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And yet the education goes on
Concert of the Czech Student Philharmonic expresses gratitude to everyone involved in education. The orchestra will be conducted by Marko Ivanović and Semyon Bychkov and joined by pianist Cédric Tiberghien. The program is based on a musical part but also on a spoken word that will be given in Czech language only.
Towards a New Life
Symphony No. 8 in G Major
III. The Prophecy and Death of Taras Bulba
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Ludwig van Beethoven
Piano concerto No. 3 in C Minor
I. Allegro con brio
La forza del destino
Cédric Tiberghien piano
Marko Ivanović conductor
Semjon Byčkov conductor
Alice Nellis host
Karel Kovář host
Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall
Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and streamed on Facebook and YouTube of the Czech Philharmonic and other partners on 20th February at 8.15pm.
Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and streamed on Facebook and YouTube of the Czech Philharmonic and other partners on 20th February at 8.15pm.
Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and streamed on Facebook and YouTube pages of the Czech Philharmonic and other partners on 20th February at 8.15pm.
In the modern history of the Czech Philharmonic, when the first steps were being taken towards an educational programme, the idea arose in 2006 – while Václav Riedlbauch was still the executive director – of giving symphonic concerts for student audiences, i.e. for a new generation of listeners. And who would be playing? The Czech Philharmonic, of course! The problem was that the orchestra was already so busy that their participation in such concerts was out of the question. So the choice fell to the former Prague Student Orchestra, an ensemble with many years of tradition of a youthful, enthusiastic approach to music. This worked wonderfully, because the students in the audience saw their peers on stage. For these concerts, the ensemble took the name Czech Student Orchestra. Bound by their love of music, these musicians gave performances from 2006 to 2010 under the leadership of the conductor Marko Ivanović, playing such works as Janáček’s Sinfonietta, Dvořák’s New World Symphony, Cello Concerto, and Te Deum, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet suite.
When new management took over in 2011, the Czech Philharmonic greatly expanded its educational activities, and that was an opportunity for renewal of the student orchestra’s activities, renamed as the Czech Student Philharmonic. The idea is to give the rising generation of musicians – mostly students at music schools, whether grammar schools with a music emphasis, conservatoires, or academies of music – the regular opportunity of rehearsing and performing great symphonic, concertante, and choral works. Over time, the efforts turned towards creating a permanent orchestra that would support its members in the perfecting of their ensemble playing and in the creation of long-term relationships and mutual understanding. The Czech Student Philharmonic musicians also serve as “bearers of light” in relation to their peers by showing them that young people can love classical music and can present it enthusiastically to others.
Since the 2013/2014 season, the orchestra has been performing regularly at concerts of the Czech Philharmonic’s educational series Four Steps to the New World (under the baton of Marko Ivanović), and at the series Penguins at the Rudolfinum (with Vojtěch Jouza) and Who’s Afraid of the Philharmonic? (with Ondřej Vrabec). In April 2019, the Czech Student Philharmonic appeared with Ida Kelarová and the Čhavorenge children’s choir at Šun Devloro concerts – musical celebrations of International Romani Day. In November 2019, the orchestra played under the baton of Robert Kružík at the Students’ Day Concert with the participation of Joachim Gauck and Petr Pithart.
In June 2020 the conductor Simon Rattle came to Prague insisting that he did not want to conduct just the Czech Philharmonic, but also “some orchestra with young people”. When the choice fell to the Czech Student Philharmonic, that was an enormous challenge for its members. Sir Simon enjoyed working with the young musicians, and he was unsparing in his praise: “The Czech Student Philharmonic reminds me of the orchestra of the Verbier Festival, which is made up of the best music students from all around the world, led by players from the Metropolitan Opera. That’s the level they are on.” Those are nice, flattering words, but they also mean an enormous obligation for all of the young musicians, as far as their future is concerned. Each individually and all of them together have it within their reach through the power of their common bond to remain diligent and conscientious in their preparation and to concentrate as attentively as possible. In the autumn of 2020 they were able to play just two concerts with Josef Špaček in the dual role of soloist and conductor. “I would really like to work with them again sometime; they were so attentive and kind! I had an incredibly good time with them,” said Josef Špaček afterwards.
Cédric Tiberghien is a French pianist who has established a truly international career. He has been particularly applauded for his versatility, as demonstrated by his wide-ranging repertoire, interesting programming, an openness to explore innovative concert formats and his dynamic chamber music partnerships.
Concerto appearances in the 2020-21 season include the Orchestre National de Lyon, Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Cédric has a very strong relationship with the Wigmore Hall in London, and throughout the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons he is performing a complete Beethoven Variation cycle there, in addition to several chamber projects. Other recitals include continuing collaborations with Antoine Tamestit and Alina Ibragimova with concerts in Berlin, Dresden and Madrid. Recent music theatre projects include the premiere of Zauberland (Magic Land). In this music theatre project staged by Katie Mitchell, Schumann’s Dichterliebe is performed alongside a new work by Bernard Foccroulle, setting a text by Martin Crimp. Cédric collaborated on this project with soprano Julia Bullock and further engagements have included New York, Moscow, London and Brussels.
