1 / 6
Czech Philharmonic • Ariane
Choosing Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony for the Advent period is no coincidence. Václav Talich called it the “Christmas Symphony” for the lovely melody of the slow movement.
Ariane, a lyric opera in one act, H 370, concert performance of the opera (35')
Symphony No. 6 in D Major, Op. 60 (41')
Jessica Muirhead soprano
Zoltan Nagy baritone
Richard Samek tenor
Jozef Benci bass
Peter Mikuláš bass
Members of the Prague Philharmonic Choir
Lukáš Vasilek choirmaster
Tomáš Netopil conductor
Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall
Customer Service of Czech Philharmonic
Tel.: +420 227 059 227
Customer Service of Czech Philharmonic
Tel.: +420 227 059 227
Choosing Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony for the Advent period is no coincidence. Václav Talich called it the “Christmas Symphony” for the lovely melody of the slow movement. The whole symphony is imbued with the peaceful happiness the composer was experiencing at the time of writing. He was finally getting international recognition and his works had begun to be played in Vienna, Berlin, London, and other great cities around the world. He was receiving commissions from the most important musical institutions and the new symphony was making its way triumphantly from Prague to Leipzig, Dresden, Cologne, Frankfurt, Vienna, and Budapest. During the rehearsals for its London première, the conductor Hans Richter wrote to Dvořák: “This morning was the first rehearsal of your beautiful work. I am proud of the dedication. The orchestra is really enthusiastic. The performance is on Monday the 15th at 8 p.m. I’m sure it will be a great success. It is also being lovingly rehearsed…”
Another Christmas gift is the concert performance of Bohuslav Martinů’s Ariane. Tomáš Netopil made an acclaimed recording of this lovely one-act opera with the Essen Philharmonic in 2016 and four years later he is preparing a live performance in Prague. Georges Neveux turned the homecoming of Theseus into a stage play and for Martinů it was material that allowed him to catch his breath: “I’m writing a new little opera, one act, to take a bit of a rest from the big opera, The Greek Passion, which is taking a lot of work.” In just a month in the summer of 1958, Martinů was able to compose the music for the well-known story of the king’s daughter Ariane (Ariadne), who helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. Opera will be sung in French.
Slovak bass Jozef Benci finished his studies in the class of Sergej Kopčák at the Bratislava Academy in 2003. In 2001 he won the prestigious International Singing Competition of George Enescu in Bucharest. In 2006, he won the Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg International Competition for young singers in Berlin. In 2002, he was engaged as a soloist of the State Opera Banská Bystrica. In 2004 he made his stage debut at the Slovak National Theatre Opera House in Bratislava in the role of Zaccaria (Nabucco). In 2007 he became the soloist of this leading Slovak opera scene. He also performed in other opera and concert performances both in his native Slovakia and in the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, France, Romania, Italy, Austria, Poland and Germany. In 2011 he received critical acclaim for the role of Kecal in a concert version of Smetanaʼs The Bartered Bride, conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Londonʼs Barbican Hall. This performance was later released on a CD by Harmonia Mundi. In 2011 he presented for Bratislava Music Festival for together vocal´s recital with coloratura star soprano Edita Gruberova. In 2012 he studied bass part of famous Requiem by Verdi with aconducting legend Nello Santi.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir is the most important and oldest professional mixed choir in the Czech Republic. During its long history, there has been a succession of the most important Czech choirmasters at its helm; since 2007, the chief choirmaster has been Lukáš Vasilek, and the second choirmaster is currently Lukáš Kozubík.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir performs mainly the oratorio and cantata repertoire in collaboration with the world most famous orchestras (the Berliner Philharmoniker, Czech Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden or Wiener Symphoniker, among others) led by such illustrious conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Zubin Mehta, Fabio Luisi, Semyon Bychkov, Jiří Bělohlávek, and Jakub Hrůša. It also performs in opera as an ensemble-in-residence at the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria.
The choir is realising several projects of its own. Since 2011 it has been presenting an independent series of choral concerts in Prague, with its programming focused mainly on challenging, lesser-known works of the choral repertoire. Music education for young people is an integral part of the choir’s activities, with a Choral Academy for vocal students and a series of educational concerts for younger children.
Lukáš Vasilek studied conducting and musicology. Since 2007 he has been the chief choirmaster of the Prague Philharmonic Choir. Most of his artistic activity with the choir involves rehearsing and performing a cappella repertoire along with preparing the choir to perform in large-scale cantata, oratorio, and opera projects in collaboration with world-famous conductors and orchestras (Berlin Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, Saint Petersburg Philharmonic etc.).
