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In the music world, there have been polemical debates for years about how orchestras should plan their programming. The core of the dispute is over whether the programming directors or the performers should have the last word.
The Wandering of a Little Soul, Violin Concerto (12')
Triptych, Op. 35 (24')
Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale ‘Saint Wenceslas’, Op. 35a (8')
Legend of the Dead Victors, Op. 35b (9')
Towards a New Life, Op. 35c (7')
Richard III, Op. 11 (14')
Wallenstein’s Camp, Op. 14 (16')
Hakon Jarl, Op. 16 (17')
Jan Mráček violin
Jakub Hrůša conductor
In the music world, there have been polemical debates for years about how orchestras should plan their programming. The core of the dispute is over whether the programming directors or the performers should have the last word. The programme of the fifth concert in Subscription Series B is an example of a programme put together by the conductor. He was guided by the sound effect of the compositions on the listeners and the core of the programme was determined by a long-term recording project. With Jakub Hrůša, the Czech Philharmonic is recording the complete orchestral works of Josef Suk, consisting of both large-scale and several shorter compositions, including the famous Meditation on the Old Czech Chorale 'St. Wenceslas' and the Sokol movement march Towards a New Life, with which Suk won an anonymous composition competition. Suk thus became the main composer of the evening and Jakub Hrůša was faced with the rather difficult task of building a logical yet musically attractive programme around Suk’s music.
Bedřich Smetana’s Swedish symphonic poems belong to his popular works and they are frequently performed abroad. The Suk as well as the Smetana triptych are also a clear demonstration of the characteristic features and stylistic differences of the two composers and they represent the best of Czech orchestral music. The number three, which accompanies us throughout the evening, also represents the three composers, opening with Leoš Janáček, whose Violin Concerto will be played by Czech Philharmonic concertmaster Jan Mráček, winner of the Fritz Kreisler International Competition in Vienna.
The Czech violinist Jan Mráček was born in 1991 in Pilsen and began studying violin at the age of five with Magdaléna Micková. From 2003 he studied with Jiří Fišer, graduating with honors from the Prague Conservatory in 2013, and until recently at the University of Music and the Performing Arts in Vienna under the guidance of the Vienna Symphony concertmaster Jan Pospíchal.
As a teenager he enjoyed his first major successes, winning numerous competitions, participating in the master classes of Maestro Václav Hudeček – the beginning of a long and fruitful association. He won the Czech National Conservatory Competition in 2008, the Hradec International Competition with the Dvořák concerto and the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra in 2009, was the youngest Laureate of the Prague Spring International Festival competition in 2010, and in 2011 he became the youngest soloist in the history of the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra. In 2014 he was awarded first prize at Fritz Kreisler International Violin Competition at the Vienna Konzerthaus. When the victory of Jan Mráček was confirmed, there was thunderous applause from the audience and the jury. The jury president announced, “Jan is a worthy winner. He has fascinated us from the first round. Not only with his technical skills, but also with his charisma on stage.”
Jan Mráček has performed as a soloist with world’s orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, St Louis Symphony, Symphony of Florida, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, Kuopio Symphony Orchestra, Romanian Radio Symphony, Lappeenranta City Orchestra (Finland) as well as the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK), Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava and almost all Czech regional orchestras.
Jan Mráček had the honor of being invited by Maestro Jiří Bělohlávek to guest lead the Czech Philharmonic in their three concert residency at Vienna’s Musikverein, and the European Youth Orchestra under Gianandrea Noseda and Xian Zhang on their 2015 summer tour. He has been a concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic since 2018.
In 2008 he joined the Lobkowicz Piano Trio, which was awarded first prize and the audience prize at the International Johannes Brahms Competition in Pörtschach, Austria in 2014. His recording of the Dvořák violin concerto and other works by this Czech composer under James Judd with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra was recently released on the Onyx label and has received excellent reviews.
Jan Mráček plays on a Carlo Fernando Landolfi violin, Milan 1758, generously loaned to him by Mr Peter Biddulph.
In 2021 he received Jiří Bělohlávek Award from the Czech Philharmonic.
Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.
He is a frequent guest with the world’s greatest orchestras, including the Vienna, Berlin, Munich and New York Philharmonics; Bavarian Radio, NHK, Chicago and Boston Symphonies; Leipzig Gewandhaus, Lucerne Festival, Royal Concertgebouw, Mahler Chamber and The Cleveland Orchestras; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and Tonhalle Orchester Zürich. He has led opera productions for the Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, and Zurich Opera. He has also been a regular guest with Glyndebourne Festival and served as Music Director of Glyndebourne On Tour for three years.
His recording of Martinů and Bartók violin concertos with Bamberg Symphony was nominated for a Gramophone Award, and his Dvořák Violin Concerto CD with the Bavarian Radio Symphony was nominated for a Grammy Award. In 2020, his recordings of Dvořák and Martinů Piano Concertos with Bamberg Symphony, and Vanessa from Glyndebourne, won BBC Music Magazine Awards. Other releases include Dvořák and Brahms Symphonies with Bamberg Symphony, Suk’s Asrael with the Bavarian Radio Symphony, and Dvořák’s Requiem and Te Deum with the Czech Philharmonic.
Hrůša studied at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts, where his teachers included Jiří Bělohlávek. He is President of the International Martinů Circle and The Dvořák Society. He was the inaugural recipient of the Sir Charles Mackerras Prize, and in 2020 was awarded the Antonín Dvořák Prize by the Czech Republic’s Academy of Classical Music, and – with Bamberg Symphony – the Bavarian State Prize for Music.
Podobně jako programní symfonie Dunaj, zůstal také houslový koncert „Putování dušičky“ (jiné dílo Janáčkova vrcholného období) nedokončen. V obou skladbách se Leoš Janáček (1854–1928) obrátil k velkým orchestrálním žánrům 19. století, jimž se předtím celý život vyhýbal; daný žánr v nich však pojal tak svébytným způsobem, že je proto řadíme mezi nejoriginálnější plody hudebního myšlení první poloviny 20. století. Na základě skladatelových náčrtů koncert v roce 1988 rekonstruovali muzikologové Miloš Štědroň a Leoš Faltus.
Autorský obsahový záměr skladby (koncentrované do jediné věty) vysvítá z několika indicií obsažených v rukopisných skicách, a můžeme jej snad vyjádřit jako přemisťování se duše skrze různé lidské (nebo vůbec živé) bytosti a tím je posvěcující, coby ona Dostojevského „jiskra boží“. Životní zkušenost několika setkání se smrtí – především milované dcery Olgy – se prolíná s upnutím se na vidinu věčného života, jíž mu ztělesňuje mladá Kamila Stösslová (obě zmíněné ženy důvěrně oslovoval „dušičko“), a zřejmě ji rozdmýchává pohled do tváře umírajícího člověka během londýnských demonstrací…
Janáček začal na skladbě pracovat v roce 1927, zakrátko však ideu koncertu opustil a část zkomponovaného materiálu použil pro operu Z mrtvého domu. Instrumentačním specifikem Janáčkovy pozdní tvorby jsou mj. akordické tympány exponované v samém úvodu skladby; zvuk okovů v jejím závěru snad reprezentuje osvobozování se duše ze zajetí lidského těla.