Czech Philharmonic performs with conductor Petr Altrichter in Taipei, Taiwan as a part of the orchestra's 2017 tour of Asia.
National Theatre & Concert Hall
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Vltava, Šárka, Z českých luhů a hájů from My Country
Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 "From The New World"
Petr Altrichter is one of the most distinguished Czech conductors, and he has earned an illustrious reputation for the dynamism and depth of his interpretations of symphonic music.
He was raised in a musical family, and he played musical instruments from a young age. Having graduated from the conservatory in Ostrava as a French horn player and conductor, he continued his studies at the JanáčekAcademy of the Performing Arts in Brno in the fields of orchestral conducting under the guidance of Otakar Trhlík and František Jílek and choral conducting with the teachers Josef Veselka and Lubomír Mátl. After his studies in Brno, he worked as a choirmaster and conductor with the Brno Academic Choir, and he played a part in the earning of many prizes at foreign choral competitions and festivals (Middlesbrough, Debrecen…).
Altrichter attracted international attention in 1976, when he earned the title of laureate and a special prize from the jury at the renowned conducting competition in Besancon, France. On the basis of that prize, he became Václav Neumann’s assistant conductor with the Czech Philharmonic, and he started his own artistic career. Not long after that, he began to receive invitations to conduct orchestras abroad.
After a period of activity with the Brno Philharmonic, in 1988 he became a conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and in 1990 he became its principal conductor. With that orchestra, he made frequent foreign tours to Japan, the USA, Switzerland, Germany, France, and other countries. At the same time, he was engaged in long-term collaboration with the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra in Pardubice, with which he often gave performances abroad introducing many gifted young soloists (such as Isabelle van Keulen and Radek Baborák) who are now firmly established on concert stages around the world.
From 1993, he was the music director of the Southwest German Philharmonic Orchestra of Constance, with which he gave concerts regularly at the Tonhalle in Zurich and at the KKL in Lucerne, and he also toured Switzerland and Italy.
Petr Altrichter made his debut in the United Kingdom with the Prague Symphony Orchestra at the Edinburgh Festival in 1993, and his London debut with the English Chamber Orchestra followed soon thereafter. In 1997 he was appointed as the principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic after having guest conducted the orchestra with great success during the previous season. He also made an appearance with that orchestra in 2000 at the BBC Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and he made a number of highly acclaimed recordings for the orchestra’s own label – RLPO Live.
In 2001 Altrichter was invited to take the helm of the Brno Philharmonic, and he remained there for seven years, returning to the orchestra with which he had been associated since his student days, and he still continues to guest conduct there regularly.
He is also a regular guest of the Czech Philharmonic, with which he has maintained a steady artistic relationship since his beginnings there as an assistant, and of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Brno Philharmonic, and the Slovak Philharmonic, with which he recorded a warmly received award-winning CD with repertoire by Antonín Dvořák.
In 2015 he toured Germany with the Czech Philharmonic, and in late 2015 and early 2016, he toured China with the same orchestra. In the spring of 2017 he toured Japan with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, with which Altrichter is planning a tour of Germany next year. His 2018 calendar includes a tour of the United Kingdom with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.
He has guest conducted major orchestras abroad, including Japan’s NHK Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. In the United Kingdom he has collaborated with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Among the orchestras he has guest conducted are the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Krakow Philharmonic, the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Baden-Baden, the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra in Riga, the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra, the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Philharmonic, the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen, and the Odense Symphony Orchestra.
The festivals at which he is a frequent guest include Prague Spring, Janáček May in Ostrava, Smetana’s Litomyšl, Moravian Autumn in Brno, and the Bratislava Music Festival.
He has made guest appearances at major festivals in Salzburg, Edinburgh, Avignon, Athens, Cheltenham, Paris, Madrid, Chicago, Zurich, Lucerne, Vienne, Seville, Palermo, and elsewhere.
The bulk of Petr Altrichter’s repertoire consists of Czech music – Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček, and Bohuslav Martinů, Russian music – especially Dmitri Shostakovich, and the works of Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner. Important soloists and performers from around the world (Garrick Ohlsson, John Lill, Tabea Zimmermann…) value his flexibility in leading orchestral accompaniments, and they seek out collaboration with him.
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.”
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