Photo illustrating page  Czech Philharmonic Semyon Bychkov

Czech Philharmonic

Semyon Bychkov

Czech Philharmonic
Duration of the programme 2 hod

Bohuslav Martinů
The Rock, symphonic prelude for large orchestra H363

Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major op. 58

Bohuslav Martinů
Estampes for orchestra H 369

Josef Suk
Praga, symphonic poem op. 26

Luboš Fišer
Double for orchestra

Bohuslav Martinů
Double Concerto for 2 String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani H 271

Richard Strauss
Ein Heldenleben, op. 40


Hélène Grimaud

Ivo Kahánek

Michael Kroutil

Semyon Bychkov

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic Semyon Bychkov
Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall
20 Dec 2017  Wednesday — 10.00am Final rehearsal
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20 Dec 2017  Wednesday — 7.30pm
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21 Dec 2017  Thursday — 7.30pm
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22 Dec 2017  Friday — 7.30pm
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Customer Service office hours are on weekdays from 09:00 a.m. to 06:00 p.m. July, August from 09:00 a.m. to 03:00 p.m.

The subscription concerts this week are dedicated in memory of professor Václav Riedlbauch (1947–2017), the former general director of the Czech Philharmonic.

The concert on 20 December 2017 is a part of the Bohuslav Martinů Days festival.


Ivo Kahánek  piano
Ivo Kahánek

A musician of tremendous emotional power, depth and expressiveness, Ivo Kahánek has gained a reputation as one of the most exciting artists of his generation and is the Czech Republicʼs most acclaimed pianist. He is universally recognised as one of the foremost interpreters of Romantic piano music and is a particular specialist in Czech repertoire. He possesses a rare gift of creating an immediate and compelling emotional connection with his audiences.

Kahánek came to public attention after winning the Concertino Praga and, in 2004, the Prague Spring International Music Competition. He was subsequently a prize winner at many other competitions (Maria Canals Piano Competition in Barcelona, Vendome Prize in Vienna, Stiftung Tomassoni Wettbewerb in Cologne, Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Marienbad, and others).

After his successful debuts at the Beethoven Festival in Bonn and the Prague Spring Festival in Prague Kahánek was invited to perform Martinůʼs Fourth Piano Concerto (“Incantations”) at the 2007 Proms Festival with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Jiří Bělohlávek. The performance was broadcast live by the BBC as well as the Czech National Radio station “Vltava”. This truly memorable Proms debut is currently available on Deutsche Grammophon as a digital download.

In 2014, Kahánek was selected by Sir Simon Rattle to perform two critically acclaimed concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic. He is only the second Czech pianist after Rudolf Firkušný to perform with this legendary orchestra. Ivo Kahánek performs regularly with the Czech Philharmonic and has also recently appeared with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Wiener Symphoniker, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Glasgow, Essener Symphoniker, WDR Cologne, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, Prague Philharmonia, Brno Philharmonic and many others. He has collaborated with some of the world’s greatest conductors, including maestros Semyon Bychkov, Jakub Hrůša, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Rafael Payare, Pinchas Steinberg, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Jiří Bělohlávek, Tomáš Netopil, Andrey Boreyko, Libor Pešek or Zdeněk Mácal. A passionate chamber musician, he has worked with other instrumentalists, including violinist Daniel Hope, cellist Alissa Weilerstein, violist Paul Neubauer, and the Pavel Haas and Tetzlaff Quartets, or the soprano Martina Janková and tenor Pavel Černoch.

In 2020 he will be touring the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, and elsewhere, presenting himself as a soloist in piano concertos by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Antonín Dvořák, Bohuslav Martinů, and Béla Bartók accompanied by the Czech Philharmonic, the Essen Philharmonic, the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, and other orchestras. In addition, of course, he will be giving many recitals in cities including Berlin, London, Jeddah, Bratislava, and Prague. He will also appear at international festivals including the BBC Proms (London), the Dvořák Prague International Music Festival, Smetanaʼs Litomyšl and in the subscription series of such orchestras as the Czech Philharmonic, the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra in Pardubice, and the Slovak State Philharmonic in Košice.

