Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37
The Epic of Gilgamesh H351
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Lukáš Vasilek, principal conductor of the Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC), studied conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and musicology at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. For eleven seasons from 1998 he was conductor of the Foerster Female Chamber Choir, and between 2005 and 2007 was also second choirmaster of the Prague National Theatre´s opera chorus.
He took up his post at the helm of the PPC in 2007. Apart from preparing and conducting the choir´s a cappella concert productions, he has been building up the PPC´s repertoire set for participation in large-scale cantata, oratorio and opera projects, working with leading international conductors (Barenboim, Bělohlávek, Eschenbach, Honeck, Hrůša, Jordan, Luisi, Mehta, Noseda or Rattle, among others) and orchestras (including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Czech Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, St Petersburg Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden or Wiener Symphoniker). Since 2010 the PPC under Vasilek´s direction has guest appeared regularly at the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria.
Lukáš Vasilek is signed under numerous recordings made by the PPC for various major labels, including Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, Sony Classical and Supraphon. In 2016 the last mentioned of these issued an album of Bohuslav Martinů´s cantatas which was nominated for the BBC Music Magazine´s annual award in the choral category, among other plaudits.
In 2010 Lukáš Vasilek formed the Martinů Voices vocal ensemble whose repertoire he has focused primarily on 20th- and 21st-century choral music. He is likewise occasionally active as an orchestra conductor.
Renowned for his distinctive interpretations, Manfred Honeck has served as Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since the 2008/2009 season. Consistently recognized for their performances, he and the orchestra are celebrated both in Pittsburgh and abroad and regularly perform in major European music capitals as well as at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York, and leading festivals such as BBC Proms, Musikfest Berlin, Lucerne Festival, Rheingau Musik Festival, Beethovenfest Bonn and Grafenegg Festival. Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra have also built a close relationship with the Musikverein in Vienna. The next tour of European cities will take place in autumn 2019.
Manfred Honeck’s successful work with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been extensively documented on recordings with the Reference and Exton labels. All SACDs released by Reference Recordings, amongst them Strauss tone poems and suites, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, Beethoven Symphonies No. 5 and 7, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 have received a multitude of rave reviews and honours. Following two earlier Grammy nominations, the most recent recording, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, won the Grammy for “Best Orchestral Performance” in January 2018.
Born in Austria, Manfred Honeck received his musical training at the Academy of Music in Vienna. Many years of experience as a member of the viola section in the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera Orchestra have given his conducting a distinctive stamp. He began his career as assistant to Claudio Abbado and as artistic leader of the Vienna Jeunesse Orchestra. Subsequently, he was engaged by the Zurich Opera House, where he was bestowed the prestigious European Conductor’s Award in 1993. Other early posts include Leipzig, where he was one of three main conductors of the MDR Symphony Orchestra and Oslo, where he assumed the post of Music Director at the Norwegian National Opera on short notice for a year and was engaged as Principal Guest Conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra for several years. From 2000 to 2006 he was Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm and, from 2008 to 2011 and again from 2013 to 2016, Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
From 2007 to 2011, Manfred Honeck was Music Director of the Staatsoper Stuttgart where he conducted premieres including Berlioz’s Les Troyens, Mozart’s Idomeneo, Verdi’s Aida, Richard Strauss’s Rosenkavalier, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélitesand Wagner’s Lohengrin and Parsifal, as well as numerous symphonic concerts.
His operatic guest appearances include Semperoper Dresden, Komische Oper Berlin, Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Royal Opera of Copenhagen, the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg and the Salzburg Festival. Moreover, he has been Artistic Director of the International Concerts Wolfegg in Germany for more than twenty years.
As a guest conductor Manfred Honeck has worked with the world’s leading orchestras including the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Staatskapelle Dresden, Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Accademia di Santa Cecilia Rome and the Vienna Philharmonic. Orchestras he conducted in the United States include New York Philharmonic, The Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony. He is also a regular guest at the Verbier Festival.
Manfred Honeck has received honorary doctorates from several North American universities. Most recently, he was awarded the honorary title of Professor by the Austrian Federal President. The expert jury of the International Classical Music Awards selected him as “Artist of the Year” 2018.
