Czech Philharmonic performs with Petr Altrichter and German cellist Isang Enders in Seoul, South Korea, as a part of the orchestra's 2017 tour of Asia.
Seoul Arts Center
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Overture to The Bartered Bride
Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104
Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88
Isang Enders has quickly established himself as a dynamic artist in search of new-concepts and works for the violoncello. Born into a German-Korean musician family in Frankfurt in 1988, Isang Enders began studying with Michael Sanderling at the age of twelve. His playing has since been influenced by his studies with Gustav Rivinius, Truls Mørk, and above all, by the mentoring of the American cellist Lynn Harrell.
At the age of twenty, Isang Enders was appointed principal cello of the Dresden Staatskapelle, making him the youngest section leader in Germany. During his four years with the orchestra, he also co-founded the Gohrisch Shostakovich Festival alongside Tobias Niederschlag.
Isang Enders recently made his debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra, enjoyed collaborations with the Stuttgarter Philharmoniker and Stavanger Symphony orchestras and performs regularly with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. He has worked with eminent conductors including Myung-Whun Chung, Christoph Eschenbach, Pablo Heras-Casado, Eliahu Inbal, Zubin Mehta and Vasily Petrenko.
He has most recently performed Unsuk Chin’s Cello Concerto in both Stavanger and Paris, and performed the Korean debut of Dutilleux’s Cello Concerto as well the Shostakovich Cello Concerto with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.
As a dedicated chamber musician, he continues to work closely with the pianist Igor Levit, with whom he has toured extensively, as well as Kit Armstrong and Sunwook Kim.
Last season he made his debut at the Bach Festival in Montreal, and spent the summer at the Malboro Music Festival in the US. He performs regularly as a recitalist at Heidelburger Fruhling and Rheingau Musikfestivals.
His highly-acclaimed and early recording of the Bach Cello Suites on Berlin Classics was a triumph. One critic describes him as a “reflective and highly intelligent young man”. Isang Enders is signed to Berlin Classics and SONY Music Entertainment and plays an instrument by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume (Paris, 1840).
For Dvořák, 1889, in which he finished Symphony No. 8 in G major, Op. 88, was a successful year indeed. He was offered the post of professor of composition at the Prague Conservatory and the National Theatre premiered his opera The Jacobin. The general interest in his music was further boosted by his fruitful visits to England.
Dvořák was absorbed in work on his Eighth Symphony from 28 August to 8 November, with the bulk of the time spent at his summer residence in Vysoká, the place he felt the most at ease. Yet the idyllic creative atmosphere was disturbed by a dispute with his “chief” publisher, Simrock, which ultimately resulted in an interruption of their co-operation for three years. Dvořák’s opus 88 was hence published by the London-based Novello. The symphony was subsequently given the subtitle “English”. In its basic features – four movements and their tempo scheme – Dvořák’s Eighth retains the structure of a classical symphony. Nevertheless, the work is striking owing to numerous innovations and a varied succession of changing moods. As the composer himself put it, he strove to treat themes and motifs in other than the “usual, universally used and acknowledged forms”.
Symphony No. 8 was premiered, with Dvořák himself conducting, on 2 February 1890 at the Rudolfinum in Prague within the popular Umělecká beseda society concerts. On 24 April of the same year it was performed in London at a Philharmonic Society concert at St. James’s Hall. An English reviewer wrote: “Although, just like Brahms, striving to adhere to the Beethoven school, Dvořák is the only one who is able to employ a distinctly new element in a symphony.” The Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick described the piece as follows: “This is one of Dvořák’s finest pieces……His works demonstrate an original personality, and this personality breathes the refreshing spirit of something novel and original.”
Noteworthy too is Dvořák’s commentary following the London premiere: “The concert turned out splendidly, dare I say as well as any other before… I was called several times to the stage – by and large, it was as nice and sincere as at the premieres at home in Prague. So I am satisfied and thank God that it has turned out so well!”
The year 1896 was important for the history of Czech music for two reasons: on 4 January, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra was founded, and on 19 March, Antonín Dvořák conducted the premiere of his Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 during his ninth and final concert tour in England. Although Dvořák was very happy about this composition, even writing about the “pure joy” which this work brought to him, in his modesty he could not know or guess that it would become one of his most frequently performed pieces, and for many people the best cello concerto ever, sometimes called the “king”. The paradox is that Dvořák had never been particularly drawn to the concertante form and did not recognise the cello as a solo instrument: he actually complained that it “whinges up above, and grumbles down below”. Nevertheless, by serendipitous circumstances, in the autumn of 1894 he decided to compose a concerto for cello. His first attempt at a solo concerto for this instrument was made almost thirty years ago, but Dvořák held this early concerto in such low regard that he did not mind the loss of its autograph (found after the composer’s death) and never included it in any list of his works.
The first and the most important impulse for Dvořák to choose this genre was a cello concerto by the American composer and cellist Victor Herbert. At that time, Dvořák was the director of the National Conservatory in New York; Herbert taught the cello there and was also the principle cellist with the New York Philharmonic Society. Dvořák was so excited by Herbert’s work that he studied its score in great detail and several months later began to compose his own cello concerto. Perhaps in line with the deeply intimate Biblical Songs created in the spring of 1894, Dvořák continued on this personal level, revealing in his new work his experiences at that particular time in his life: being homesick and missing his children (except for his son Otakar who was with him in the U.S., his other five children remained in Bohemia), longing after his summer home in Vysoká, where he could work undisturbed, and reminiscing about gravely ill Josefina Kounitzová, his sister-in-law and friend, whom Dvořák had loved in the past. The combination of Dvořák’s creative élan and inner melancholy gave rise to his innermost composition, dominated by a firm compositional order, which is not without hope. Josefina is memorialized in the concerto by the melody of Dvořák’s song Leave Me Alone from the cycle Four Songs, Op. 82, of which Josefina was particularly fond.
The concerto is in three movement. It opens with a grandiose orchestral introduction, expanding from two main themes. While the first is characterized by bigger melodic intervals, the second theme consists of a sweet, gentle melody. A seemingly spontaneous idea was born after a long and laborious struggle, after which Dvořák found its correct form. He himself admitted that the lyrical theme of the introductory Allegro made him tremble. In the second movement he went even further, creating one of his most impressive lyrical expressions. This is where the quotation from the song Leave Me Alone is heard. Then comes the rondo, which represents the symbol of hope, of resurrection after a dark night on the cross, an image of the pain transformed. Dvořák wrote it a few weeks before he left New York for good; this might be why it is elated by an eager expectation, which, however, was spoiled upon Dvořák’s return to Bohemia by the news of Josefina’s premature death. In response to this sad fact, Dvořák radically changed the conclusion of the whole concert, inserting a new section of sixty bars before the original short coda, after which the solo violin again quotes Josefina’s favourite song.
The world premiere of the concerto was held in London’s Queen’s Hall on 19 March 1896 and was conducted by the composer himself. Originally, the composition was to be premiered by Dvořák’s close friend and mentor of the cello part, Hanuš Wihan, to whom the work was dedicated, but in the end its performance was entrusted to a young English cellist, Leo Stern. It is rumoured that the change of cellists was caused by Wihan’s rather insensitive insistence to play his own virtuoso cadenza, which Dvořák resolutely rejected, but the real reason was probably bad timing. Stern went to see Dvořák in Bohemia and worked hard with him, practising almost seven hours a day in order to master it because the composition was extremely difficult for him in terms of intonation. Stern also presented the work at the Prague premiere on 11 April 1896 and later in Leipzig, Chicago and New York.
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