"You could pick out strands of soloist Nikolaj Znaider's musical DNA - the sweetness of Fritz Kreisler, the muscularity of Zino Francescatti, and his own exquisite wisdom for setting off the poetic against the prosaic."
Peter Dobrin, Philly.com
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major KV 219
Symphony No. 5 in C Sharp Minor
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Czech Philharmonic
Principal Guest Conductor, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor Laureate, BBC Symphony (London)
Renowned Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek was appointed Music Director and Artistic Director of the Czech Philharmonic in 2012, following on from his successful tenure as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, of which he is now a Conductor Laureate. He was Chief Conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra (1977–89), Music Director of the Prague Philharmonia (1994–2004), was appointed President of the Prague Spring Festival in 2006. From 2013 to 2017, he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
In opera, he has collaborated with the Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, the Teatro Real Madrid, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Zurich Opera, and the National Theatre in Prague. He has also conducted and recorded several opera-in-concert presentations with the BBC Symphony, to great acclaim. Confirming his preeminence as the conductor of Janacek, this past season he conducted the Czech Phil in a concert presentation of Jenůfa at the London Royal Festival Hall, as well as in full production the San Francisco Opera. This was followed by a performance of Janacek The Makropulos Case with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
Under his leadership the Czech Philharmonic is enjoying unprecedented success both at home in Prague, and on extensive tours. Together they have toured in the past three seasons on three continents, including Europe, Asia and North America. Their recent residency in Vienna at the Musikverein was a great success, and has lead to similar events being planned in other world capitals. The Czech Philharmonic announced in January 2017 that their partnership with Maestro Bělohlávek is now officially extended to 2022!
In addition to his ongoing Prague seasons and touring engagements with the Czech, he continues to perform as a guest conductor with the world’s major orchestras, including recent appearances with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (including at the London Proms), New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Washington National Symphony, and Deutsches Symphony Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Vienna Symphony Orchestra. In the coming season, in addition to major projects with Czech Phil, he looks forward to engagements with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra Munich, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, St Petersburg Philharmonic, and more.
With the Czech Philharmonic, he will conduct a major Asian tour in Autumn 2017 with concerts in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, in addition to appearances on tour in Europe, the highlight of which will be a performance of Janáček Glagolitic Mass at the Salzburg Festival in August 2018.
Jiří Bělohlávek has recorded extensively, with recent projects with the Czech Philharmonic including the complete symphonies and concertos of Dvořák. The series with Decca continues in the coming season, when a major disc of Suk will be recorded.
In 2012 he was awarded an honorary CBE for his services to British music.
Nikolaj Znaider performs at the highest level as both conductor and virtuoso violin soloist with the world’s most-distinguished orchestras. He has been Principal Guest Conductor of the Mariinsky Orchestra Saint Petersburg since 2010, and was previously Principal Guest Conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.
Following a triumphant return to the BBC Proms with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Christian Thielemann, 2016/2017 season sees Znaider embark on a new project, recording all of the Mozart violin concertos, directed from the violin with the London Symphony. He has a particularly strong relationship with the LSO; an orchestra he conducts and performs as soloist with every season.
Both as conductor and as soloist, Znaider is interested in deepening his connections with key orchestras where he feels a special bond, working regularly with orchestras such as the Staatskapelle Dresden, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw, Detroit Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Washington National Symphony, and Munich Philharmonic orchestras.
Znaider’s extensive discography includes the Nielsen Concerto with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, Elgar Concerto in B minor with the late Sir Colin Davis and the Staatskapelle Dresden, award-winning recordings of the Brahms and Korngold concertos with Valery Gergiev and the Vienna Philharmonic, the Beethoven and Mendelssohn concertos with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic, the Prokofiev Concerto No. 2 and Glazunov Concerto with Mariss Jansons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony, and the Mendelssohn Concerto on DVD with Riccardo Chailly and the Gewanghaus Orchestra. Znaider has also recorded the complete works of Brahms for violin and piano with Yefim Bronfman.