Derek Welton is a graduate of the University of Melbourne, Australia. He has performed at the Salzburg Festival, Salzburg Easter Festival, Festspielhaus Baden-Baden, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Semperoper Dresden, Hamburg State Opera, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Glyndebourne, Opera North, Beijing Music Festival, Opéra de Lille and many other houses in over forty roles.
A sought-after concert artist, Derek has performed at venues across Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia. Conductors with whom Derek has worked include Ivor Bolton, Richard Bonynge, James Conlon, Christian Curnyn, Richard Egarr, Richard Farnes, Pablo Heras-Casado, Thomas Hengelbrock, Axel Kober, Stephen Layton, Kent Nagano, Donald Runnicles, Stefan Soltesz, Leonard Slatkin, Christian Thielemann and Simone Young.
Derek has been a member of the Ensemble of the Deutsche Oper Berlin since the 2015/2016 season. His roles there for the 2016/2017 season will include Wotan in Das Rheingold, Saint-Bris in Les Huguenots, Peter Besenbinder in Hänsel und Gretel, Klingsor in Parsifal, Heerrufer in Lohengrin and Mr Flint in Billy Budd. He will also appear at the 2017 Salzburg Festival.
Andrew Staples sang as a chorister in St Paul’s Cathedral before winning a Choral Scholarship to King’s College Cambridge, where he gained a degree in Music.
He made his Royal Opera House debut as Jacquino (Fidelio), returning for Flamand (Capriccio), Tamino (Die Zauberflöte), Artabenes (Arne’s Artaxerxes) and Narraboth (Salome), and sang Belfiore (La Finta Giardiniera) for the National Theatre, Prague (a role he repeated in the same production for La Monnaie in Brussels) and Don Ottavio for the Salzburger Festspiele. He has also sung Narraboth for the Hamburgische Staatsoper.
He will sing Kudrjas and Luzio (Das Liebesverbot) for both the Royal Opera House and the Teatro Real in Madrid, Froh (Das Rheingold) for the Royal Opera House and the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, and Tamino in Chicago. In concert he appears with the Swedish Radio Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with Daniel Harding, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Semyon Bychkov, the London Symphony Orchestra and sir Simon Rattle, and returns to the Philadelphia Orchestra with Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC) is a leading European vocal ensemble, and as one of the Czech Republic´s foremost artistic institutions operates under the trusteeship of the Czech Ministry of Culture. In the course of the choir´s long history since its foundation in 1935, it has been directed by a succession of some of the most distinguished Czech choirmasters (including among others Jan Kühn, Josef Veselka and Pavel Kühn). Since 2007 its principal choirmaster has been Lukáš Vasilek.
The PPC´s repertoire is centered primarily around oratorio and cantata works. In their presentation, the choir has worked with eminent international orchestras (e.g. the Czech Philharmonic, Berliner Philharmoniker, Israel Philharmonic, St Petersburg Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden or Wiener Symphoniker, among others), and conductors (including Daniel Barenboim, Jiří Bělohlávek, Christoph Eschenbach, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Manfred Honeck, Jakub Hrůša, Tomáš Netopil, Gianandrea Noseda, Philippe Jordan, Fabio Luisi, Zubin Mehta or Sir Simon Rattle). Beyond its standard choral repertoire, the PPC is likewise active in the domain of opera, working regularly with the National Theatre in Prague, and since 2010 holding the status of choir in residence at the opera festival of Bregenz, Austria.
Apart from these commitments, the PPC engages in a number of its own projects. Since 2011 it has organized its own choral concert series in Prague, with a programme focused notably on presentations of less well known choral works, either a cappella or with chamber-scale instrumental accompaniment. The PPC has taken some of these choral projects abroad (including among other occasions its tours in the USA and Mexico in 2014, and in Russia in 2018). The choir regards as an inseparable part of its activity educational endeavours targeting the young generations. In this context, it has been involved in organizing a Choral Academy for students of singing, a project aimed at enabling young artists to acquire practical skills through work with a professional vocal ensemble; and with focus on young children, running a series of educational concerts and a programme of on-the-spot singing workshops in schools.
