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Special Christmas Concerts
For our Christmas Concert, we have prepared a pre-Christmas gift for our listeners in the form of one of the most beautiful compositions in the entire history of sacred music.
The Creation, oratorio for soloists, choir, and orchestra, Hob. XXI:2
Marta Reichelová soprano
Petr Nekoranec tenor
Jozef Benci bass
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Lukáš Vasilek choirmaster
Petr Altrichter conductor
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For our Christmas Concert, we have prepared a pre-Christmas gift for our listeners in the form of one of the most beautiful compositions in the entire history of sacred music. Haydn was inspired to compose The Creation during his visit to London, where he heard Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt performed at Westminster Abbey by over a thousand musicians. Haydn was so struck by the beautiful, monumental sound that he decided on the spot to write a work of similar beauty celebrating the human spirit.
Johann Peter Salomon brought Haydn a libretto in English titled The Creation, which was originally supposed to have been used by Handel. The text quotes from Genesis, Milton’s Paradise Lost, and the Book of Psalms. The imperial librarian in Vienna, Gottfried van Swieten, translated the text into German, so Haydn was soon able to start working on it.
The Viennese nobility attended the first performance at the Schwarzenberg Palace on 29 April 1798. At the concert, which Haydn conducted, the composer felt “a chill run down his spine”. The public première a year later at the Burgtheater was the greatest triumph of Haydn’s career. The public showered their praise for Haydn with shouts of “Long live music!” Berlioz’s later criticism now tends to evoke a smile: “I have always felt a profound antipathy for this work. […] Its lowing oxen, its buzzing insects, its light in C major which dazzles one like a Carcel lamp […] they make me want to murder somebody.”
Marta Reichelová was born in Jeseník. She graduated from the Janáček Conservatory in Ostrava and the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno, where she continues her post-gradual studies. While still a student, she guest performed at the Jiří Myron Theater in Ostrava (Emmerich Kalmán: The Countess Maritza – Lisa), the Silesian Theater in Opava (Engelbert Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel– Hansel) and the Josef Kajetán Tyl Theater in Pilsen (Bohuslav Martinů: The Soldier and the Dancer – Fenicie the dancer).
In 2013 Marta Reichelová began to appear as a guest at the National Theater in Brno. She made her debut as Daphne, the leading role of the eponymous opera by contemporary composers Tomáš Hanzlík and Vít Zouhar, and the First Nymph in Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák. In the same year she was engaged as a regular solo singer of the opera ensemble of the National Theater in Brno. Her repertory includes the Cunning Little Vixen (Leoš Janáček: The Cunning Little Vixen), the Maid (Thomas Adés: Powder Her Face), Zerlina (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni), Penelopka (Marko Ivanović: Enchantia), Barče (Bedřich Smetana: The Kiss) and Esmeralda (Bedřich Smetana: The Bartered Bride).
In autumn 2015 she made her debut at the National Theater in Prague as the Cook (Igor Stravinsky: The Nightingale) and Brigitta (Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Iolanta). It was followed by her debut at the Antonín Dvořák Theater Theater in Ostrava in the role of Ophelia (Ambroise Thomas: Hamlet). She attracted attention with her interpretation of Jano in a concert performance of Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek in the Rudolfinum (Prague) and at the South Bank Center (London), broadcast live on BBC.
Marta Reichelová is a prize-winner of the Antonín Dvořák International Singing Competition in Karlovy Vary and the Jakub Pustina International Singing Competition and a semi-finalist of the Hans Gabor Belveder Competition.
She has collaborated with conductors such as Latham König, Rastislav Štúr, Jaroslav Kyzlink, Jakub Klecker, Tomáš Brauner, David Švec and Marko Ivanović and orchestras such as the Czech Philharmonic, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Brno Philharmonic Orchestra and Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra of Ostrava.
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 (PPC) is a leading European vocal ensemble, and as one of the Czech Republic’s foremost artistic institutions operates under the trusteeship of the Czech Ministry of Culture. In the course of the choir’s long history since its foundation in 1935, it has been directed by a succession of some of the most distinguished Czech choirmasters (including among others Jan Kühn, Josef Veselka and Pavel Kühn). Since 2007 its principal choirmaster has been Lukáš Vasilek.
The PPC’s repertoire is centered primarily around oratorio and cantata works. In their presentation, the choir has worked with eminent international orchestras (e.g., Czech Philharmonic, the Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Symphoniker, among others), and conductors (including Daniel Barenboim, Jakub Hrůša, Tomáš Netopil, Zubin Mehta or Sir Simon Rattle). Beyond its standard choral repertoire, the PPC is likewise active in the domain of opera, working regularly with the National Theater in Prague, and since 2010 holding the status of choir in residence at the opera festival of Bregenz, Austria.
Apart from these commitments, the PPC engages in a number of its own projects. Since 2011 it has organized its own choral concert series in Prague, with a program focused notably on presentations of less well known choral works, either a cappella or with chamber-scale instrumental accompaniment. The choir regards as an inseparable part of its activity educational endeavours targeting the young generations. In this context, it has been involved in organizing a Choral Academy for students of singing, a project aimed at enabling young artists to acquire practical skills through work with a professional vocal ensemble.
