Photo illustrating page  Czech Philharmonic Concert for the 100th Anniversary of Czechoslovakia

Czech Philharmonic

Concert for the 100th Anniversary of Czechoslovakia

Czech Philharmonic

For this country’s jubilee year, the series of Special Concerts for our 123rd season will include a special Czech programme for the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia.

Duration of the programme 2 hod
Programme

Bedřich Smetana
The Bartered Bride, overture to the opera

Bedřich Smetana
Polka, Furiant, Skočná, dances from the opera The Bartered Bride

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

Antonín Dvořák
Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (“From the New World”)

Performers

Ivo Kahánek
piano

Michael Kroutil
timpani

Semyon Bychkov
conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic Concert for the 100th Anniversary of Czechoslovakia
Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall
3 Oct 2018  Wednesday — 6.00pm
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Performers

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.

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.

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.

Compositions

 — Prodaná nevěsta, předehra

Antonín Dvořák — Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 (“From the New World”)

Počátkem 90. let stál Dvořák na vrcholu svých uměleckých sil a byl již světově uznávaným skladatelem. Dostával nabídky na vytvoření skladeb, na koncertní turné či na posty učitelské a ředitelské. Génius Antonín Dvořák se postupně vypracoval z „pouhého“ českého skladatele na skladatele světového, kterého vydávaly renomované nakladatelské domy a s kterým se přátelil Brahms či Čajkovskij.

Symfonie č. 9 e moll „Z Nového světa“ představuje vrcholné mistrovské dílo, kombinující dosavadní Dvořákovy postupy v kompozici. Psát cokoli o ní se zdá být vzhledem k jejímu častému provozování nadbytečné. Dílo se od svého prvního uvedení stalo nesmírně populárním a v roce 1969 si vzal s sebou nahrávku symfonie americký kosmonaut Neil Armstrong při první cestě člověka na měsíc. Pro Dvořáka se stalo vytvoření tohoto díla však také jakýmsi symbolem jeho vlastní první cesty za oceán, do Nového světa. V roce 1892 přijímá pozvání do Spojených států a na tři roky se stává ředitelem Národní konzervatoře v New Yorku. Po krátké době pobytu za mořem, v zimě 1893, začíná pracovat na své další, v pořadí již deváté symfonii. Je na ní znát, jak silně na skladatele Amerika zapůsobila, zároveň však zůstává dílem českého mistra na vrcholu tvůrčích sil. Novosvětská měla být důkazem skladatelovy teorie o možnostech využití charakteristických prvků černošské a indiánské hudby pro vznik tzv. americké národní školy, která v době Dvořákova pobytu ve Spojených státech fakticky neexistovala. 

Odborníci vedou již více než sto let debaty o tom, zda Dvořák v symfonii použil konkrétní nápěvy černošských písní či nikoliv. Dvořák sám se k této věci vyjádřil rozporuplně. Jednou tvrdil: „Právě dokončuji novou Sinfonii e moll. Dělá mi velkou radost a bude se od mých dřívějších lišit velice podstatně. Inu, vliv Ameriky, každý kdo má ‚čuch‘, musí vycítit.“ Podruhé se vyjádřil zdánlivě protikladně: „Je to a zůstane to pořád českou muzikou.“ Každopádně konkrétní melodie vědomě nepřebíral: „Je to jen duch černošských a indiánských melodií, jejž jsem se snažil reprodukovat ve své nové symfonii. Neupotřebil jsem jediné z oněch melodií.“  Otázkou také zůstává, do jaké míry mohl vlastně Dvořák za tak krátkou dobu pobytu v Americe původní americkou hudbu opravdu poznat, a nakolik bylo pouze jeho přáním vytvořit něco pro Ameriku, která se k němu v počátcích tak štědře zachovala a která ho jistě velmi fascinovala. Dirigent Leonard Bernstein označil dílo jako skutečně mezinárodní ve své podstatě. Navzdory všem těmto dohadům má 9. symfonie asi mnohem více společného s českou hudbou než s hudbou americkou. Stavebně se vyznačuje velmi přesnou, téměř učebnicovou formou jednotlivých vět.

Podvědomě však Dvořák minimálně jednu ze známých melodií „odcitoval“, vždyť téma z první věty symfonie připomíná nápadně černošský spirituál Swing Low Sweet Chariot.  Druhá věta Largo je zase možná inspirována Písní o Hiawathovi. Tato rozsáhlá básnická skladba amerického básníka Henryho Wadswortha Longfellowa čerpá z příběhů o legendárním indiánském náčelníkovi Hiawathovi a její významnou složkou jsou také působivé popisy přírodních krás divoké americké přírody. Hlavní téma slavného Dvořákova Larga – široká, vznešeně prostá melodie (přednášená anglickým rohem na pozadí sordinovaných smyčců) – má možná svůj předobraz v putování Hiawathy a jeho ženy Minnehahy rozlehlou, nedotčenou americkou krajinou. Střední část věty může být zase odrazem nálady ve scéně pohřbu Minnehahy. Třetí věta symfonie má pak podle skladatele také „něco z indiánského charakteru“. V závěrečné čtvrté větě Dvořák kombinuje všechna témata z celé symfonie. Toto perfektní zvládnutí formy ve spojitosti s nápaditou melodikou, harmonií a instrumentačním mistrovstvím tvoří dohromady skutečně geniální jedinečné dílo. Závěrem uveďme citát z New York Times z roku 1893:  „My, Američané, bychom měli děkovat tomuto českému mistru a ctít ho za to, že nám ukázal, jak máme zacházet s naším vlastním hudebním dědictvím.

 — Polka, Furiant, Skočná, tance z opery Prodaná nevěsta

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.