The PPC has to its credit an extensive discography, with many titles released by major international labels (e.g., Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, Sony Classical and Supraphon). In recent years the choir has taken part in several unique recording projects, two of them in association with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. The first of these, a recording of Antonín Dvořák´s Stabat Mater (Decca, 2017), with Jiří Bělohlávek conducting, received the prestigious Diapason d´or de l´année award for the year´s best album in the sacred music category. The second, a recording of Bohuslav Martinů´s The Epic of Gilgamesh (Supraphon, 2017), under the baton of Manfred Honeck, won several awards in the United Kingdom, plus another Diapason d´or. The album featuring Bohuslav Martinů´s Kytice (Supraphon, 2017), on which the PPC collaborated with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Tomáš Netopil, was cited as recording of the month by the prestigious British web magazine MusicWeb International. Its recording of Bohuslav Martinů´s chamber cantatas (Supraphon, 2016) scored top rankings in the influential British magazines, Gramophone (Editor´s Choice) and BBC Music Magazine (Choral & Song Choice), in the latter along with nomination for its annual award in the choral music category.
The PPC´s many commitments in the 2018/2019 season include among others concert appearances at the Dvořák Prague, Beethovenfest Bonn and Prague Spring festivals, a tour in Belgium, a performance in New York´s Carnegie Hall (Mahler´s Symphony No. 2, with the Czech Philharmonic and its principal conductor, Semyon Bychkov; this will be followed up by the recording of the same symphony for Decca Classics), and further work with the Israel Philharmonic, this time under the baton of Manfred Honeck. The PPC´s 2018/2019 concert season will be rounded off by a concert at the Smetana Litomyšl Festival, where it will perform with the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow conducted by Vladimir Fedoseyev Mussorgsky´s opera Boris Godunov; and finally, appearances, for the tenth time already, at the opera festival of Bregenz, Austria.
Young czech Bass Jan Martiník was born in 1983 in Ostrava where he studied on Janáček Conservatory and on the University of Ostrava with Eliška Pappová. 2003 he won the International Singing Competition Antonín Dvořák in Karlovy Vary in the category Junior and was also rewarded with the second prize in the category "Lied". Jan Martiník is laureate of the International Competition Jelena Obraztsova, where he won the special prize for the best Tchajkovsky romance. 2007 he was finalist in Placido Domingo´s Competition "Operalia" and in 2009 in Cardiff Singer of the World, where he won the category "Song".
While studying at the university he appeared in roles at the NDM Ostrava, including Pistola (Falstaff), Leporello (Don Giovanni) and Truffaldino (Ariadne auf Naxos). At the National Theatre Prague he sung roles including Masetto (Don Giovanni), Larkens and José Castro (La fanciulla del West), Leporello (Don Giovanni) in the new production in Estates theatre.
From 2008 to 2011 Jan Martiník was a member of Komische Oper Berlin, where he sung roles including Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Colline (La bohème), Surin (Pique Dame) and Nachtwächter (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg). In Volksoper Vienna he sung Betto (Gianni Schicchi), 1.Nazarener (Salome) as well as Zuniga in Carmen. Since 2012/13 Jan Martiník is a member of Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, where he performes roles including Colline (La Bohéme), Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Eremit (Der Freischütz), as well as Father Trulove (The Rake´s Progress).
In concerts the young Bass was working with well known orchestras such as Czech Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Brimingham Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as the King´s Consort and the Collegium 1704. Amongst other pieces of the concert repertoire he has performed Jesus in St. Matthews Passion, as well as the Aria Part, the Bass Parts in Mozart, Dvořák and Verdiʼs Requiem, Dvořák Te Deum, Beethovens 9. Symphony and Haydns Schöpfung. Jan Martiník is already known for his sincere interpretations of Schubertʼs Winterreise and Dvořák Biblical Songs.
The beauty of his voice matches with a splendid technique and a comical talent, which makes him one of the leading singers of the young generation.
