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The German composer Detlev Glanert is one of today’s most successful opera composers. Last season, the Czech Philharmonic performed his composition Weites Land. This season brings the Czech premiere of the full concert-length oratorio Requiem for Hieronymous Bosch.
- Wed 18 Mar 2020 / 7.30pm
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- Thu 19 Mar 2020 / 7.30pm
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- Fri 20 Mar 2020 / 7.30pm
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Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch (2015–16)
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Slovak Philharmonic Choir
The German composer Detlev Glanert is one of today’s most successful opera composers. Last season, the Czech Philharmonic performed his composition Weites Land. This season brings the Czech premiere of the full concert-length oratorio Requiem for Hieronymous Bosch. The Requiem was composed on a commission from Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Orchestra for the 500th anniversary of the death of the famed Dutch painter. In it, Glanert unabashedly employs his vast operatic experience, and this can be heard both in the work’s sonic conception and in its dramatic structure. He combines the texts of the Catholic Mass for the Dead with the medieval collection of songs Carmina burana, from which he has chosen a description of the seven deadly sins. We are witnesses to a spiritual trial, at which the Archangel Michael examines Bosch’s life through the prism of these seven sins. In eighteen sections, Bosch must face God’s judgement with the narrator as the chief prosecutor. A small choir sings the liturgical text of the Requiem, and a large choir with four soloists combines that text with a description of the sins. A critic for the British newspaper The Guardian has called Glanert’s Requiem “an outstanding choral achievement, a work of great power and intensely vivid invention, which uncannily finds musical parallels to Bosch’s surreal imagination, and to the extremes of his visions of heaven and hell, grandeur and intimacy. The score juxtaposes glimpses of the apocalypse with moments of extreme sweetness, in intensely detailed choral and orchestral writing that consistently avoids all the clichés that disfigure so many contemporary oratorios.”
- Prague Philharmonic Choir / choir
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.
- Luděk VELE / bass
Luděk Vele graduated from the Prague conservatoire, where he was led by Jaroslav Horáček and in the final year of his studies he accepted an engagement at the Liberec opera. The regional scene allowed him to quickly grow artistically and in a short period of time he created several roles from Czech and international repertoire there. He has been a National Theatre soloist since 1983. He enriched his repertoire here by almost all significant bass roles that the local dramaturgy could offer him. Next to his masterly refined Water Sprite, Kecal and Leporello he also studied Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, Verdi’s Sparafucile (Rigoletto) and Banco (Macbeth), Colline (Puccini: La bohème), Lorenzo (Gounod: Roméo et Juliette), Zuniga (Bizet: Carmen), Filip (Dvořák: The Jacobin), Gamekeeper and Badger/Priest (Janáček: The Cunning little Vixen), Bartolo (Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro), Il Commendatore (Mozart: Don Giovanni). For his execution of Smetana’s Chrudoš (Libuše) and Richard Strauss’s Baron Ochs (Der Rosenkavalier) he was awarded the Thálie Award in 1995 and 1996. He co-operates with radio and television and is a frequent guest of opera and concert stages in the Czech Republic and abroad. He has also made number of recordings with domestic and international recording labels.
- Semyon Bychkov / Dirigent
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.
- Lukáš Vasilek / choirmaster
Lukáš Vasilek, principal conductor of the Prague Philharmonic Choir, 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 Theatreʼs opera chorus. He took up his post at the helm of the Prague Philharmonic Choir in 2007. Apart from preparing and conducting the choirʼs a cappella concert productions, he has been building up the Prague Philharmonic Choirʼs repertoire set for participation in large-scale cantata, oratorio and opera projects, working with leading international conductors (such as Barenboim, Bělohlávek, Eschenbach, Honeck, Hrůša, Jordan, Luisi, Mehta, Noseda and Rattle) and orchestras (including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Czech Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, St Petersburg Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden or Wiener Symphoniker). Since 2010, the Prague Philharmonic Choir under Vasilekʼs direction has guest appeared regularly at the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria.
Lukáš Vasilek has made numerous recordings with the Prague Philharmonic Choir 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.
- Stefan Vinke / tenor
- Christa Mayer / mezzo-soprano
- Albert Pesendorfer / bass
- Jozef Chabroň / choirmaster
- Slovak Philharmonic Choir / choir
- Aga Mikolaj / soprán
- Detlev Glanert / Requiem za Hieronyma Bosche (2015–2016)