Ivo Kahánek has already released thirteen CDs on the Supraphon Music label (with which he has an exclusive contract since 2007) of works by Chopin, Dvořák, Janáček, Martinů, Klein, Kabeláč, Francaix, Ibert and more. A recording of songs by Martinů with singers Martina Janková and Tomáš Král was awarded the prestigious Diapason d’Or and the Selection of the month in the Opernwelt and Opera News magazines. His most recent recording of the piano concertos by Dvořák and Martinů, where he is accompanied by the Bamberger Philharmoniker under the baton of Jakub Hrůša, was selected as the recording of the month in the BBC Music Magazine, Choix de Classique HD, and it was also the recording of the week on BBC Radio 3. At the same time it was included in the nominations for the ICMA Award as well as the BBC Music Magazine Award. He also regularly appears on both Czech Radio and Czech Television.

Ivo Kahánek is a graduate of the Janáček Conservatoire in Ostrava, the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.

Michael Kroutil  timpani
Michael Kroutil

Michael Kroutil, born 1982, studied from 1999 to 2001 at the Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory, then attended the Prague Conservatory. In 2003 he began taking private lessons from Karl Mehling, former timpanist of the Gewandhausorchester and a year later from Mark Steful, first timpanist of the same orchestra. Between 2005 and 2007 he studied the timpani and percussion at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Leipzig, and from 2011 attended the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste under the pedagogic guidance of Rainer Seegers, first timpanist of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Michael Kroutil has performed with a number of renowned German (Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Leipziger Kammerorchester, Mendelssohn Kammerorchester Leipzig, Südwestdeutsche Philharmonie Konstanz, Thüringer Symphoniker, Westsächsisches Symphonieorchester, Deutsche Philharmonie) and Czech orchestras (PKF – Prague Philharmonia, Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of the National Theatre in Prague, the Pardubice Chamber Philharmonic). He has also regularly worked with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 2006 and 2007, Michael Kroutil participated in Gewandhausorchester recording projects for EuroArts. Since 2007 he has been first timpanist of the Czech Philharmonic, and is also a member of the international Solistes Européens Luxembourg.

Semyon Bychkov  conductor
Semyon Bychkov

Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov was born in Leningrad in 1952, immigrated to the United States in 1975, and has been based in Europe since the mid-1980s. Like the Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov has one foot firmly in the cultures both of the East and the West.

Following his early concerts with the Czech Philharmonic in 2013, Bychkov and the Orchestra devised The Tchaikovsky Project, a series of concerts, residencies and studio recordings which allowed them the luxury of exploring Tchaikovsky’s music together. Its first fruit was released by Decca in October 2016, followed in August 2017 by the release of the Manfred symphony. The project culminates in 2019 with residencies in Prague, Vienna and Paris, and Decca’s release of all Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, the three piano concertos, Romeo & Juliet, Serenade for Strings and Francesca da Rimini.

Fourteen years after leaving the former Soviet Union, Bychkov returned to St Petersburg in 1989 as the Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor, the same year as he was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris. His international career had taken off several years earlier when a series of high-profile cancellations resulted in invitations to conduct the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. In 1997, he was appointed Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, and the following year, Chief Conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.

Bychkov conducts the major orchestras and at the major opera houses in the U.S. and Europe. In addition to his title with the Czech Philharmonic, he holds the Günter Wand Conducting Chair with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with which he appears annually at the BBC Proms, and the honorary Klemperer Chair of Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music. He was named “Conductor of the Year” at the 2015 International Opera Awards. On the concert platform, the combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy has ensured that Bychkov’s performances are highly anticipated. With repertoire that spans four centuries, the coming season brings two weeks of concerts with the New York Philharmonic, which includes the US première of Thomas Larcher’s Symphony No. 2, and the Cleveland Orchestra where he will conduct Detlev Glanert, Martinů and Smetana. In Europe, his concerts include performances with the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Munich and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, and the Royal Concertgebouw.