Lucy Crowe has established herself as one of the leading lyric sopranos of her generation. She has sung with opera companies throughout the UK and Europe, including the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, the Glyndebourne Festival, English National Opera, the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Bavarian State Opera. She made her US operatic debut as Iole (Handel’s Hercules) for Chicago Lyric Opera, reprising the role for the Canadian Opera Company, and she made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera, New York as Servilia (La clemenza di Tito), returning last season for Adele (Die Fledermaus).
On the concert platform she is much in demand with the world’s major orchestras and conductors and she has appeared at the Aldeburgh, Edinburgh, Salzburg and Tanglewood Festivals and at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York.
Lucy’s 2016/2017 operatic plans include the title role in Rodelinda at the Teatro Real Madrid and Ismene (Mitridate) at the Royal Opera House. In concert she will appear with the Philadelphia Orchestra, on tour with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Accademia Santa Cecilia Orchestra.
Francesco Piemontesi is a pianist of exceptional refinement of expression, which is allied to a consummate technical skill. Widely renowned for his interpretation of Mozart and the early Romantic repertoire, Piemontesi’s pianism and sensibility has a close affinity too with the later 19th century and 20th century repertoire of Brahms, Liszt, Dvořák, Ravel, Debussy, Bartók and beyond. Of one of his great teachers and mentors, Alfred Brendel, Piemontesi says that Brendel taught him “to love the detail of things”.
Francesco Piemontesi appears with major ensembles worldwide: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, NHK Symphony, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Israel Philharmonic, Oslo Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony, DSO and Berlin Radio Symphony, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Danish National Symphony, Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
He has performed with conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Charles Dutoit, Manfred Honeck, Marek Janowski, Neeme Järvi, Sir Mark Elder, Ton Koopman, Andrew Manze, Zubin Mehta, Sir Roger Norrington and Sakari Oramo.
Piemontesi is also a natural and keen chamber musician and plays with a variety of partners – the Emerson Quartet, Antoine Tamestit and Jörg Widmann in trio, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, Angelika Kirchschlager, Stephen Kovacevich and Heinrich Schiff.
In solo recital, he has appeared in many prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall in New York, Berlin Philharmonie, Vienna Konzerthaus and Musikverein, Tokyo Suntory Hall, Amsterdam Concertgebouw. In January 2016, Piemontesi launched his complete Mozart Odyssey at the Wigmore Hall, performing the sonatas in a series of recitals over the course of three seasons:
“[The D-major Fantasia] was a good introduction to Piemontesi’s balance between musical intelligence, judgement and intuition, which poured into his reading of the KV 284 Sonata… The detail of decoration and dynamics Piemontesi released in the penultimate section – a full-scale Adagio vocalise of great intensity – made Mozart’s supernatural eloquence soar.”
Piemontesi has performed at the Edinburgh International Festival, La Roque d’Anthéron, New York Mostly Mozart, Chopin International Music Festival in Warsaw, Lucerne Festival, Schubertiade Schwarzenberg, Aix-en-Provence Easter Festival, and Rheingau and Schleswig-Holstein festivals.
Francesco Piemontesi has released a number of fine recordings, including three recordings for Naïve Classique: the Debussy Préludes, released in autumn 2015, Mozart Piano Works, and Schumann and Dvořákʼs Piano Concerti with BBC Symphony Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek.
Born in Locarno, Francesco Piemontesi studied with Arie Vardi before working with Alfred Brendel, Murray Perahia, Cécile Ousset and Alexis Weissenberg.
He rose to international prominence with prizes at several major competitions, including the 2007 Queen Elisabeth Competition, and between 2009–2011 he was chosen as a BBC New Generation Artist.
In 2012, Piemontesi was announced as Artistic Director of the Settimane Musicali di Ascona.
He made his stage debut in 1973, appearing in The Thrie Estates at the Assembly Hall Theatre, Edinburgh. It was his critically acclaimed performance as Mozart in the original stage production of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus at the Royal National Theatre in 1979 that brought Callow to greater prominence. It also led to his first film role, playing Schikaneder in Miloš Forman’s film of the play. Never known for his lack of energy or interests, Callow simultaneously pursued careers as a director and writer.
