Barbara Maria Willi is an innovative Czech-German harpsichordist and fortepiano player. Her contribution to the development of Early Music in the Czech Republic is significant, lately by founding and leading the first Department of Early Music within a Czech Academic Institution (the Janáček Academy in Brno). She gained her Ph.D. title with a thesis on Basso continuo styles in 17th Century Central Europe (2007) and was awarded her professorship by the Czech president Václav Klaus in 2010 as the youngest holder of that title in the field of Classical Music.
Her studies at the Mozarteum Salzburg (which she finished with excellence) equipped her with the courage of taking musical risks and the taste of never ending search for new sound colours. Jos van Immerseel and Mark Lindley enhanced her love for the instrument and her talent for mixing intonation nuances; Jesper Chistensen was a great inspiration source for her continuo interpretation.
Within the course of her international career Barbara Maria Willi obtained several distinctions as e.g. a Special Mention in the Harpsichord Competition in Brugge (Belgium), an award of the German Music Critics for her CD „Intrada di Polcinelli“ or the prestigious French „Choc du monde de musique“ for the outstanding recording „Salve mater“.
She played at concert halls like the Prague Rudolfinum, the Zürich opera or the Musikhaus Wien. She made appearances at festivals like the Prague Spring Festival, the Osterfestspiele Baden-Baden or the Mitte Europa festival. She was invited by concert series of the Wrocław Baroque Orchestra or the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. She worked and is working with artists like Martina Janková, Magdalena Kožená, Vilém Veverka, Eric Hoeprich, Erich Hoebarth and is currently part of the Ensemble Berlin-Praha with members of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Czech Television consecrated a musical portrait to her under the title of Bravo - Barbara Maria Willi. Barbara is featuring rediscovered baroque and classical repertory as well as contemporary music for historical instruments in recordings for German, Austrian and Czech Radio stations.
Her programming for the renowned Czech festival Concentus Moraviae has often been provocative and original (e.g. „Flemish storm“, „Great composers and their ennemies“).
The Czech-German keyboard specialist surprises with unexpected viewpoints and very personal interpretations. With her unique fortepiano by F. J. Baumeister, built in 1797, she undertook a research journey to late 18th century vocal and instrumental music of the Czech lands, but started also being active in discovering and inspiring contemporary composers, e.g. with the ensemble Brno Contemporary Orchestra. She is author of a basso continuo detective story under the title: Thoroughbass or - who murdered Counterpoint?
Simona Šaturová, winner of the Charlotte and Walter Hamel Award for outstanding vocal achievement at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Lübeck (2007) and Thalia Award for the best opera performance in 2001, was born in Bratislava. She studied singing at the Bratislava Conservatory with Miloslava Fidlerová and then privately lessons with Soňa Kresáková, Ileana Cotrubaș and Margreet Honig.
Highlights of the recent seasons include Violetta and Gilda in the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels, where she is a regular guest since 2010 and has appeared there as Ilia, Sandrina and Servilia, and Lucia di Lammermoor at the Frankfurt Opera (formerly also in the roles of Pamina, Oscar or Madama Cortese). She closely collaborates with the Aalto-Musiktheater in Essen (Violetta, Adina, Konstanze, Donna Anna) and the Prague National Theatre (Gilda, Konstanze, Pamina, Susanna, etc.). She has also performed in the Theater an der Wien, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Athens Megaron, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and Opéra de Monte-Carlo.
Simona Houda-Šaturová is also a successful concert performer in an international context. In 2006 she made her debut at festivals in Salzburg and Lucerne. In the same year she was the soloist in Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony under the direction of Christoph Eschenbach at the reopening of the famous Salle Pleyel in Paris, and in 2007 Christoph Eschenbach invited her to tour with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the United States, including Carnegie Hall in New York. She has appeared in Oslo, Dallas, Tel Aviv, Toronto, Detroit, Tokyo, Osaka, Vienna, Zurich and at festivals such as the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, Rheingau Musik Festival, the Prague Spring, Wiener Frühlingsfestival, Festival Internationale di Musica e Arte Sacra in Rome and the Edinburgh Festival.
The conductors with whom she repeatedly works include Manfred Honeck (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic), Ádám Fischer (London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment), Jiří Bělohlávek (Czech Philharmonic, PKF – Prague Philharmonia), Helmuth Rilling (Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra) and Iván Fischer and Christopher Hogwood (Munich Philharmonic Orchestra). She performed on tour with Philippe Herreweghe and the Orchestre des Champs-Élysées, with Christoph Eschenbach and the Academic Orchestra of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, Thomas Quasthoff and Helmuth Rilling, as well as at recitals with Bryn Terfel and Mariusz Kwiecień.
She recorded for Sony (Carmina Burana, Noël), Hänssler Classic (Haydn’s Masses) and Ondine (Mahler’s Second Symphony). In 2009 she released her first solo album on the Orfeo label. She recorded Haydn’s opera arias with the NDR Radiophilharmonie conducted by Alessandro De Marchi and in November 2009 was awarded Editor’s Choice by Gramophone magazine. In the autumn of 2014 she presented her next solo album with arias by Josef Mysliveček and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
“It is the fulfilment of a dream we shared with Jiří Bělohlávek: after two years of preparations, we are ushering in regular concerts of the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra. This name does not stand for one particular ensemble; instead it represents a project in which the orchestra members will be performing in various chamber groups,” said David Mareček, Chief Executive Officer of the Czech Philharmonic, in the spring of 2018. Jiří Bělohlávek was convinced that it was healthy for the Czech Philharmonic to play in a smaller ensemble. In a smaller orchestra, with a repertoire spanning the Baroque to the present, the musicians can hone the intonation, phrasing and collaboration of individuals within the whole. The Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, consisting exclusively of the members of the Czech Philharmonic put together for a specific occasion, has been officially established in the 123rd season.