Czech Republic’s Bennewitz Quartet
will perform in Yellow Springs

Bennewitz Quartet members (L-R) Štěpán Ježek, Štěpán Doležal, Jakub Fišer,
and Jiří Pinkas are a classically balanced team

By Tim Smith 

The Bennewitz Quartet is one of the top international chamber ensembles, a status confirmed not only by their victories in two prestigious competitions, but also by the acclaim of critics and music aficionados. They’ll be appearing on Feb. 11 at the First Presbyterian Church in Yellow Springs. The performance is sponsored by Chamber Music in Yellow Springs.

The quartet performs at major venues both in the Czech Republic and internationally, and is regularly invited to festivals such as the Salzburger Festspiele, Luzerne Festival, and the Prague Spring.

The current members are Jakub Fišer (1st violin), Štěpán Ježek (2nd violin), Jiří Pinkas (viola), and Štěpán Doležal (violoncello). The Dayton City Paper spoke with Štěpán Ježek from his home in the Czech Republic. He explained how the quartet came to be.

“We met at the Music Academy in Prague where we had all studied together,” he says. “However, in the initial years the players in the ensemble kept changing. It took us three seasons to get to the final combination by our recent viola player joining us in 2001. We have played since then with no changes until 2013, when our first violinist left us. That was the last change we had. As a matter of fact, I am now the last member of the original group, who witnessed the very beginning of it.”

The Bennewitz Quartet was founded in 1998, and they are named after violinist Antonín Bennewitz (1833-1926), who was a seminal figure in the creation of the Czech violin school. The Quartet especially enjoys playing and performing on the Czech domestic music scene. The quartet uses their choice of repertoire and concert programming to actively promote Czech music, including neglected composers.

“It is true that listeners react differently in each part of the world,” Ježek says. “In general, we find it nicer to play in the places where audiences don’t think of themselves as being very sophisticated. It is easier to play for people who come to the concerts with not much prejudice, be it positive or negative. The listeners who consider themselves knowledgeable usually come to the concerts in order to compare. It is much nicer though to play for people who come to listen. In that sense, it is not important where the concert takes place.”

The Quartet tours extensively, averaging fifty to sixty performances a year, mostly in the Czech Republic and Europe. Their performance in Yellow Springs marks their first Ohio appearance. 

“We are really looking forward to coming to Ohio, where we have never been before,” Ježek says. “We will be happy to get to know everyone and spend some nice moments chatting with the people after the concert with a nice cup of tea or a glass of wine.”

Ježek notes that the members of the Bennewitz Quartet have used their fame and reputation to share their knowledge in various educational endeavors. 

“The first and second violinists both teach at the Music School and Highschool of Prague,” he says. “It is a school taking children from the age of 5 and giving them both general and music education up to the age of 18. It is a wonderful place to work and by teaching, one learns immensely. Besides that, we have our own master-classes in Holland in a nice and remote country place, where we go almost every year. We also take part in various Summer Academies.”

The Quartet has participated in numerous competitions and has won awards for their efforts. Ježek points out the positive impact these honors have had on the Quartet’s career. 

“It is clear that from the point of view of career, it was the Premio Paolo Borciani competition that had the biggest influence,” he says. “As the first prize winner, we got 50 concerts across Europe, the USA, and Japan. On top of that, it got us in touch with the important artistic agencies, which is very important for an international concert career. I like to remember our very first competition. We had no idea what we were heading into, we were totally green. Out of our total ignorance, we had chosen ARD Munich as our first try-out. Only later did we understand that it actually is one of the hardest competitions, with four rounds and tons of difficult repertoire. It was an incredibly intense time with utmost concentration—something one cannot really repeat with all the distractions of real life.”

The members of the Quartet hope that audiences come away from their performances with a new or renewed appreciation for the true chamber music classics.

“It would be wonderful if the music touches the people and leaves them with some new ideas, questions, feelings, or perspectives,” Ježek says. “Listening to a new piece of music is, for me, quite a similar experience as reading a book or meeting a person. One comes out with wider horizons. What kind of horizons, that depends on the particular piece of art you get to know or kind of a person you happen to meet.”

The Bennewitz Quartet will be presented by Chamber Music in Yellow Springs on Feb. 11, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs, 314 Xenia Ave. At 6:45, a pre-concert lecture will be presented to discuss the music to be performed that evening. Tickets are $25.00 for general admission and $7.00 for students. For tickets or more information, visit , or call 937.374.8800. More information about the Bennewitz Quartet can be found at their website,

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at

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