Simon’s lifelong passion for classical music has seen him directing opera productions and appearing alongside various orchestras around the world. One of Callowʼs best-known books is Love is Where it Falls. He has also written extensively about Charles Dickens. Notable recent acting work has included his performance as Count Fosco, the villain of Wilkie Collinsʼs The Woman in White, both in film and on stage; as Pozzo in Beckettʼs Waiting for Godot opposite Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart and Ronald Pickup; and as the psychiatrist in Chichester Festival Theatreʼs production of Peter Shafferʼs Equus.
Piano was Ludwig van Beethoven’s most intimate instrument. He studied piano alongside composition with Christian Gottlob Neefe, the conductor of the Bonn opera, and it was Neefe who in 1783 published in Cramer’s Magazin der Musik a note praising the remarkable talent for piano showed by his young pupil: he would “certainly become a second Mozart if he continues as he has begun”. In late 1792 Beethoven left for Vienna to study counterpoint with Joseph Haydn, and as early as 1796 his contemporaries described him as a “musical genius”. In the same year he apparently wrote down the first ideas for his Third Piano Concerto, though he later put it aside, and did not return to it until 1802. He finished it early the next year.
Whereas Beethoven’s first two piano concertos still show the composer’s admiration for Mozart’s late piano concertos, in the third the influence of his counterpoint studies is already conspicuous. Typically of Beethoven’s mature oeuvre, new elements include bold drama of strongly contrasted musical ideas, passionate intensity juxtaposed with intimate lyricism, a “heroic style” and a symphonic treatment of the orchestra part. The premiere took place on 5 April 1803 in Vienna, with the composer performing the solo part, which he had not yet managed completely to write down, and so partially improvised, according to the testimony of his page turner.
During the 1950s, Bohuslav Martinů felt close to the themes of desolation, search for eternal life and awareness of the inevitability of death. As a Czech patriot holding an American passport, and an émigré of many years from a Czechoslovakia first occupied by the German Army, then long ruled by the communists, he observed with increasing alarm the progress of the Cold War from his exile in Switzerland. Martinů expressed his feeling of uprootedness in the programme for the premiere of The Epic of Gilgamesh: “Despite the huge advances we have made in technology and industry, I ascertained that the feelings and questions which move man have not changed; they exist in the earliest known national literatures as much as they do in our own. These are the questions of friendship, love and death. The desire to find answers to these questions – answers that we still seek today – reverberates very intensely, and with an almost painful anxiety, throughout the Epic of Gilgamesh.”
The idea of writing a large choral-orchestral work for Paul and Maja Sacher dates back to 1940. Martinů wished to express his gratitude for their generous artistic and financial support, which probably saved his life at the turn of 1940/1941 when he fled occupied France for the USA. The choice of the extensive old Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, one of history’s oldest literary works written down during the Third Dynasty of Ur (2112-2004 BC), to serve as the basis for the libretto was only agreed with the Sachers in summer 1948, and Martinů returned to Gilgamesh as late as 30 August 1954; by then he had a very clear idea of the topic, form and even the cast of his new work. In November 1954 a piano was brought into the house the composer rented in Nice, and on 23 December 1954 he wrote down the first notes of his new epic. He finished it less than two months later.
The premiere took place on 23 January 1958 in Basel with Paul Sacher conducting the Basel Chamber Orchestra and Choir. It was an enormous success, as shown by the many enthusiastic critiques in a number of Swiss newspapers and music magazines, and the numerous further performances of the Epic of Gilgamesh in the eighteen remaining months of the composer’s life.
Wed – Fri / 6:30 p.m. / Rudolfinum – Suk Hall or Western Lounge
Location is specified for each concert in the concert programme and navigation signs at the Rudolfinum.
Pre-concert talks are offered free of charge as a bonus before the evening concerts of the A and B subscription series. They are given by conductors, soloists and members of the Czech Philharmonic, as well as musicologists and music writers who take part in discussions or lectures which will prepare for the evening concert.
They are presented by Eva Hazdrová-Kopecká, Pavel Ryjáček or Petr Kadlec.
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