The Rock, symphonic prelude for large orchestra H363
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major op. 58
Estampes for orchestra H 369
Praga, symphonic poem op. 26
Double for orchestra
Double Concerto for 2 String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani H 271
Ein Heldenleben, op. 40
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.
A musician of tremendous emotional power, depth and expressiveness, Ivo Kahánek has gained his reputation as one of the most exciting pianists of his generation and is considered the best Czech contemporary pianist. He is recognised as one of the impressive Romantic pianists and also as a specialist in Czech piano music.
He won the Prague Spring International Music Competition in 2004 and gained awards at other leading international piano competitions (Maria Canals Piano Competition in Barcelona, Vendome Prize in Vienna, Stiftung Tomassoni Wettbewerb in Cologne, Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition in Marienbad, Concertino Praga, etc.).
After his successful debuts at Beethovenfest Bonn and Prague Spring Festival he was invited by the BBC to perform the Incantations – Fourth Piano Concerto by Bohuslav Martinů at the BBC Proms with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Jiří Bělohlávek. The concert took place at the Royal Albert Hall in London in August 2007 and was broadcast live by the BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Television as well as the Czech National Radio station “Vltava”. This critically acclaimed Proms debut is now being offered by Deutsche Grammophon as a digital download. It’s no wonder that Ivo Kahánek was selected by Sir Simon Rattle to perform at two concerts with the Berliner Philharmoniker in November 2014, followed by enthusiastic reactions of critics and the general public alike. Moreover, Ivo Kahánek performs regularly with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and has made highly appreciated performances with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Glasgow, WDR Orchestra Cologne, Philharmonie Essen, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Prague Philharmonia, Brno Philharmonic and many others. He has performed with internationally renowned artists, e.g. conductors Pinchas Steinberg, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andrey Boreyko, Jakub Hrůša, Zdeněk Mácal, Tomáš Netopil, violinist Daniel Hope, cellist Alissa Weilerstein, Pavel Haas Quartet, Tetzlaff Quartet etc.
In 2017 he performed in concert tours of Germany, Monaco, Portugal, Switzerland, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, playing piano concertos by Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Liszt, Martinů and Bartók. Moreover, he will give solo recitals in London, Monte Carlo, Porto, Prague, Herceg Novi and many cities.
So far Ivo Kahánek has released nine CDs under the Supraphon Music label (which he has entered an exclusive contract into). His solo CD (Janáček-Martinů-Kabeláč) has received top rates in prestigious musical journals (Le Monde de la Musique, Classics Today, Fanfare). Besides that he frequently collaborates with Czech Radio and Czech Television. His last solo record was devoted to Fryderyk Chopinʼs music (Sonata No. 2 in B minor, 4 Scherzi). A recording of songs by Bohuslav Martinů is to be released by Supraphon with the exquisite soprano, Martina Janková, as well as a CD with the piano and chamber works by Viktor Kalabis.
A graduate of both the Janáček Conservatoire in Ostrava and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Ivo Kahánek also graduated from the Advanced Instrumental Studies course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and participated in master classes with Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, Christian Zacharias, Alicia de Larocha, Imogen Cooper, Peter Frankl and many others.
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.
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 projectculminates 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.
The paramount works created by the 48-year-old Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959) in 1938 include the Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani H. 271. The piece was commissioned by Paul Sacher, who after the summer holidays invited the composer to his residence in Schönenberg, Switzerland. Martinů and his wife Charlotte subsequently spent several weeks amid the tranquil atmosphere of the countryside. Nevertheless, the composer was well aware of the looming threat of Nazi Germany, which duly reflected in the Double Concerto’s dedication: “To my dear friend Paul Sacher, in memory of the days in Schönenberg, full of peace and fear, amid deer and the threat of war.” Martinů completed the sketch of the final movement on a fatal date – 29 September 1938, the day of the Munich Agreement, permitting Nazi Germany’s annexation of areas along the Czechoslovak borders. Later on, in April 1942, Martinů wrote: “I was working on the Double Concerto, and all my anxieties, all my hopes and ideas floated to my imperilled homeland. (...) It is a composition created under difficult circumstances, yet it does not reflect despair or gloom, but belief in the future, expressed by means of intense dramatic surges, a current of tones that do not stop for a second, melodies that passionately bring to bear their claim to a free and independent life.”
The Double Concerto was first performed in public on 9 February 1940 in Basel by the Basel Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Paul Sacher. It met with great acclaim and Arthur Honegger, who was present at the premiere, voiced his astonishment at the piece’s singularity and novelty.
An impressive series of symphonic poems forms a favourite part of Richard Strauss’s legacy. He wrote the most famous of them – Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche, Also sprach Zarathustra and Don Quixote – in his thirties in his native Munich, and the last and most extensive one, Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life), he completed in 1898 in Berlin, where he would live and work for many years. In Strauss’s oeuvre Ein Heldenleben is understood to constitute an ideological counterpart to his previous, “anti-heroic” symphonic poem, Don Quixote. Late-Romantic expressive means are vividly incarnated in the enormous orchestra, in which the eight French horns and the solo violin stand out. With the key of E flat Major and the prominence of the horns, Strauss playfully suggests a similarity with Beethoven’s third symphony, the Eroica.
Though the score itself indicates no extra-musical programme, various interpreters have read aspects of the hero’s life into its six contrasting sections (his appearance, his place in the world, his romantic feelings, his struggles with adversaries, his great deeds and his escape into nature’s embrace). Does this concern an ideal hero, or is this a self-stylisation of the self-assured composer? The question does not expect an unambiguous response.
Luboš Fišer was among the most talented composers of his generation. Having graduated from the conservatory and the music academy in his native Prague, he spent his entire professional career as a freelance composer. During the 1960s, he was at the height of his creative powers, writing works including Ruce (Hands), the orchestral Patnáct listů podle Dürerovy Apokalypsy (Fifteen Prints after Dürer’s Apocalypse), Requiem and Nářek nad zkázou města Ur (Lament over the Destruction of the City of Ur). His numerous film and television scores are familiar to the broadest of audiences.
Written in 1969, Double is based on a collage-like alternation of old and modern musical languages, in fifteen short sections labelled “double”: those bearing odd numbers showcase Fišer’s special sequence of tones (a mode of sorts), while those with even numbers are arrangements of marching music by his baroque-era namesake, Johann Fischer (1646–1716). The instrumentation of the individual sections varies, helping to create contrasting episodes; the overall effect of the work is very impressive.
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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