When Jiří Bělohlávek became the chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic in 2012, one of his artistic goals was to create dignified conditions for young artists, to stimulate their professional development, and to contribute towards their success internationally. Besides working with young musicians in the orchestra and supporting talented soloists, maestro Bělohlávek and the composer Miroslav Srnka were attempting to come up with an effective way to support young composers. Thanks to this, the first Czech Philharmonic Composition Competition took place in 2014, and another followed four years later. The first round drew a respectable 57 applicants from the Czech Republic and Slovakia. From among them, a committee consisting of players of the Czech Philharmonic, concert programming experts, and renowned composers selected the three finalists. The Czech Philharmonic commissioned Adrián Demoč, Matouš Hejl, and Jana Vörösová to compose the works that you will be hearing on this special concert programme. The members of the jury for the finals were the Harvard University professor Chaya Czernowin, the chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra David Robertson, and the chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Semyon Bychkov, and they decided on Jana Vörösová as the winner. They were also made high demands when choosing the conductor to give the works their premiere: Keith Lockhart is not only a first-class musician, but also one of the most popular conductors with whom our players collaborate.
Keith Lockhart is Conductor of the Boston Pops and Artistic Director of the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina (USA).
Now in his twenty-sixth season, Keith has served as Conductor of the Boston Pops since 1995, a tenure that includes nearly two thousand performances, forty-five national tours to more than 150 cities, and four international tours. He and the Pops have made eighty television shows and participated in such high-profile sporting events as Super Bowl XXXVI, the 2008 NBA finals, the 2013 Boston Red Sox Ring Ceremony, and, most recently, Game 2 of the 2018 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. The annual July 4 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular draws a live audience of over half a million with millions more who watch on television or live webcast.
From 2010-2018, Keith was Principal Conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra. Highlights of his tenure include critically acclaimed North American tours, conducting annual performances at The Proms, and celebrating the orchestra’s 60th year in 2012. In June of that same year, Keith conducted the orchestra during Queen Elizabeth II’s gala Diamond Jubilee Concert, which was broadcast around the world.
Keith concluded eleven seasons as Music Director of the Utah Symphony in 2009. Keith conducted three “Salute to the Symphony” television specials broadcast regionally, one of which received an Emmy award, and, in December 2001, he conducted the orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in a national PBS broadcast of Vaughan Williams’ oratorio Hodie. He led the Utah Symphony during Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and conducted two programs for the 2002 Olympic Arts Festival.
In addition to conducting nearly every major orchestra in North America, Lockhart has worked with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, Vienna Radio Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the NHK Symphony in Tokyo, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. In October 2012, he made his London Philharmonic debut in Royal Albert Hall. In the opera pit, Keith has conducted productions with the Atlanta Opera, Washington Opera, Boston Lyric Opera, and Utah Opera.
Born in Poughkeepsie, NY, he began his musical studies on piano at the age of seven and holds degrees from Furman University and Carnegie Mellon University. He was the 2006 recipient of the Bob Hope Patriot Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, and was a recipient of the 2017 Commonwealth Award, Massachusetts’ highest cultural honor.
The coloratura soprano Vanda Šípová graduated from the Prague Conservatory, where her voice teacher was the national artist Václav Zítek. Then she studied with the Russian baritone Vladimir Chernov and her current voice advisor is the Czech-Bulgarian opera singer Christina Vasileva. She has also attended a number of singing courses, among others with Josef Protschka, Tom Krause, Nancy Hanninger and Gabriela Beňačková. She has garnered accolades at international competitions, including the Vissi d’Arte in Prague (second prize), the Concours musical international de Montréal (first prize), the Antonín Dvořák International Vocal Competition in Karlovy Vary (the Slovak National Theatre Prize), and won other awards.
While still a student, she collaborated with the Prague State Opera and performed with the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra. She sang Madame Giry in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera and performed at the J. K. Tyl Theater in Pilsen, the F. X. Šalda in Liberec and the National Theater in Brno. At the National Theater in Prague she played Singer Kristýna in the world premiere of Petr Kofroň’s The Phantom, or The Bloody Opera; the three-role Geisha-Spectator-Voice in Martin Smolka’s opera Nagano; the Muse in Miloš Orson Štědroň’s opera Don Hrabal; Yvonne, a hotel chambermaid, in Ernst Krenek’s opera Jonny spielt auf; and the leading lady, Helga, in Ivan Acher’s opera Sternenhoch. Her current repertoire also includes the Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte), Gilda (Rigoletto), Ophélie (Hamlet), Musetta (La Bohème), Glauce (Medea) and other roles.
She likes to participate in modern projects in which various theater genres are intertwined – for example, she sang at the opening and closing ceremony of the 2017 International Karlovy Vary Film Festival or in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass in the Czech production of Vojtěch Dyk. She has also performed in several dramatic performances – in the Studio of Heroes in Prague alongside Karel Dobrý in Day of the Oprichnik or at the National Theater in Brno alongside Vladimír Javorský in The Duchess and the Cook, and as a guest in the international theater company Krepsko. She also gives concerts where she performs works such as those by Arnold Schoenberg, Richard Strauss and Erich Korngold.