Besides his work with the Prague Philharmonic Choir, he also engages in other performing activities mainly in cooperation with the Martinů Voices, which he founded in 2010. He is credited as a conductor or choirmaster on a large number of Prague Philharmonic Choir recordings made for important international labels (Decca Classics, Supraphon). In recent years, he has been devoting himself systematically to recording the choral music of Bohuslav Martinů. His recordings have won exceptional acclaim abroad, earning honours including awards from the prestigious journals Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, and Diapason.
An inspirational force, particularly in Czech music, Tomáš Netopil celebrates his ninth season as General Music Director of the Aalto Musiktheater and Philharmonie Essen in 2021/2022. Mozart’s La finta giardiniera features this season as well as Don Giovanni plus Strauss’s Arabella – while in recent seasons in Essen, Netopil has led performances of titles including Rusalka, Lohengrin, Die Walküre, Pique Dame, and Der Rosenkavalier.
Tomáš Netopil is also Principal Guest Conductor with Czech Philharmonic Orchestra with whom, in addition to concerts at the Rudolfinum Hall in Prague, he performs on tour including for the Dvořák Prague Festival. Guest-conducting performances during 2021/2022 include return invitations with Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo, Aspen Festival, Brno Philharmonic, Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, RAI Torino as well as his concert debut with the Staatstheater Hannover.
In Summer 2018 Tomáš Netopil created the International Summer Music Academy in Kroměříž offering students both exceptional artistic tuition and the opportunity to meet and work with major international musicians. In Summer 2021, in association with the Dvořák Prague Festival, the Academy established the Dvořákova Praha Youth Philharmonic with musicians from conservatories and music academies, coached by principal players of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Tomáš Netopil has held a close relationship with the Dvořák Prague Festival for some time and was Artist in Residence in 2017, opening the Festival with Essen Philharmoniker and closing the Festival with Dvořák’s Te Deum and Wiener Symphoniker.
Operatic highlights beyond Essen include Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden (La clemenza di Tito, Rusalka, The Cunning Little Vixen, La Juive, The Bartered Bride, and Busoni’s Doktor Faust), Vienna Staatsoper (his most recent successes include Idomeneo, Der Freischütz, and a new production of Leonore) and for Netherlands Opera (Jenůfa). His concert highlights of recent seasons have included Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich as well as engagements with Orchestre de Paris, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Orchestre National de Montpellier, Orchestra Sinfonica della Rai, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo.
Tomáš Netopil’s discography for Supraphon includes Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass (the first ever recording of the original 1927 version), Dvořák’s complete cello works, Martinů’s Ariane and Double Concerto, and Smetana’s Má vlast with the Prague Symphony Orchestra. During his tenure in Essen, he has recorded Suk’s Asrael and Mahler’s Symphonies No. 6 and 9.
From 2008–2012 Tomáš Netopil held the position of Music Director of the Prague National Theatre. He studied violin and conducting in his native Czech Republic, as well as at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm under the guidance of Professor Jorma Panula. In 2002 he won the 1st Sir Georg Solti Conductors Competition at the Alte Oper Frankfurt.
Symphony No. 6 in D Major Op. 60
Allegro non tanto
Finale: Allegro con spirito
Antonín Dvořákʼs Symphony No. 6 in D Major, Op. 60 is sometimes given the epithet “Czech”. Written in autumn 1880, it is the work of a mature composer whose music had just started to achieve worldwide recognition. Characteristically free of conflict, full of optimism and joy, it reflects a happy period in Dvořak’s life, when he achieved the success he desired with audiences, performers, critics and publishers. The contented atmosphere is ushered in by the first movement, Allegro non tanto, in sonata form. The second movement, Adagio, is an ardent nocturne. It opens with a brooding theme, which returns three times in minor variations, thus giving the movement the form of a rondo. The third movement, a scherzo (Presto), echoes Dvořák’s favourite Czech dance, the furiant, and recalls his somewhat earlier set of Slavonic Dances. The movement is framed by strongly rhythmic music which contrasts with a relaxed trio in the middle section. Like the first movement, the finale, Allegro con spirito, is written in sonata form. It underlines the joyful atmosphere of the work, achieving a full symphonic breadth and ends with a graduated coda which leaves the audience in no doubt that this is a work written by someone experiencing joyous moments as he was composing.