Velvet Revolution Concert • Smetana: My Homeland


Czech Philharmonic organizes a special concert at the occasion of the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution on 17 November 1989. The Orchestra will perform Má vlast (My Homeland) by Bedřich Smetana under Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov. The concert will be broadcasted on Czech TV and streamed on Facebook page of the orchestra.

  • Duration of the programme 1 hour 25 minutes

Programme

Bedřich Smetana
Má vlast (My Homeland), a cycle of symphonic poems

Performers

Semyon Bychkov conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Velvet Revolution Concert Smetana: My Homeland

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall


Tickets and contact information

Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and streamed on facebook pages of the Czech Philharmonic and other partners.

Marking the commencement of an annual concert honouring the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution on 17 November 1989, the Czech Philharmonic will perform Má vlast (My Homeland) under Chief Conductor and Music Director Semyon Bychkov. Presented in Prague’s Rudolfinum on 17 November 2020, the concert will be broadcast live on Czech TV and streamed internationally on demand for 7 days via the Facebook pages of the Orchestra and Mezzo TV amongst others. Mezzo TV will additionally broadcast the concert in 2021.

Bedřich Smetana’s six symphonic poems have long been a potent symbol of the Czech Philharmonic’s extraordinary and proud history. The Orchestra gave its first full rendition of Má vlast in a brewery in Smíchov in 1901; in 1925 Má vlast was the work chosen by Chief Conductor Václav Talich for the Orchestra’s first live broadcast and, five years later, it was the first work that the Orchestra committed to disc. During the Nazi occupation, when Goebbels demanded that the Czech Philharmonic perform in Berlin and Dresden, Talich programmed Má vlast as an act of defiance; while in 1945 Kubelík conducted the work as a ‘concert of thanks’ for the newly liberated Czechoslovakia.

The Czech Philharmonic’s performance of Má vlast this November will mark 30 years since Rafael Kubelík’s legendary performance of the work in Prague’s Old-Town Square commemorating Czechoslovakia’s first free elections in June 1990.

Bychkov, who first conducted Má vlast with the Czech Philharmonic in October 2019, reflects on this historic moment: "To commemorate the Velvet Revolution by performing Má vlast would be unthinkable without remembering the man whose life was as much dedicated to Smetana’s creation as it was to his country and its music. Rafael Kubelίk led the Czech Philharmonic as its Principal Conductor from 1941 until 1948, before leaving his native country in protest against the regime: "I had lived through one form of bestial tyranny, Nazism... As a matter of principle I was not going to live through another."42 years later, following the Velvet Revolution and the country’s first free elections, Kubelík returned to his native land and beloved Czech Philharmonic to conduct Má vlast at the Prague Spring Festival, which he had inaugurated in 1946. Watching and hearing this performance on film became one of the most unforgettable moments in my life. Kubelík’s identification with this music, its own identification with the Czech nation and, the audience’s identification with both the music and its interpreters created a unity that one rarely has the privilege to experience. Our performance of Má vlast on 17 November is a homage to the Velvet Revolution, to a nation that treasures its freedom and, to Rafael Kubelík whose life remains a symbol of humanism.”     

The Velvet Revolution concert is presented in collaboration with the Prague Spring International Music Festival whose 2020 Festival was programmed to have opened with the Czech Philharmonic performing Má vlast under Bychkov.

Performers

Semyon Bychkov  conductor
Semyon Bychkov

Celebrating both his fifth season as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic and his 70th birthday, Semyon Bychkov will celebrate his birthday with three concerts in November pairing Beethoven’s Fifth with Shostakovich’s Fifth. It is a season which opens in Prague with the official concert to mark the Czech Republic’s Presidency of the EU and continues with concert performances of Dvořák’s Rusalka as part of the Dvořákova Prague International Music Festival. Later in the season, Bychkov will conduct Rusalka at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Bychkov's tenure at the Czech Philharmonic was initiated in 2018 with concerts in Prague, London, New York and Washington marking the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovak independence. With the culmination of The Tchaikovsky Project in 2019, Bychkov and the Orchestra turned their focus to Mahler. In 2022, Pentatone has already released two discs in the ongoing complete symphonic cycle – Mahler’s Fourth and Fifth Symphonies.

Bychkov's repertoire spans four centuries. The unique combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy ensure that his performances are highly anticipated. In addition to being a guest with the major orchestras and opera houses across Europe and the US, Bychkov holds honorary titles with the BBC Symphony Orchestra – with whom he appears annually at the BBC Proms – and the Royal Academy of Music from whom he recently received an Honorary Doctorate. In 2015, he was named "Conductor of the Year’ by the International Opera Awards.

Bychkov began recording for Philips in 1989 and released discs with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Royal Concertgebouw, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. Subsequently a series of benchmark recordings with WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne included a complete cycle of Brahms Symphonies, together with works by Strauss, Mahler, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov, Verdi, Glanert and Höller. His 1992 recording of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin was BBC’s Radio 3’s Building a Library recommended recording (2020); Wagner’s Lohengrin was BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Year (2010); and Schmidt’s Symphony No. 2 with the Vienna Philharmonic was BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Month (2018).

In common with the Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov has one foot firmly in the culture of the East and the other in the West. Born in St Petersburg in 1952, he emigrated to the United States in 1975 and has lived in Europe since the mid-1980's. Singled out for an extraordinarily privileged musical education from the age of 5, Bychkov studied piano before winning his place at the Glinka Choir School where, aged 13, he received his first lesson in conducting. He was 17 when he was accepted at the Leningrad Conservatory to study with the legendary Ilya Musin and, within three years had won the influential Rachmaninov Conducting Competition. Denied the prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic, Bychkov left the former Soviet Union in 1975. He returned in 1989 as Principal Guest Conductor of the St Petersburg Philharmonic and, the same year, was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris. In 1997, Bychkov was appointed Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, and in 1998, Chief Conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.

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