V přírodě, koncertní předehra op. 91
The overture In Natureʼs Realm, which opens the concert program, is a staple in the Czech Philharmonic’s repertoire and, at the same time, one of the most frequently performed pieces by Antonín Dvořák. Its sonata form, melodic arches and onomatopoeia can serve as a springboard for the realization of how far musical thinking has shifted over the past nearly thirty years.
Něha, Adagio pro orchestr
The composer Adrián Demoč entitled his adagio for orchestra Neha [Tenderness], and the title seems to be self-explanatory as regards its musical and emotional content. The quiet and freely flowing chords almost caress each other and softly radiate into space. However, although the title of the composition indicates how it should be interpreted, Demoč’s idea was primarily musical. Neha is a calm piece which does not feel compelled to show the “infinite” possibilities of orchestration. The composer’s instructions in the score are, for example, “as a whole”, “smoothly”, “tenderly” or “without vibrato”. However, this does not mean that the result is static – there are less perceptible vibrations and motions under the surface. Each individual tone should sound gently, softly and delicately.
Percussion instruments include Thai gongs that have a long, hazy sound with a specific pitch. In combination with the wind instruments it is reminiscent of the soft sound of bells. At the same time, it also acts as a bonding element – similarly to a piano pedal. Equally important in the overall harmony is the use of wind instruments with the so-called “hotel dampers”, which are mainly used for practicing. Sound registers also require great care. The consonances of Neha are known, but their sound is different, perhaps nostalgic. Using the words of the Slovak writer Dominik Tatarka, Adrián Demoč has dedicated his composition to “my Czech friends whom I love”.
Adrián Demoč is a Slovak composer living in Spain. He studied composition privately with Igor Dibák, and subsequently at the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno under František Emmert and Martin Smolka, at the National University of Music in Bucharest under Doina Rotaru and at the Lithuanian Academy of Performing Arts under Osvaldas Balakauskas. In 2016 he won the Young Composers Prize awarded by the Plural Ensemble of Madrid.
Písně vrbovýho proutku pro soprán a orchestr
Orpingalikʼs Songs for soprano and orchestra were composed by Jana Vöröšová based on the Inuit poetry, as first published in the translations of Ladislav Novák in 1965. By their atmosphere, these short poems evoke a world different from ours. They suit the composer not only by their specific imagery, but also the character of magic invocations and their brevity. A comprehensive textual material would attract too much attention, while the concise poetic statements can gather layers of musical meanings like a snowball.
“The most important thing for me was the feeling that the poems evoked in me, because I have never been to Greenland,” says Vöröšová about the Inuit texts. “A lot of Inuit poetry consists of invocations. It is a different world, but at the same time conditioned by what one encounters. When you are in the mountains for a long time, you get something like a visual or color deprivation. And when you return to the civilization, you realize that red is red because you have not seen it for a long time. I have tried to conceive of each movement of Orpingalikʼs Songs in a different way in order to achieve dissimilar images. I have chosen the texts accordingly, and each part is different in terms of composition. The result is audio-visual images based on simple textual inspiration.”
Jana Vöröšová is a Czech composer. She studied composition at the Prague Conservatory in the class of Bohuslav Řehoř and at the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague in the class of Václav Riedlbauch. She also studied at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels and completed a three-month internship in Paris. Her compositions have been heard at the Contempuls, Wien Modern and Prague Spring festivals.
“I built a cottage for Susan and myself, and made a gateway in the form of a Gothic arch, by setting up a whale’s jaw-bones,” wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne in his tale The Village Uncle. Arches of whale jaw-bones in an imaginary prolongation also intersect in Matouš Hejl’s Crossings. The core of the composition is formed by the mirroring, crossing and intersection of vocal lines, leading the orchestra to a large, albeit soft sound composed of a number of individually led voices.
At first glance, the mirroring is already evident in the orchestra’s arrangement. The composer prescribes placing groups of the first and second violins opposite each other. Four trumpeters are to be placed in pairs on opposite sides of the orchestra. Two of the five percussionists should be placed in the same way. The mutually reflecting lines, however, go mainly through the structure of the composition itself.
Crossings requires a full symphony orchestra, but it seldom perceives the groups of instruments as a whole. Wind instruments, usually with four players for each instrument, only rarely play in unison; in some passages, as many as 12 violins or 8 double basses each play their individual parts. Crossings does not create a large dynamic arc, working to a large extent with pianissimo, and its contrasts are encoded primarily in horizontal and vertical motion. The instruments touch extreme depths: the contrabassoon goes as low as subcontra Bb; this descend is fictitiously joined by trombones because this deepest possible orchestral tone is out of their range.
Matouš Hejl (born 1989) is a Czech composer. He studied at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 2018 he won a contemporary music award, A Little Lower C4; and in 2016, the Karel Krautgartner Prize for the best composition for a jazz orchestra.
The Cunning Little Vixen, suite
The final suite from the opera The Cunning Little Vixen will remind us of this most optimistic stage work by Leoš Janáček. It is also a commemoration of this extraordinary Czech modernist who reached the very limit of the possibilities of his time in his search for his own musical language. Janáček’s oeuvre was not fully appreciated until the late 1970s and early 1980s, while over the past 30 years it has become a permanent part of the opera and concert repertoire around the world.