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Symphony No. 4 H 305
Vltava, symphonic poem from „My Country“
Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 (Nos. 1, 2 & 3)
Slavonic Dances, Op. 72 (Nos. 10 & 15)
“The Czech Philharmonic is very close to my heart artistically and personally. With the leading orchestra of our country, I have repeatedly experienced moments of beauty and deep feeling on the podium. I regard it as an honor that I may continue to be a part of the innermost musical family of the Czech Philharmonic, now alongside the new Chief Conductor, Semyon Bychkov, and together with my wonderful colleague Tomáš Netopil. I am looking forward to our joint projects, whether they will involve performing the classics from this country and around the world or excursions into the realm of lesser-known repertoire and contemporary music. It is my wish that together, our whole institution might continue successfully and harmoniously along the artistic path begun by Jiří Bělohlávek.“
Jakub Hrůša made his debut with the Czech Philharmonic in 2004 when he stepped in at short notice to conduct a programme of Janáček, Martinů and Dvořák. He had just graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague where Jiří Bělohlávek was amongst his teachers. Hrůša has subsequently conducted the Orchestra in forty concerts at home and on tour and, at the start of the 2015/16 season was appointed Permanent Guest Conductor. This season he conducts the opening concerts of the Czech Philharmonic season and has been named Principal Guest Conductor with effect from the 2018/19 season.
A regular guest with leading orchestras in both Europe and the USA, Jakub Hrůša is also Chief Conductor of Bamberg Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (TMSO), and Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra. He served as Music Director and Chief Conductor of PKF – Prague Philharmonia from 2009 to 2015. Recent orchestral highlights include debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Santa Cecilia, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, as well as return engagements with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Cleveland Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic. This season he will make his debuts with the San Francisco Symphony and Munich Philharmonic Orchestras.
Equally at home in operatic repertoire, Hrůša is a regular guest of the National Theatre in Prague and Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and between 2010 and 2012 he was Music Director of Glyndebourne on Tour. For Glyndebourne Festival, he has conducted Janáček‘s The Cunning Little Vixen, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Turn of the Screw, Bizet’s Carmen, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Puccini’s La bohème. Elsewhere he has conducted Janáček’s The Makropulos Affair (Wiener Staatsoper), Jenůfa (Finnish National Opera), and Dvořák’s Rusalka (Opéra national de Paris), alongside works by Puccini (Il trittico for Oper Frankfurt) and Mussorgsky (Boris Godunov for Royal Danish Opera). During the 2017/18 season, he returns to Opéra national de Paris for Lehár’s The Merry Widow, makes his debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden with Bizet’s Carmen, and conducts a new production of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa for Glyndebourne Festival.
In the studio, Jakub Hrůša has recorded the Tchaikovsky and Bruch Violin Concertos with the Czech Philharmonic and Nicola Benedetti for Universal; live recordings for Octavia Records of works by Berlioz, Strauss and Suk with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra; three discs for Pentatone with PKF-Prague Philharmonia; and six discs of Czech music for Supraphon. Marking the start of his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, Hrůša and the Orchestra recorded Smetana’s Má vlast, the first disc in a new partnership with Tudor.
In recognition of his championing of Janáček’s music abroad, Jakub Hrůša was awarded the inaugural Sir Charles Mackerras Prize. He is also President of the International Martinů Circle.
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.
The two sets of Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 and 72, are among the most famous and most often performed works by Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904), a native of Nelahozeves. In March 1878, the Berlin publisher Fritz Simrock approached the composer in a letter: “I would like to ask whether you might feel like writing a certain number, let’s say two volumes, of ‘Czech’ and ‘Moravian’ dances for piano four hands (in the manner of Brahms’s Hungarian [Dances]…).” A few days later, Simrock clarified: “You might also call them the Slavonic dances.”
Dvořák responded in the affirmative and composed eight Slavonic dances for piano four hands, and an orchestral version soon followed. The success of the dances was extraordinary both in Europe and overseas. The publisher, to whom the work brought a considerable profit, was also satisfied. However, when Simrock urged Dvořák to compose a second set, the composer declined, and only started that work eight years later. Again, it was written for piano four hands (1886) and orchestrated almost concurrently (1886–1887).
Dvořák had not given names to the individual dances – merely Roman numerals. It was only later that the interpreters and popularisers of Dvořák’s oeuvre assigned names to the compositions. The Slavonic Dances are only rarely directly inspired by folk music, and the designation of the dances are only approximate. While the first set does feature direct echoes of folk music, the second set is more symphonic, and in the concluding piece the dance characteristics peter out completely. The Slavonic Dances are not only an impressive series of eighteen brilliant musical works, they also testify to Antonín Dvořák’s compositional development.
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