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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major KV 219
Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88
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.
For Dvořák, 1889, in which he finished Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88, was a successful year indeed. He was offered the post of professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory and the National Theatre premiered his opera The Jacobin. The general interest in his music was further boosted by his fruitful visits to England.
Dvořák was absorbed in work on his Eighth Symphony from 28 August to 8 November, with the bulk of the time spent at his summer residence in Vysoká, the place he felt the most at ease. Yet the idyllic creative atmosphere was disturbed by a dispute with his “chief” publisher, Simrock, which ultimately resulted in an interruption of their co-operation for three years. Dvořák’s opus 88 was hence published by the London-based Novello. The symphony was subsequently given the subtitle “English”. In its basic features – four movements and their tempo scheme – Dvořák’s Eighth retains the structure of a classical symphony. Nevertheless, the work is striking owing to numerous innovations and a varied succession of changing moods. As the composer himself put it, he strove to treat themes and motifs in other than the “usual, universally used and acknowledged forms”.
Symphony No. 8 was premiered, with Dvořák himself conducting, on 2 February 1890 at the Rudolfinum in Prague within the popular Umělecká beseda society concerts. On 24 April of the same year it was performed in London at a Philharmonic Society concert at St. James’s Hall. An English reviewer wrote: “Although, just like Brahms, striving to adhere to the Beethoven school, Dvořák is the only one who is able to employ a distinctly new element in a symphony.” The Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick described the piece as follows: “This is one of Dvořák’s finest pieces……His works demonstrate an original personality, and this personality breathes the refreshing spirit of something novel and original.”
Noteworthy too is Dvořák’s commentary following the London premiere: “The concert turned out splendidly, dare I say as well as any other before… I was called several times to the stage – by and large, it was as nice and sincere as at the premieres at home in Prague. So I am satisfied and thank God that it has turned out so well!”
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”.
György (Sándor) Ligeti (1923–2006) was born in Transylvania, but the family fairly soon moved to Kolozsvár, where Ligeti began his musical education. When the Hungarian uprising of 1956 was bloodily supressed, the composer emigrated, never to return permanently to Hungary. György Ligeti’s work is primarily linked with the rise and establishment of New Music, however towards the end of the 1970s more traditional elements appeared in his oeuvre as well as influences from his homeland’s folk culture.
At that time the composer also returned to his early works dating from before his emigration, such as Concert Românesc (Romanian Concerto), which was premiered in 1971 but composed back in 1951 under the influences of Ligeti’s own studies of Romanian folk music, on which he particularly focussed during his 1949 stay in Bucharest. After the first rehearsal in Budapest, the work was described as politically incorrect. The concerto is made up of four short movements following one another without pause. Ligeti wrote in 2000 that this is the piece which reflects most strongly his deep love for Romanian folk music and culture in general.
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