He is passionate about supporting the next generation of musical talent and spent ten years as Founder and Artistic Director of the annual Nordic Music Academy summer school.
Nikolaj Znaider plays the “Kreisler” Guarnerius “del Gesu” 1741 on extended loan to him by The Royal Danish Theater through the generosity of the VELUX Foundation and the Knud Højgaard Foundation.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, “the Turkish” K.219,written in 1775, is a crown jewel in his concert works and among the most sought-after compositions for the instrument today.
The first movement opens with an orchestral introduction with the tempo indication Allegro aperto. The solo violin then enters in an unusually short but distinctive Adagio, markedly transforming the music’s character. Then comes the energetic first subject in tutti, which is followed by a more modest and grotesque second subject. In the development Mozart sparkles with rich invention.
The second movement, Adagio, brings a rest after the glittering mood of the first. It is as if composed by someone else; employing a lyrical, quiet, even contemplative theme, heard in solo passages of unusual beauty.
The third movement, Rondo, is based on a Minuet theme. In the middle section, however, the metre changes from 3/4 (Minuet) to 2/4 (March), which is why the concerto is sometimes called “the Turkish”. The same principle is used, among other works, in Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A major, the third movement of which is known as “the Turkish March”.
In contrast to Mozart’s joyful, radiant and glittering music with its uncomplicated form and clear emotional mood, Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is ambiguous. There is a radical shift between its two parts, and the overall purport of the work allows for various interpretations.
The first movement, Trauermarsch (Funeral March), begins in C sharp minor. Its character is determined by Mahler’s tempo indication, At a measured pace. Strict. Like a funeral procession. The opening motif by solo trumpet portends a calamity. It is certainly not coincidental that it features the same rhythm as the opening “fate” motif of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. This is followed by the funeral march proper. The second movement bears the indication Stürmisch bewegt (Moving stormily). The energetic opening motif soon fades away, however. A triumphal chorale brings a new mood, though in its conclusion the movement returns to the tragic funeral march.
With the third movement begins the second part of the symphony which differs markedly from the first. Mahler’s life at the time he composed the Fifth symphony was similarly turbulent. In 1901 his life was under threat and his doctor noted that he had a near death experience. This impressed deeply on the composer’s memory. In late 1901 he became acquainted with Alma Schindler, with whom he fell passionately in love and soon married. The second part of the symphony reflects the composer’s new life experience and new life energy.
The third movement, Scherzo, is pervaded by the bright tonality of D major, but the music does not express the joy of life unambiguously. We hear waltz and ländler themes. The fourth movement, Adagietto, provides a break. The horrors of death and depression are soothed by love and humility. The movement contrasts with other sections of the symphony by its very combination of instruments: unlike the monumental orchestration of the other movements, here we hear only strings and harp. The Adagietto is among the most performed and popular of Mahler’s compositions, and was made famous by Visconti’s movie Death in Venice, in which it features prominently.
The concluding Rondo-Finale features sublime counterpoint and is closed by a triumphal return of the chorale. Combined with the fugue’s subject, it brings the symphony to its climax. Some musicologists read Mahler’s faith in resurrection into the chorale, whereas others do not connect the work’s finale with religion at all.
Mahler composed his Fifth Symphony in 1901–1903; it was premiered on 18 October 1904 in Cologne under the baton of the composer.
Wed – Fri / 6:30 p.m. / Rudolfinum – Suk Hall or Western Lounge
Location is specified for each concert in the concert programme and navigation signs at the Rudolfinum.
Pre-concert talks are offered free of charge as a bonus before the evening concerts of the A and B subscription series. They are given by conductors, soloists and members of the Czech Philharmonic, as well as musicologists and music writers who take part in discussions or lectures which will prepare for the evening concert.
They are presented by Eva Hazdrová-Kopecká, Pavel Ryjáček or Petr Kadlec.
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