The Czech Phil: Live in your living room III • Petr Altricher


Two Czech Philharmonic players will present themselves under the baton of Petr Altrichter: violinist Jan Mráček and cellist Ivan Vokáč. They will play Double Concerto in A Minor by Johannes Brahms. Then you will have a chance to enjoy Suite in A major by Antonín Dvořák in interpretation of the firts Czech orchestra.

  • Duration of the programme 1 hour 15 minutes

Programme

Johannes Brahms
Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102 (32')

Antonín Dvořák
Suite in A major, Op. 98 (19')

Performers

Jan Mráček violin
Ivan Vokáč violoncello

Petr Altrichter conductor

Marek Eben presenter

Photo illustrating the event The Czech Phil:  Live in your living room III Petr Altricher

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 on 13th December at 8.20pm. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland it will be available only on Takt1.

Concert will be broadcast on ČT art and streamed on facebook pages of the Czech Philharmonic and other partners on 13th December at 8.20pm. In Germany, Austria and Switzerland it will be available only on Takt1.

Performers

Jan Mráček  violin
Jan Mráček

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.

Ivan Vokáč  violoncello
Ivan Vokáč

Ivan Vokáč has been a member of the Czech Philharmonic’s cello section since January 2014. He graduated from Prague Conservatory and the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts under Miroslav Petráš, and has taken masterclasses in Kronberg (with Steven Isserlis and Boris Pergamenshchikov) and Plzeň (with Raphael Wallfisch).

As a soloist he has appeared at a number of festivals both in the Czech Republic (Talichův Beroun, Mladá Praha and Mladé pódium) and abroad (Festival lʼEté Musical en Bergerac in France and Music Home Alive Festival in the Netherlands). He is a member of three chamber ensembles: Lobkowicz Trio, Prague Cello Quartet and Escualo Quintet, playing piano in the last. He has regularly appeared on Czech Radio and Television.

Ivan Vokáč has been awarded many prizes in international competitions, of which the most important include those won in Liezen, Austria in 2002, in the Dotzauer competition in Dresden in 2005 and at the Bohuslav Martinů competition in Prague in 2008. In 2006, together with Jakub Junek on violin, he was the overall winner of the radio competition Concertino Praga. In 2010 he won a scholarship from Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe, and in 2012 he was a semi-finalist and the most successful Czech participant in the international competition Prague Spring. Most recently he has won the International Leoš Janáček Competition in Brno in 2013.

As a member of Taras Piano Trio he has received top prizes at international competitions “Internationaler Johannes Brahms Wettbewerb” (in Pörtschach, Austria, 2007) and “Rovere dʼOro” (San Bartolomeo, Italy, 2008).

As a member of Lobkowicz Trio he was acclaimed at the Antonín Dvořák international chamber music competition (third prize and special award for best performance of a piece by Dvořák) and won for a second time the first prize at international Johannes Brahms competition in Pörtschach, Austria.

Petr Altrichter  conductor
Petr Altrichter

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.

Compositions

Johannes Brahms
Double Concerto in A Minor, Op. 102, for violin, cello, and orchestra

Allegro
Andante
Vivace ma non troppo

At his time, Johannes Brahms was considered a completely old-fashioned composer. Although he lived and worked in the era of Late Romanticism and on top of that was heavily influenced by Robert Schumann, i.e., a romantic composer par excellence, he soon found that this composition style did not suit him. Brahms preferred being inspired by the musical past, especially by the masters of the Late Baroque and Classicism. He wrote only absolute music and never turned his attention to programmatic music typical of Romanticism. Interestingly, Brahms was also not attracted to the opera, which he had never attempted. Like the great composers of the previous eras, Brahms was a master of pure and clear form. However, it would be wrong to think that this prominent composer was a conservative reactionary, as was claimed by his opponents, especially the followers of the New German School. His oeuvre is clearly distinguishable from the compositions of previous periods. Brahms updated classical forms and was not afraid to use innovative harmonic practices.

Brahms wrote four symphonies, three string quartets and other chamber music pieces. The number of his vocal compositions is high as well, consisting of songs and choral music. Worthy of note is his German Requiem (Ein deutsches Requiem), inspired by the death of his mother. It is based on biblical texts selected by Protestant-raised Brahms from Luther’s German translation of the Bible. He also created four instrumental concertos: two for piano, one for violin and Double Concerto in A minor, Op. 102, for violin, cello and orchestra. The latter composition does not represent any formal return to the Baroque concerto grosso; both solo instruments play their autonomous parts, engaging in a dialogue with each other, individually with the orchestra, and sometimes in unison with the orchestra. It is actually the first use of violin and cello together as solo instruments in an instrumental concert. In terms of form, this work is reminiscent of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola and orchestra, or Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for violin, cello and piano with orchestral accompaniment.

Brahms’s Double Concerto came into being during the summer of 1887. At the very beginning of the composition there are two solo cadenzas – after a short introduction, the cello exposes the first theme; the following musical idea is begun by the orchestra in the first movement in sonata form, while the second solo instrument completes it. The calm pace of the second movement gives soloists a rest before the fast final movement, where both of their instruments hardly stop, presenting passionate imitation dialogues in fast music notes. Double Concerto had its world premiere on 18 October 1887 in Cologne with the solo parts being performed by renowned virtuosos of the time for whom this last orchestral piece by Brahms was intended from the beginning – the violinist Joseph Joachim and the cellist Robert Hausmann.

Antonín Dvořák
Suite in A major, Op. 98b

Antonín Dvořák wrote his Suite in A major, known in the English-speaking world as the American Suite, in New York City in early 1894. After his return to Bohemia, he created an orchestral version, which was published posthumously.

Dvořák wrote great works in large-scale genres like symphonies, oratorios, and operas, but he lavished great care on his miniatures as well, crafting pieces that always perfectly capture something essential and beautiful. Famous examples of this are his Moravian Duets and Slavonic Dances. The Suite in A major also consists of perfect miniatures. Each of the five movements lasts about four minutes and is complete and satisfying, while also contributing to a beautifully balanced set.

The first movement begins with a sunny pentatonic theme that seems to yawn, not with boredom, but with complete contentment. As the music becomes livelier, the American mask comes down a bit, and we see the Bohemian face of the composer. The vigorous second movement is in a minor key, but the turbulence is never threatening. The gentle middle section is as beautifully melodic as anything Dvořák ever wrote. The third movement is a polonaise, but a graceful one, a far cry from Chopin’s patriotic fervour or Tchaikovsky’s imperial splendour. Three minor-key episodes introduce moments of sorrow and wistfulness. The nostalgic fourth movement brings to mind Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs or his much earlier Cypresses. Sophisticated harmony lies just beneath the surface of the seemingly innocent melody. Movement five begins as a wild dance with pounding tympani. Suddenly the music switches to the major mode, the drum subsides with just a triangle keeping the beat, and primitive athleticism gives way to graceful syncopation. And just when we expect the athletic beginning to return, we instead get the opening theme of the first movement, now triumphant. Dvořák then surprises us with a light-hearted ending that perfectly draws the curtain on possibly the most sublimely happy music he ever wrote.

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