In August 2014, the Czech Philharmonic orchestra will perform at the Edinburgh International Festival and festivals in Wiesbaden, Germany and Montreaux, Switzerland. At the concerts, the orchestra with its Chief conductor Jiří Bělohlávek will be joined by cellist Alisa Weilerstein, violinist Nicola Benedetti and mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink.
<h3><a href="http://www.eif.co.uk/" target="_blank">22. 8. 2014 / EDINBURGH, Scotland / Edinburgh International Festival</a></h3> <ul> <li>L. JANÁČEK: <em>From the House of the Dead, overture</em></li> <li>E. W. KORNGOLD: <em>Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35</em></li> <li>B. MARTINŮ: <em>Symphony No. 4</em></li> </ul> <h3><a href="http://www.eif.co.uk/" target="_blank">23. 8. 2014 / EDINBURGH, Scotland / Edinburgh International Festival</a></h3> <ul> <li>B. SMETANA (arr. G. SZELL): <em>From My Life (String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, orchestral version)</em></li> <li>A. DVOŘÁK: <em>Biblical Songs</em></li> <li>L. JANÁČEK: <em>Sinfonietta</em></li> </ul> <h3><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-24/15148" target="_blank">24. 8. 2014 / LONDON, England / BBC PROMS</a></h3> <ul> <li>L. JANÁČEK: <em>From the House of the Dead, overture</em></li> <li>A. DVOŘÁK: <em>Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104</em></li> <li>L. van BEETHOVEN: <em>Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92</em></li> </ul> <h3><a href="http://www.rheingau-musik-festival.de/alisa-weilerstein-mit-der-tschechischen-philharmonie-im-kurhaus-wiesbaden,event.html" target="_blank">26. 8. 2014 / WIESBADEN, Germany / Rheingau Musik Festival</a></h3> <ul> <li>L. JANÁČEK: <em>From the House of the Dead, overture</em></li> <li>A. DVOŘÁK: <em>Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104</em></li> <li>A. DVOŘÁK: <em>Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95 „From the New World“</em></li> </ul> <h3><a href="http://www.septmus.ch/" target="_blank">28. 8. 2014 / MONTREUX, Switzerland / Septembre Musical</a></h3> <ul> <li>A. DVOŘÁK: <em>Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104</em></li> <li>L. van BEETHOVEN: <em>Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op. 92</em></li> </ul> <p> </p> <ul> <li><strong>Nicola BENEDETTI </strong>– violin</li> <li><strong>Bernarda FINK</strong> – mezzo-soprano</li> <li><strong>Alisa WEILERSTEIN </strong>– cello</li> <li><strong>Jiří BĚLOHLÁVEK </strong>– conductor</li> </ul>
Bernarda Fink, daughter of Slovenian parents, was born in Buenos Aires and received her vocal and musical education at the Instituto Superior de Arte del Teatro Colón where she performed frequently.
Bernarda Fink is one of the most sought-after singers in concerts and recitals. She has been acclaimed for her musical versatility and invited by the leading orchestras and conductors in Europe and America. Her repertoire ranges from ancient music up to music of the 20th century. She frequently appears with such well-known orchestras as the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Staatskapelle Berlin and Dresden, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as with the best-known Baroque orchestras under such famous conductors as Daniel Barenboim, Herbert Blomstedt, Semyon Bychkov, Riccardo Chailly, Sir Colin Davis, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Valery Gergiev, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, René Jacobs, Mariss Jansons, Riccardo Muti, Sir Roger Norrington, Trevor Pinnock, Georges Prêtre, Sir Simon Rattle and Franz Welser-Möst.
Bernarda Fink has appeared to widespread critical acclaim in Argentina and at the most important opera houses in Europe. Recent highlights were the roles of Cecilio (Lucio Silla) at the Theater an der Wien, Idamante (Idomeneo) at the Teatro Real in Madrid, and Irene (Theodora) at the Salzburg Festival. She also sang Sesto (La clemenza di Tito) and Idamante in concert versions, both of which were recorded and highly praised.
Bernarda Fink regularly appears in recital at the Wiener Musikverein and Konzerthaus, Schubertiade Schwarzenberg, Berlin Philharmonie, Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, Edinburgh Festival, Carnegie and Alice Tully Hall in New York. Furthermore, Bernarda Fink performed Dvořák and Janáček songs together with the Pavel Haas Quartett at Londons Wigmore Hall, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, in Den Haag and in Madrid.
