Violin Concerto in A Minor op. 53
Epilogue, a symphonic composition for orchestra, large and small mixed choirs, soprano, baritone, and bass, op. 37
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Jan Mráček (born 1991) is one of the most promising young Czech violinists. Coming from a musical family, he began playing violin at the age of five under Magdaléna Micková, who later taught him at the Prague School of Music. In the years 2003–2013 he studied with Jiří Fišer, under whom he graduated from the Prague Conservatory. He has also attended master classes given by such personalities as Ida Haendel, Stephen B. Shipps, Gavriel Lipkind, Leonid Kerbel, Levon Chilingirian and Walter Boeykens.
At present he is studying at Vienna’s prestigious Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst under Jan Pospíchal, a renowned soloist who for many years has been a concert master of the Wiener Symphoniker.
Since childhood Jan Mráček has been appearing on prominent concert stages; for example at 13 he played at the Rudolfinum within the series “Josef Suk Introduces Young Talents”. Just before turning 15 he performed at the same venue the first movement of Sibelius’s Concerto in D minor accompanied by the Prague Philharmonia.
Mráček has been successful at a number of renowned competitions (Jaroslav Kocian Violin Competition in Ústí nad Orlicí, Prague Junior Note, Concertino Praga, a national competition for conservatory students, a competition held within Václav Hudeček’s Summer Music School in Luhačovice, Beethoven’s Hradec, Spohr Violin Competition in Weimar, etc.); his greatest success has been second prize at the Prague Spring International Music Festival in May 2010, when he became the youngest prize-winner in its history.
Jan Mráček regularly participates in Václav Hudeček’s Pre-Christmas Tours and since 2012 has served as his assistant at the Václav Hudeček Academy. He performs both at home and abroad (Europe, USA).
In 2011, Mráček became the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra’s youngest ever soloist. He also works with other ensembles such as the Prague Symphony Orchestra, Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra in Ostrava, Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra in Zlín, Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra, Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in Olomouc, North Bohemian Philharmonic Orchestra in Teplice, Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra in Pardubice, Czech Chamber Orchestra, Virtuosi Pragenses and New Prague Radio Symphony Collegium.
Lukáš Vasilek has been the principal conductor of the Prague Philharmonic Choir since 2007. In addition to the preparation and management of individual concerts, he prepares the ensemble for participation in large cantata, oratorio and opera projects, cooperating with the world’s leading conductors (e.g., Barenboim, Bělohlávek, Eschenbach, Honeck, Mehta) and orchestras (e.g., Berliner Philharmoniker, Czech Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden, Wiener Symphoniker). Since 2010 he has regularly performed with the choir at the Bregenzer Festspiele opera festival. The performances of the Prague Philharmonic Choir under his leadership have been released on many CDs, for example, by Deutsche Grammophon, Naxos, Neos, Oehms Classics and Supraphon.
Lukáš Vasilek graduated in conducting from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and in musicology from the Faculty of Arts of Charles University. From 1998 to 2009 he was conductor of the Foerster Chamber Choir, achieving, for example, absolute victory in the international choir competitions in Klaipeda (2003) and Vienna (2006). In 2005 he received the “Junior Conductor” award from the Czech Choral Union for his achievements with the ensemble. At the same time, he was also the second choirmaster of the National Theater opera ensemble in Prague, with which he prepared several operas. In 2010 he created a jazz vocal ensemble to work with Bobby McFerrin at his concerts in the Czech Republic. In the same year he also established the Martinů Voices chamber choir, focusing mainly on performance of choral works of the 20th and 21st centuries. The ensemble performs under his leadership at prominent music festivals (such as the Prague Spring Festival) and records CDs for major companies (e.g., Supraphon). Lukáš Vasilek has also performed with several Czech symphony orchestras (Hradec Králové Philharmonic Orchestra, South Bohemian Philharmonic Orchestra, Pilsen Philharmonic Orchestra and North Bohemian Philharmonic Orchestra).
The Prague Philharmonic Choir has to its credit a history of eighty-one years, in the course of which it has come to rank among Europeʼs foremost professional choral ensembles. Initially named Radiojournal Prague Choir, it was founded in 1935 by choirmaster Jan Kühn. Its current principal conductor, Lukáš Vasilek, has stood at the helm of the Prague Philharmonic Choir since 2007.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir takes pride in many prestigious collaborations with, among others, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam or Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. It has appeared in some of the worldʼs most renowned concert halls and opera houses, including the likes of Milanʼs La Scala and the Bavarian State Opera. Figuring on the impressive list of prominent conductors with which the Prague Philharmonic Choir has worked are the names of Claudio Abbado, Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Kurt Masur, Christoph Eschenbach Fabio Luisi, Jiří Bělohlávek, Manfred Honeck or Sir Simon Rattle, among others.
The Prague Philharmonic Choirʼs extensive repertoire is centered primarily around a cappella, cantata and oratorio compositions encompassing a time span from the Classical era to contemporary production. The choir works regularly with leading Czech and international orchestras, a significant segment in its activity being allotted to opera projects. There, the Prague Philharmonic Choir has frequently collaborated with, among others, the National Theatre in Prague, and most notably with the Bregenz opera festival whose choir in residence it has been since 2010. In the course of the years of its association with the Bregenz festival, it has appeared not only in its productions of all-time classics of the operatic repertoire, but also in several world premieres of new operas. In the summer of 2017, the Prague Philharmonic Choir will be part of the festival productions of Georges Bizetʼs Carmen and Gioachino Rossiniʼs Moses in Egypt.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir carries on in mounting with each new season its own, meticulously conceived series of choral concert productions.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir has built up a remarkably extensive discography. Its recordings are available on various labels, including Supraphon, Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Sony Classical and others.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir, which is funded by the Czech Ministry of Culture, is also engaged in a regular program of educational activities, organizing the Choral Academy and a series of educational concerts.
The highlights of the 2016/2017 season will include e.g. the Prague Philharmonic Choirʼs appearance at the International Festival of Sacred Music in Pisa, Italy, or a major autumn tour to Israel, with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In the Czech Republic, the choirʼs commitments include appearances at the Dvořák Prague, Bohuslav Martinů Festival and Janáček Brno Festival, Prague Spring, Janáček May Fest, as well as continued regular collaborations with the Czech Philharmonic.
The years 1878–1880 are often described as Antonín Dvořák’s “Slavonic period”, as the composer was particularly inspired by Slavonic folk music during that time. It was also over these three years that Dvořák wrote very successful works such as Serenade for Wind Instruments, three Slavonic Rhapsodies, Czech Suite, Symphony No. 6, the first set of Slavonic Dances, Gypsy Songs and a number of compositions for piano. The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in A Minor Op. 53 is without doubt a masterpiece, and not just of Dvořák’s “Slavonic period”. It was written at the Sychrov chateau over the summer of 1879. The composer was evidently pleased by the interest shown by the Berlin publisher Fritz Simrock in another work “in a Slavonic mood”.
Like many of his contemporaries and forerunners, starting with Beethoven, Dvořák contemplated entrusting the solo part to the virtuoso Joseph Joachim, to whom he dedicated the concerto. Having met the virtuoso Dvořák heeded his advice and revised the work, completing the last changes in October 1882. The composer entrusted the first performance to the 26-year-old violinist František Ondříček. The premiere was on 14 October 1883 at Prague’s Žofín, with the National Theatre Orchestra under the baton of Mořic Anger. The work’s success was extraordinary and on his future tours Ondříček was able to introduce it on the world’s concert stages, where it continues to be heard to this day.
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