Bychkov’s recording career began in 1986 when he signed with Philips and began a significant collaboration which produced an extensive discography with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Royal Concertgebouw, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. Subsequently a series of benchmark recordings – the result of his 13-year collaboration (1997–2010) with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne – include a complete cycle of Brahms’s Symphonies, and works by Strauss, Mahler, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Verdi, Detlev Glanert and York Höller. His recording of Wagner’s Lohengrin was voted BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Year in 2010; and his recent recording of Schmidt’s Symphony No. 2 with the Vienna Philharmonic was selected as BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Month.


Bohuslav Martinů — Dvojkoncert pro dva smyčcové orchestry, klavír a tympány H. 271

In his Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani, H 271 (the title page of the autograph score is in French: “Double concert pour cordes, piano et timbales”) and his Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, H 292 (in his correspondence, the composer also called it his “Double Piano Concerto”), Bohuslav Martinů drew inspiration from duality, doubling, and the possibilities that arise from them, as well as from the Baroque concerto grosso genre. In a reminiscence, the composer described his conception of “double” as follows: “My work on the Concerto for Two Pianos has gone successfully. To tell the truth, I’m a concerto grosso kind of person. The descriptions of this form in nearly all textbooks are superficial, perhaps except for the fact that the soloists and orchestra alternate. [...] Where the symphonic form is retained, resorting to emotional elements is actually required, [...] while the concerto grosso allows strict order, a limitation or equilibrium of emotional elements, the limitation and appropriate balancing of gradations and dynamics, and an entirely different, strict structure of thematic organisation; in short, a different world. [...] The Concerto for Two Pianos is the ‘ideal type’ for this form.” The composer’s statement can be applied in general to all of his concertante works of this kind, and his Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani is undoubtedly one of the most successful.

“I’m exploding, choking, weeping”, declared Arthur Honegger in tears as he embraced Bohuslav Martinů at the world premiere of the Double Concerto in Basel on 9 February 1940. Apart from captivation with the composition, the moving circumstances of the work’s creation certainly also played a role: sympathy for the tragedy that had struck Czechoslovakia and its inhabitants, which the composer seems (even to us today) to have sensed in advance and written into the music. Martinů began composing his Double Concerto in August 1938, and he finished it on 29 September 1938, on the day of the Munich Agreement that broke up the Czechoslovak state. He composed it for Paul Sacher and his Basel Chamber Orchestra. The composer adapted the work’s instrumentation to the possibilities of that orchestra. Martinů was staying with Sacher at the time when he finished the Double Concerto, and he dedicated the work to him with a pithy description of its creation: “To my dear friend Paul Sacher to commemorate the quiet and fearful days spent at Schönenberg amongst the deer and the threat of the war.” The anxiety and the threat of war are understandable, but what about the deer? The composer’s wife Charlotte recalled that while staying with Sacher, they often observed “with radiant vision” how the deer “hid quietly behind the trees” and made “graceful movements”. That experience of tranquillity in the mountainous Swiss landscape – also a symbol of fragility – stands against the background of the anxiety from the approaching catastrophe. In a reminiscence about her husband’s composition, Mrs. Martinů mysteriously added that the Double Concerto, “in the middle of the third movement are the footsteps of approaching deer”. It is left to the imagination to find exactly where in the music this happens.

Richard Strauss — Život hrdinův, symfonická báseň, op. 40

Impozantní řada symfonických básní tvoří dodnes oblíbenou součást životního díla Richarda Strausse. Ty nejslavnější (Enšpíglova šibalství, Tak pravil Zarathustra, Don Quixote) napsal jako třicátník v rodném Mnichově v odstupu vždy jednoho roku. Jejich společným jmenovatelem jsou osobité náměty s některými autobiografickými prvky, harmonicky bohatá až exaltovaná hudební řeč epochy „fin de siècle“, formálně košatá výstavba a suverénně zvládnutá orchestrace.