Highlights of the 2015/2016 season included Schmidtʼs Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln with Manfred Honeck, Debussyʼs Pelleas et Mélisande / Geneviève with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic in a semi-staged version by Peter Sellars in Berlin and with the LSO in London, Mahlerʼs Third Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra as well as Mahlerʼs Second Symphony with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Daniel Harding.
Bernarda Fink regularly holds master classes at the Wiener Meisterkurse, the Young Singers Project (YSP) in Salzburg, the Academy of the Festival in Aix-en-Provence, and the Schubert-Institute in Baden (near Vienna). She was also on the jury of the International Song Competition of London Wigmore Hall, Das Lied Song Competition in Berlin and the Bach Wettbewerb Leipzig and as expert at the BBC Cardiff Singers of the World.
Bernarda Fink has made numerous highly acclaimed recordings. Her discography comprises more than 50 releases, ranging from Monteverdi and Rameau to Schubert and Bruckner and Schumann. Many of them have been awarded coveted prizes such as the Diapason d’Or or the Grammy. Bernarda Fink has a close collaboration with Harmonia Mundi. In 2006, Bernarda Fink was awarded the Austrian Honorary Medal for Art and Science by the Austrian Chancellor and in 2013, together with her brother Marcos Fink, the most prestigious cultural award of Slovenia sponsored by the Prešeren-foundation for their recording Slovenija! and the related concerts. In September 2014 she received the title of Österreichische Kammersängerin.
In performances marked by intensity, sensitivity, and a wholehearted immersion in each of the works she interprets, the American cellist has long proven herself to be in possession of a distinctive musical voice. An exclusive recording artist for Decca Classics since 2010, Weilerstein is the first cellist to be signed by the prestigious label in more than 30 years.
For her first album on the Decca label, Weilerstein recorded the Elgar and Elliott Carter cello concertos with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin. On her second Decca disc, released in early 2014, Weilerstein undertook Dvořákʼs Cello Concerto with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic.
In the 2013/2014 season Weilerstein gave the New York premiere of Matthias Pintscherʼs Reflections on Narcissus under the composerʼs own direction during the New York Philharmonicʼs inaugural Biennial. She also collaborated on Prokofievʼs Sinfonia Concertante with Jaap van Zweden and the Chicago Symphony, and on Elgar with Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony; made her debut with the Japan Century Symphony Orchestra; returned to Londonʼs Royal Festival Hall with Kirill Karabits and the Bournemouth Symphony; toured Europe playing Schumann with the Mannheim Symphony Orchestra and Mozarteum Orchestra; and reprised Dvořákʼs concerto with Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic on a European tour that included a return to Londonʼs BBC Proms. Besides serving as artist-in-residence with the Cincinnati Symphony, she had engagements with the Boston, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, and New Zealand symphonies, and with the Israel Philharmonic. In recital, she appeared at Londonʼs Wigmore Hall on a European tour with pianist Inon Barnatan, at Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Recital Centre, at the Aspen Music Festival, and at the Caramoor International Music Festival, where she served as 2014 artist-in-residence.
To launch the 2014/15 season, Weilerstein joined the Milwaukee Symphony and Edo de Waart for the Elgar concerto. She played Dvořák with the New York Philharmonic and Christoph von Dohnányi; Haydn on a German tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra; and Shostakovich with Englandʼs Hallé Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic, and the Orchestra of St. Lukeʼs at Carnegie Hall. Other orchestral collaborations included dates with the Orchestre de Paris, Zurichʼs Tonhalle Orchestra, Berlinʼs Konzerthausorchester, the Montreal Symphony, the Czech Philharmonic, Denmarkʼs Aalborg Symphony, Spainʼs Orquesta de Valencia, and the Luxembourg Philharmonic. The 2014/2015 seasonʼs recital highlights included appearances in Boston, Aspen, and the Wigmore Hall, where Weilerstein showcased repertoire from Solo, her compilation of unaccompanied 20th-century cello music, which was due for U.S. release by Decca in late 2014.
Committed to expanding the cello repertoire, Weilerstein is an ardent champion of new music. She has worked extensively with Osvaldo Golijov, who rewrote Azul for cello and orchestra (originally premiered by Yo-Yo Ma) for her New York premiere performance at the opening of the 2007 Mostly Mozart Festival.
Weilerstein has appeared at major music festivals throughout the world. In addition to her appearances as a soloist and recitalist, she performs regularly as a chamber musician. She has been part of a core group of musicians at the Spoleto Festival USA for the past eight years and also performs with her parents, Donald and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, as the Weilerstein Trio, the trio-in-residence at Bostonʼs New England Conservatory.
