Tomáš Strašil was born in Prague in 1971. He displayed musical talent from his early childhood; he began to play the violoncello at the age of five, initially at LŠU Voršilská under Professor J. Pražák and later at the Prague Conservatoire in Professor P. Sádlo’s class. He continued his studies at the Academy of the Performing Arts in Prague under the tutelage of Associate Professor R. Lojda. During his last year at the Conservatoire, he was active as a tutti player in the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz. After being accepted to the Academy of Performing Arts (1991), he completed a number of courses with personalities such as: A. Ariscuren, M. Roche, P. Wiespelway, A. May, F. Smetana, E. Rattay, J. Chuchro and others. He is the holder of honorary mentions from the Beethoven’s Hradec competition and he was a finalist in the 1994 Prix Mercury – Semmering competition.
In 1994-2000, he was the concertmaster in the Suk Chamber Orchestra. He recorded his debut album of Josef Haydn’s C Major cello concerto in cooperation with Josef Suk and the SCO. He soon began to perform as a soloist and chamber player at core festivals and he has cooperated with significant Czech and international orchestras.
Tomáš Strašil has not only devoted himself to solo playing, but also to playing in chamber ensembles. With the arrival of the new millennium, he left his post as the concertmaster at the SCO and has since fully dedicated himself to solo work, chamber music and teaching activities; he has passed on his experience to young cellists as the Professor of Cello Playing at the Conservatoire in Prague since 2000. In 2002, he put together a small chamber orchestra called Camerata Bohemica, where he performs the role of the permanent soloist and the artistic director. He is a frequent guest in recording studios and a lecturer on domestic and international courses. He has taught at the Faculty of Education at Charles University since 2003 and at the Academy of the performing Arts in Prague since 2012.
The cellist Tomáš Strašil plays instruments signed “Pietro Zanetto di Brescia 1686” and “Andreas Carolus Leeb fecit Viennae 1818 No. 3”, while he uses an instrument made by an anonymous Czech craftsman from the 18th century for baroque music and a new cellos made by the master craftsman Radek Herout (2003 and 2007) for modern music.
How was your first encounter with the Concertino Praga competition?
I have been aware of the existence of the competition ever since I was young. Even as a boy, I greatly appreciated the fact that we have such competitions at home and I followed their results. Even though I did not have the opportunity to actively participate in the competition myself, I later had an opportunity to participate in the preparations for some competition performances as a teacher and I cheered everyone on with all my might.
What type of music do you personally like the most?
Naturally, I love classical music which is why I have also devoted my professional life to my favourite authors such as Dvořák, Brahms, Schubert and Bach, but also Luboš Sluka, Bohuslav Martinů and Josef Suk, for example. The more composers I name, the more injustice I do to those who I am unable to mention.
How do you view artistic competitions and the objectivity of the judging of the performances?
This is why there are always several members on the jury, so that the jury’s conclusion is as objective as possible. It is not always possible to measure in music who was highest or who went furthest and it is not important to know who was fastest like on a racetrack. In music, it is all about feeling, phrasing, intonation and technical skill. The evaluations of the individual jury members may differ in many things. However, in my experience, the jury usually marks convincing performances similarly within a minimum spread of points.
What do you think about the anonymous method of judging the recordings in comparison with the judging of the live performances?
I think that this is a good way of doing things. The first round of many significant international competitions is also done like this, for example. It is a very objective method.
What do you feel is the greatest benefit of music competitions for young musicians?
It is strong motivation, inspiration to choose and come to grips with a new repertoire, a chance for a collegial meeting with peers with the same focus and with the professional elite in one’s given field, an opportunity to make friends, to acquire experience and knowledge for further personal development and artistic growth and to make an objective evaluation of one’s options. Even though competitions are definitely not for everybody and they cannot be taken as the sole gauge of the quality of a young musician, their benefit for those who decide to compete is undisputed.