To vše v maximální míře platí také pro Život hrdinův (německy Ein Heldenleben), celkově asi nejrozměrnější Straussovu symfonickou báseň z roku 1898, jejíž premiéru o rok později ve Frankfurtu nad Mohanem si sám řídil. Partitura sice neuvádí žádný konkrétní mimohudební obsah, ale již za autorova života rozliční vykladači vysledovali ve třičtvrtěhodinovém kolosu šest kontrastních úseků, které mají líčit různé aspekty života hrdiny (jeho vzezření, soužití s okolím, milostné city, boj s protivníky, uskutečňování velkých činů, únik do náruče přírody). Nakolik se přitom jedná o hrdinu ideálního, nebo o vlastní stylizaci sebevědomého komponisty, zůstává bez jednoznačné odpovědi a pravda asi bude někde uprostřed. Výrazové prostředky pozdního romantismu plasticky zhmotňuje obří orchestr, z něhož vedle čtyřmo obsazených dřevěných dechových nástrojů a pěti trubek vyniká osm lesních rohů, přednášejících protagonistovu úvodní fanfáru, jakož i sólové housle, zobrazující jej v zajetí lásky.

S odkazem na užitou „hrdinskou“ tóninu Es dur a výrazně exponované lesní rohy Strauss žertem nadhazoval podobnost s Beethovenovou třetí symfonií Eroikou (k uvedenému nástroji měl jako syn hornisty důvěrný vztah a napsal pro něj dva koncerty). V rámci jeho vlastní tvorby má potom Život hrdinův být ideovým protikladem předešlé „antihrdinské“ symfonické básně o Donu Quixotovi; z ní – stejně jako z několika jiných Straussových skladeb – se zde mihne citát. Pro zajímavost dodejme, že při jednom berlínském provedení Života hrdinova si autor velmi pochvaloval sóla tamního původem českého houslisty Karla Halíře.

Luboš Fišer — Double pro orchestr

Luboš Fišer patřil k největším kompozičním talentům své generace. Po absolutoriu konzervatoře a hudební akademie v rodné Praze prožil celý profesní život jako skladatel na volné noze. K tvůrčímu vrcholu se vzepjal v šedesátých letech, z nichž pochází mimo jiné houslová sonáta Ruce, orchestrálních Patnáct listů podle Dürerovy Apokalypsy, Requiem nebo rozhlasová kompozice Nářek nad zkázou města Ur. Nejširší obecenstvo zná jeho početnou hudbu filmovou a televizní (např. nezapomenutelnou znělku seriálu o Machovi a Šebestové). V obou těchto sférách se umělec opíral kromě bezpečné znalosti kompozičního řemesla o neselhávající melodickou invenci a vyhraněný smysl pro zvukovou barvu, které činí jeho hudbu i při využití moderních prostředků posluchačsky přístupnou.

Fišerova skladba Double má kořeny v době studií, skutečný vznik však spadá až do roku 1969. Věnována byla dirigentu Václavu Smetáčkovi, který ji také se Symfonickým orchestrem hlavního města Prahy FOK v následujícím roce poprvé provedl a později s Českou filharmonií natočil. Základním principem ani ne desetiminutové skladby je kolážovité střídání hudební řeči moderní a historické, a to v patnácti krátkých úsecích nadepsaných „double“: ty s lichými čísly exponují Fišerem často užívaný sled tónů (jakýsi modus) v rovném rytmu a s postupnými disonujícími nástupy, ty sudé pak vycházejí z pochodové hudby autorova barokního jmenovce Johanna Fischera (1646–1716) a variačně ji rozvíjejí téměř k nepoznání. Jednotlivé úseky zaznívají v proměnlivém nástrojovém obsazení (smyčce, dřeva, žestě, sólový klavír nebo celý orchestr). To vše přispívá k maximálnímu kontrastu drobných epizod a k efektnímu vyznění formálně vyvážené kompozice. Nicméně zdůraznění pouhé „zábavné funkce díla“, jak psala premiérová kritika, je u takto vybroušené miniatury diskutabilní.