets of string evoke a look from "another world". Worth noting is the sixteenth and eighth motion in the middle voices of the piano part in the second layer:






  1. Jakub Rataj – ES.23


The last of the documented composers of the project, Jakub Rataj (*1984) is the author of orchestral, chamber and electroacoustic compositions. is work goes beyond the world of sound installations and performances inspired by the human body – by movement, breath, pulse and gestures. His compositions were performed at many concerts and festivals in Czech republic and abroad (France, Japan, Iran, Russia, Sweden, Spain, Austria and others), new compositions from him ordered for example Fama Q, Prague Modern, Low Frequency Trio, Orchestr Berg. He has worked with performers and ensembles like Quatuor TANA, Ostravská Banda, Matteo Cesari, Kifu Mitsuhashi, Pamelia Kurstin, Pierre Strauch, David Danel. His compositions have been performed by South-Bohemian Philharmonic, Pardubice Philharmonic, Soloist Novgorod. He has won a number of musical awards (among others main prize Nuberg 2014 a 2015) and artistic rezidences (Czech center: 2014 - Vienna, 2015 - Madrid, 2017 - Tokyo; VICC 2017 a 2019 - Visby). He has studied composition at Prague Academy HAMU under leading of Hanuš Bartoň (2010-15) and continued there from 2015 with his doctoral studies under leading of Luboš Mrkvička. In same year he has founded Ensemble Terrible - ensemble of young musicians working also at Prague HAMU. Since 2015 he is in engagement in Czech Radio as music director and sound engineer.

„Title of composition ES.23 carries on several levels concise picture of the work. Graphically, the number 23 is a distorted mirror of letters “ES” thus creating a transformed palindrome, which is reflected in the overall form of the composition.“ES” itself further indicates a central tone, number “2” two basic and contrasting musical planes - excessive, complex sound, sharply accented, almost aggressive on one side, quiet, fragile, static and gentle on the other. The next two characters “S” and “3” are a hidden dedication to the Solaris3 piano trio.“






During the composition Rataj extensively uses advanced techniques, here an example from the introduction:



The basic structural element of the trio is the contrast in alternation of ultrafast expression surfaces with long tones in low dynamics:






The final of the composition places considerable demands on all performers and is truly virtuous, what regard to requirements for performing of extended techniques:





  1. Interpretation experience


Although all members of the piano trio Solaris3 are experienced performers of contemporary music, it took considerable effort to process the new compositions, mutual creativity, and feedback with authors. In case of a composition by František Chaloupka some sections were even recomposed after the initial reading, which ultimately contributed greatly to the overall picture. Xcape by Lukáš Sommer is written in traditional compositional style, however, tuning the quarter-tone sections required great patience. Jakub Rataj's composition ES.23 proved to be the most difficult to interpreters. Fast changing of performing techniques required several months of reading and practising step by step in small sections, however, the resulting picture looks very compact.




  1. Evaluation of the indicated resources


Regarding the music forms, the most innovative can be described piece by Jakub Rataj, by shortening and extending the contrasting areas, he achieved seldom seen plasticity. However, there is a question, how many artists nowadays are able to fulfill virtuoso requirements in the piece. At the first sight Lukáš Sommer does not bring anything new in detail with his more or less classical musical thinking, on the other hand, the macro-form of his cycle works very well, what is a real rarity among authors of contemporary music. František Chaloupka works in his trio mainly with the colors of individual instruments and as a result he has a very nice overall sound shape.



  1. The future of the piano trio genre


The whole project of 3 premieres for Solaris3 showed, that the Piano Trio is still a living and evolving genre, that attracts the author‘s legitimate interest. Hopefully, this will be the case also in the next centuries, whether by the way of colored surfaces, the classical way, or ultra-virtuoso, as indicated František Chaloupka, Lukáš Sommer and Jakub Rataj.



[1] Veber Petr: 3 premiéry a jeden klasik (3 premieres and one classic); 7. 10. 2019;

[2] Performance of the project 3 premieres for Solaris3 during the festival So glingt die gegenwart! in Berlin. 9. 1. 2019

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