The PPCʼs many commitments in the 2019/2020 season include among others concert appearances at the Dvořák Prague and Prague Spring festivals, a tour in Hong Kong, a performance in Moscowʼs new concert hall, Zaryadye, as well as debut appearances at the Salzburg Easter Festival, with Staatskapelle Dresden and Christian Thielemann, or at the Elbphilharmonie hall, with the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Jakub Hrůša, and with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra under the baton of Alan Gilbert. The PPC will bring its 85th season to a close by appearances at several festivals, including Smetana Litomyšl, St. Gallen Festival in Switzerland, and the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria. The Prague Philharmonic Choir is the recipient of the 2018 Classic Prague Award for Best Vocal Concert, and Czech Televisionʼs Classical Music of the Year Award.
Lukáš Vasilek, principal conductor of the Prague Philharmonic Choir, studied conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and musicology at the Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague. For eleven seasons from 1998 he was conductor of the Foerster Female Chamber Choir, and between 2005 and 2007 was also second choirmaster of the Prague National Theatreʼs opera chorus. He took up his post at the helm of the Prague Philharmonic Choir in 2007. Apart from preparing and conducting the choirʼs a cappella concert productions, he has been building up the Prague Philharmonic Choirʼs repertoire set for participation in large-scale cantata, oratorio and opera projects, working with leading international conductors (such as Barenboim, Bělohlávek, Eschenbach, Honeck, Hrůša, Jordan, Luisi, Mehta, Noseda and Rattle) and orchestras (including the Berliner Philharmoniker, Czech Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic, St Petersburg Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden or Wiener Symphoniker). Since 2010, the Prague Philharmonic Choir under Vasilekʼs direction has guest appeared regularly at the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria.
Lukáš Vasilek has made numerous recordings with the Prague Philharmonic Choir for various major labels, including Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, Sony Classical and Supraphon. In 2016, the last mentioned of these issued an album of Bohuslav Martinů’s cantatas which was nominated for the BBC Music Magazine’s annual award in the choral category, among other plaudits.
Petr Altrichter is one of the most distinguished Czech conductors, and he has earned an illustrious reputation for the dynamism and depth of his interpretations of symphonic music. He was raised in a musical family and played musical instruments from a young age. Having graduated from the Conservatory in Ostrava as a French horn player and conductor, he continued his studies at the Janáček Academy of the Performing Arts in Brno in orchestral conducting under Otakar Trhlík and František Jílek and choral conducting with Josef Veselka and Lubomír Mátl. After completing his studies in Brno, he worked as a choirmaster and conductor with the Brno Academic Choir, and contributed to the winning of many prizes at foreign choral competitions and festivals (Middlesbrough, Debrecen…).
Altrichter attracted international attention in 1976, when he won second prize and a special prize of the jury at the renowned International Conducting Competition in Besançon, France. Based on this achievement he began to work with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra as an assistant of Václav Neumann, which started his artistic career. Not long after that, he began to receive invitations to conduct orchestras abroad. After working with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, in 1988 he became the principal guest conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra and in 1991 he was appointed its chief conductor. With that orchestra, he made frequent foreign tours to Japan, the USA, Switzerland, Germany, France, and other countries. At the same time he also closely collaborated with the Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, with which he often gave performances abroad introducing many gifted young soloists (such as Isabelle van Keulen and Radek Baborák).
From 1993 to 2004 he also worked as the Music Director of the Südwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Constance, Germany, with which he gave concerts regularly at the Tonhalle in Zurich and at the KKL in Lucerne, and also toured Switzerland and Italy. Having made his U.K. debut with the Prague Symphony Orchestra at the Edinburgh Festival in 1990, Petr Altrichter made his London debut with the English Chamber Orchestra 1993. He then conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1994 to a great critical acclaim. He was subsequently appointed its Principal Conductor, a post he held from 1997 until 2001. With this orchestra he appeared at the 2000 BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and made several highly-praised recordings on the orchestra’s own label, RLPO live.
In 2001 Altrichter was invited to become the Chief Conductor of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, and he remained there for seven years, returning to the orchestra with which he had been associated since his student days and which he continues to guest conduct up to this day. He is also a regular guest of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, with which he has maintained a steady artistic relationship since his beginnings there as an assistant conductor, and of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, with which he recorded an award-winning CD with Antonín Dvořák’s music. Since the 2018/2019 season, he has been a permanent guest conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he has been working for many years.
In 2015 he toured Germany with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and in late 2015 and early 2016, he toured China with the same orchestra. At the beginning of the 2017/2018 season, he conducted the Czech Philharmonic at the Dvořák Prague International Festival and later toured very successfully in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan with the same orchestra. In the spring of 2017 he toured Japan with the Prague Symphony Orchestra. In 2018 he toured the United Kingdom with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. In May 2019 he will be touring with the Czech Philharmonic in China.
Altrichter has appeared as a guest conductor with many leading international orchestras, including Japan’s NHK Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. In the United Kingdom he has collaborated with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestras he has guest conducted also include the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra, the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Baden-Baden, the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra in Riga, the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra, the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen and the Odense Symphony Orchestra.
He is a frequent guest at festivals such as Prague Spring, Janáček May in Ostrava, Smetana’s Litomyšl, Moravian Autumn in Brno, and the Bratislava Music Festival. He has made guest appearances at major festivals in Salzburg, Edinburgh, Avignon, Athens, Cheltenham, Paris, Madrid, Chicago, Zurich, Lucerne, Seville, Palermo, and elsewhere.
The bulk of Petr Altrichter’s repertoire consists of Czech music (Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček, and Bohuslav Martinů), Russian music (especially Dmitri Shostakovich), and the works of Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner. Outstanding soloists and performers from around the world (Garrick Ohlsson, John Lill, Tabea Zimmermann and others) value his flexibility in leading orchestral accompaniments, and they seek out collaboration with him.