The cellist is the winner of both Lincoln Centerʼs 2008 Martin E. Segal prize for exceptional achievement and the 2006 Leonard Bernstein Award.
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.
The second composition from Dvořák’s legacy to be heard tonight is Biblical Songs Op. 99, which came into being during his second year on the American continent. Dvořák was homesick, and so he sought solace in the Holy Scripture. In the beginning of March 1894 it got reflected in his work when in just three weeks he set to music David’s Book of Psalms in the Czech translation of the Bible of Kralice. Dvořák apparently worked with its edition of 1863, published on the occasion of “the millennial celebrations of the conversion of the Slavs to the Christian faith,” as stated in its subtitle. Dvořák mentioned “Ten songs after David’s Psalms from the Holy Bible” to Simrock for the first time in his letter from April 1894, followed by another letter in the same month in which Dvořák described Biblical Songs as the best thing he had hitherto created in this area. And he was right. In addition to Dvořák’s typical music, they consist of a number of elements occurring in his other compositions of his “American period”, including pentatonic scales or other interesting features characteristic of African-American music. In Biblical Songs Dvořák also masterfully coped with the problem of a song based on free, almost prosaic verse of the Psalms. The seemingly simple structure of individual songs surprises by original harmonies and remarkable vocal lines ranging from ascetically simple declamation of the text to a broad lyrical cantilena.
In June 1924 Leoš Janáček heard a military band concert at a colonnade in Písek, South Bohemia, where among other compositions the band played fanfares. They made a considerable impression on him and remained in his memory until early 1926, when he was commissioned to compose a musical salute to the 8th Sokol Gymnastic Festival in Prague. At first Janáček intended to write a fanfare only, but the piece soon grew into an original symphonic work in five movements. The Czech Sokol Organization accepted the composition and put it on the cultural program of the festival, deciding that the fanfare is to be trumpeted from the tower of the Týn Church during the closing march of the Sokols through Prague.
In retrospective Janáček gave the Sinfonietta the content related to Brno. Under this concept, the second movement after the fanfares represents Špilberk Castle, the third, the monastery in Old Brno, the fourth, Brno’s bustling street life, and the final fifth refers to its town hall.
Sinfonietta has a closed circular form and as regards the tectonics, combines elements of suite and symphony. It opens with a pentatonic fanfare intrada played by nine C trumpets, two bass trumpets and two tenor tubas in the Allegretto tempo. The second movement, Andante, has the elements of sonata form. It features impressive motifs, fresh rhythms and a large number of orchestral colors. The third movement, Moderato, begins quietly with a lyrical theme in the strings, followed by a motif passed on successively to English horn, oboe and violin. The dark syncopated motif of trombones is joined in a high pitch by flutes and piccolos. Then a trombone plays a picturesque dance-like tune and the movement closes with a syncopated theme in the trombones. The fourth movement, Allegretto, has a character of scherzo. Its introductory (and really only) theme is constantly repeated in the woodwind instruments with contrasting interventions of the orchestra. The melancholy music in the flutes at the beginning of the final movement, Andante con moto, is punctuated by dramatic chords of the strings. After another exciting passage in the higher strings, the trumpets play verbatim in unison the opening intrada (actually a retirada now) from the first movement.
At the concert tonight, Sinfonietta will be performed for the first time from a new critical edition, prepared for Universal Edition by the musicologist Jiří Zahrádka from Brno.
Symphony No. 7 in A major Op. 92, completed in 1812, represents atonement and a levelling of the different poles reflected in the dramatic Symphony No. 5 and the joyous Symphony No. 6. Beethoven’s contemporaries sought a “programme” back in the Third, Fifth and Sixth,and the Seventh too was subject to additional interpretations. Wagner branded it an “apotheosis of dance”, Beethoven’s biographer Herriot saw in it the composer’s retreat to intoxicating pleasure, while the philosopher Nietzsche sought in the music the secret of the origin of art.
The first sketches of Op. 92 date from 1806, yet Beethoven only began intensively dedicating to its composition in October 1811. In April of the next year, he drew up the definitive version of the score. Even though this period was a far from easy one, Beethoven imbued Symphony No. 7 with music teeming with joy and vital energy. The Allegretto of the second movement, however, seems to be from a different world, with the three-part form of the theme with variations in marching rhythm comprising something grievous and thus within the context of the other movements becoming the ideational centre of the entire piece. In its time, the gradated finale came across as the greatest surprise. The Symphony in A major was first performed in public on 8 December 1813.
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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