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Othello, concert overture, Op. 93
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major KV 219
Symphony No. 4 H 305
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Czech Philharmonic
Principal Guest Conductor, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Jiří Bělohlávek was born in Prague in 1946. In September 2012, he was appointed Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Czech Philharmonic, the leading orchestra of his home country.
In recent seasons, Bělohlávek and the orchestra have enjoyed unprecedented success both at home in Prague where concert attendance is at an all-time high, and on tour, including a residency at the Vienna Musikverein Hall, and performances at the world’s leading concert venues, including Carnegie Hall, New York, Berlin Philharmonic Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, London Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and many more. In addition, the orchestra has recorded an outstanding edition of all the Dvorak Symphonies and Concertos on the Decca label which has been hailed by many critics as the new definitive version.
Future plans with the Czech Philharmonic include new recordings for Decca, as well as significant tours abroad. The orchestra and Bělohlávek will bring a concert version of Janacek’s Jenufa to London’s Royal Festival Hall, and return for concert and opera-in-concert to New York’s Carnegie Hall. They are also invited to return to the Vienna Musikverein for a further residency. Major tours within Europe, and to the USA/Canada and Asia are also planned.
Jiří Bělohlávek’s guest conducting career sees him at leading orchestras across Europe and North America, including the BBC Symphony in London, where he is now Conductor Laureate following his term as Chief Conductor from 2007 to 2012, the Rotterdam Philharmonic (where he holds the title as Principle Guest Conductor), and as a guest at the Berlin Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Washington, Vienna Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Deutsches Symphony Berlin, and many more.
In addition to his well-known affinity with and love of a broad range of music by famous and not-so-famous composers from the Czech Republic, Jiří Bělohlávek has a special relationship with British repertoire, and while at the BBC Symphony, conducted world premieres of many works. He also enjoyed the rare privilege to conduct the Last Night of the Proms on two occasions, in 2010 and 2012. In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II appointed him an honorary CBE for services to music.
He also regularly conducts opera, and has in recent seasons conducted at the Vienna State Opera, Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera Covent Garden, Glyndebourne Festival and Zurich Opera. His repertoire has included operas by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Wagner, Janacek, and Martinu. He frequently conducts lesser-known operas in concert presentations, and has made a series of opera-in-concert CDs with the BBC Symphony Orchestra of works such as Smetana’s Dalibor and Janacek The Excursions of Mr. Broucek. In 2016 he will conduct Jenufa at the San Francisco Opera.
Mr. Bělohlávek has an extensive discography, and, in addition to the new complete Dvorak Symphony and Concerto cycle released last season, new recordings of the greatest Czech repertoire are also planned as part of an ongoing project with Decca. He was the first conductor since Herbert Von Karajan to receive the Gramophone Award for Orchestral Recording two years running.
According to the magazine Dalibor of 14 November 1891 Dvořák dedicated the concert overture Othello Op. 93 to Hans von Bülow. By representing the destructive passion of jealousy, it has the most dramatic, the most extensive and the most concrete program of the trilogy based on the pentatonic motifs. Dvořák began it in November 1891, but he had to interrupt the work because he went to England to attend the premiere of his Requiem in Birmingham on 9 October 1891. However, on 18 January 1892 the score was already finished. Othello is still in the classical sonata form, although in a rather loose concept, and unlike the two earlier overtures, full of expressive impulses, it is strongly dramatized.
Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959) avoided composing symphonies for a long time. In the musical environment of the 1920s and 1930s in Paris, in which he was firmly established in his youth, the symphony was considered a form of Romantic relic and local composers tried to write for less common instrumental ensembles. Martinů composed his first symphony as late as at the age of fifty-two in America; from that time on he returned to this form almost every year. Of the total number of his six symphonies, the most popular and most frequently performed is Symphony No. 4. Martinů created it in the spring of 1945, full of joy and optimism about the end of war hardships and in the hope that he would soon return to his homeland. He was convinced that this was his last major composition in the American exile before his imminent homecoming to Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, the subsequent events showed that these expectations were in vain.
The joyful first movement Poco moderato is reminiscent of a Baroque suite by being structured into two sections. However, the work with motifs and harmonic processes are far from Baroque music and stands with both feet in the realm of contemporary music. The second movement has the form of a fierce dance scherzo with the contrasting lyrical middle section. It is followed by the dreamy, heartfelt Largo of the third movement. The optimistic tone of the whole symphony is accentuated by the final Poco allegro.
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