The concert is a part of the Beijing Music Festival
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Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104
Symphony no. 9 in E minor op. 95 “From the New World”
Born in 1989 in Prague, Václav Petr began playing the cello at the age of four under the guidance of Mirko Škampa. In 2008 he graduated from the Jan Neruda Grammar School of Music in Prague. While still a student, he received several accolades at both Czech and international competitions, including 2nd prizes at the international cello competitions in Ústí nad Orlicí (2001) and Liezen, Austria (2002). In 2004 he won 1st prize and a number of other awards at Prague Junior Note and in 2005 was overall winner of Talents for Europe.
Moreover, he garnered success at the Concertino Praga radio competition (2007), the David Popper International Cello Competition in Budapest (2007), the Antonio Janigro International Cello Competition in Zagreb (2008), the Bohuslav Martinů International Cello Competition in Prague (2008, 2012), the Johann Friedrich Dotzauer International Competition in Dresden (2009), the Rudolf Matz International Competition in Dubrovnik (2010), and other competitions. In 2010, on the basis of a DVD recording, he was chosen to be one of the 12 participants of the Grand Prix Emanuel Feurmann in Berlin.
At the age of twelve, Václav Petr had his first solo performance with an orchestra. In 2004, 2006 and 2008 he appeared as a soloist at the Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum in Prague, accompanied by the PKF – Prague Philharmonia within the “Josef Suk Presents Young Talents” cycle. He has also performed abroad, in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, Croatia and other countries.
In 2008 and 2010 he attended master classes in Kronberg, studying with Anner Bylsma and David Geringas. In 2009 he received a scholarship for Jens Peter Maintz’s summer master classes in Hamburg. On the basis of a recording, he was selected to participate in the 2010 European Music Academy in Bonn, guided by Wolfgang Boettcher, who also taught him in July of the same year at the 40th International Master Classes in Vaduz. In 2010 he was selected to join Marie Kliegel’s class within the Holland Music Sessions.
Václav Petr is also an active chamber player. Since 2009 he has been a member of Ensemble Taras (formerly the Taras Piano Trio), with whom in 2010 he won 1st prize at the international music competition in Val Tidone, Italy. In 2012, he and the violinist Radim Kresta (as a violin-cello duo) came third in the Salieri-Zinetti International Chamber Music Competition and a year later (as a piano quartet, with the violist Eva Krestová and the pianist Václav Mácha) they won the competition. In 2013 the quartet won the prestigious Premio Trio di Trieste, which resulted in their being afforded the opportunity to record a CD and DVD and tour Europe and the USA.
Since 2008 Václav Petr has studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (starting in the class of Daniel Veis and since 2011 continuing to hone his skills with Michal Kaňka). In 2010 and 2011 he studied within the Erasmus program at the Universität der Künste in Berlin with Wolfgang Boettcher. Since January 2014 he has been a concert master of the Czech Philharmonic orchestra.
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.
In 1892 Dvořák accepted an invitation to the United States for three years and became the director of the National Conservatory in New York. After a short stay overseas, in the winter of 1893 he started working on his new Symphony No. 9 in E minor ‘From the New World’. This composition was conceived in order to prove Dvořák’s theory regarding the use of the characteristic elements of African-American and Native-American music for the emergence of the ‘American national school’, which did not exist at the time of Dvořák’s sojourn in the United States. Experts have debated for more than one hundred years about whether Dvořák used in his symphony specific tunes of Negro songs or not. Dvořák himself gave an ambiguous answer to this question. Once he said, “I’m just finishing a new Sinfonia in E minor. Well, everyone who has instincts must feel the influence of America.” At another time he made a seemingly contradictory statement: “It has been and always will be Czech music.” Another question is to what extent Dvořák could really get to know American music during such a short period of his stay in America, and how much he actually wished to create something for America, which in the beginning treated him so generously and which was certainly very fascinating for him. Structurally, the Ninth Symphony has a very precise, almost textbook form of individual movements. Subconsciously, however, Dvořák must have “quoted” at least one of the familiar tunes since the theme of the first movement is noticeably reminiscent of the Negro spiritual Swing Low Sweet Chariot. The second movement, Largo, might have been inspired by The Song of Hiawatha, while the third movement of the symphony has, according to Dvořák, “something of the Indian character”. In the final fourth movement Dvořák has combined all the themes of the symphony. This perfect management of form in connection with imaginative melodies, harmonies and instrumentation mastery form together a truly unique work of genius. Finally, let us quote from The New York Times in 1893: “We Americans should thank and honor the Bohemian master who has shown us how to build our national school of music.”
In 1891, Antonín Dvořák was offered the directorship of the New York Conservatory. After some hesitation, the composer accepted this challenge – which was interesting in both artistic and financial terms – and the next year sailed with his family across the Atlantic. Beyond leading the institution, his duties included teaching composition, and he also had the ambition of laying down the ideological foundations of American art music. Dvořák spent more than two-and-a-half years in America and wrote important instrumental works there. These include, in addition to his String Quartet No. 12 in F Major “American”, his most often played orchestral compositions, namely, Symphony No. 9 in E Minor “From the New World” and the work that opens this evening, Cello Concerto in B Minor.
Dvořák completed his only concert work for the cello whilst still in New York, but reworked its conclusion on returning to his homeland. Although the work adopts the traditional three-movement concerto form, it is conceived rather symphonically. It starts with an extensive orchestral introduction, presenting the two contrasting themes of the first movement, which is in loose sonata form. The cello then resolutely introduces a new exposition of the first theme, which the soloist continues to work with, until the second theme is outlined. The sonata development is very brief and the recapitulation, full of virtuoso runs for the solo instrument, has also been treated very freely by the composer. The second movement takes a symmetric ternary form with a dramatic middle section and lyrical outer sections. Here the writing for the cello is characterised by semitone “sighs” and numerous double-stops. The final movement is a rondo and has been read as a joyful harbinger of the composer’s return to the motherland. Immediately upon its premiere, Dvořák’s Cello Concerto gained significant popularity and to this day continues to be a favourite in the repertoires of the world’s greatest cellists.
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