Cédric recently presented a major focus on the music of Bartok, culminating in a three-volume exploration of his solo piano works for the Hyperion label. He has been awarded five Diapason d’Or, for his solo and duo recordings on Hyperion. He also has many concerto and recital discs released on Harmonia Mundi.
He is a dedicated chamber musician, with regular partners including violinist Alina Ibragimova, violist Antoine Tamestit and baritone Stéphane Degout. Cédric’s passion for chamber music is reflected in numerous recordings: his discography with Alina includes complete cycles of music by Schubert, Szymanowski and Mozart (Hyperion) and a Beethoven Sonata cycle (Wigmore Live).
Alice studied at the Prague Conservatory and later graduated from the Faculty of Arts of the Charles University with a major in English and American Studies and the Film Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. She has worked as a translator and has been teaching at the Film Faculty since 2002. In 2000, she directed her debut film Ene Bene starring Iva Janžurová and Theodora Remundová. The film won many international awards (including the main prize at the San Francisco International Film Festival). Her collaboration with Iva Janžurová and her daughters – actresses Theodora and Sabina Remundová – continued with the film Some Secrets (2002), for which Alice received the Best New Director Award at the 50th San Sebastian International Festival. The film also won her the Czech Lion Award for the best screenplay in 2002. Her other feature films include Little Girl Blue (2007), Manas and Papas (2010), Perfect Days (2011), Revival (2013), Angels (2014) and The Seven Ravens (2015). She also wrote the script for all her films. As an actress, she has appeared in The City of the Sun.
Besides the silver screen, Alice works in various theatres. She collaborates with Prague stages Divadlo Na zábradlí (Perfect Days, Floods), Divadlo Bez zábradlí (Love, When She Danced, Long Day’s Journey into Night), Café Theatre Černá labuť (The Human Voice, Pink Champagne) or Divadlo v Řeznické (Help). For her own play Floods performed in Divadlo Na zábradlí she won the 3rd prize in the Alfréd Radok Awards competition.
Karel Kovář, known as Kovy, is a Czech YouTuber, vlogger, student, and formerly a “let's player”. At present, he has more than 840,000 subscribers on his main YouTube channel. His videos deal with social topics, politics, financial literacy, privacy, and social networks. His creative work is based on infotainment (the combination of information and entertainment, usually with the goal of evoking a particular emotion), and through videos he attempts to dispel societal prejudices.
In 2016, 2017, and 2019 he was honoured as the Video Blogger of the Year, and in 2016 Forbes Magazine listed him as the 17th most influential Czech on social networks. A year later he was rated in 30th place on the “30 under 30” list for the 30 most talented Czechs under age 30. He has been the moderator of the talk show V centru (Downtown) and for a benefit concert in support of the foundation Světluška (a charity for the blind). He has also held an interview with the former President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker for the TV channel Euronews. He has danced on Stardance, and with Ivo Bystřičan he created a documentary for Czech Television on how the Czechs teach modern history titled Kovy řeší dějiny (Kovy Deals with History). With Tereza Salte he records the podcast Linka, and he is also the author of two books: the autobiographical bestseller Ovšem (Of Course) and iPohádka (iFairyTale) in the young adult fiction category.
Marko Ivanović is one of the leading conductors on today’s Czech music and theatre scene, and he is a highly versatile musician. He studied conducting and composition at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, and he is a laureate of the Grzegorz Fitelberg International Competition for Young Conductors in Katowice (2003). As a conductor, he works with leading Czech and foreign orchestras and opera houses including the Czech Philharmonic, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Philharmonia, the National Theatre in Prague, and the Gothenburg Opera. From 2009 to 2014 he was the chief conductor of the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra in Pardubice, and on 1 January 2015 he became the chief conductor of the Janáček Opera at the National Theatre in Brno.
Besides the traditional repertoire, he is also interested in newer music and the latest works, which he often premieres. Marko Ivanović is active as a composer, and his works include music for films and for plays broadcast on radio or produced on stage. In January 2012 the National Theatre in Prague gave the premiere of his opera Enchantia (Čarokraj), and for the National Theatre in Brno he composed the opera Monument, which was premiered in 2020. He is in demand as a populariser of music at concerts conceived especially for children and young people (Czech Philharmonic, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra of Pardubice).
Marko Ivanović has been collaborating with the Czech Student Philharmonic (under its various names) since the beginning in 2006, and he remains its staunch supporter. He devotes himself to young musicians with patience and humility, and the atmosphere that he creates is of key importance for the orchestra to learn to play together and to make a collective effort. One of the musicians has written: “Working with Marko and the overall atmosphere are some of the reasons why I like the Four Steps programmes. Marko approaches the orchestra like a scoutmaster – I can think of no better word for it – and that is just great. There is nothing mannered about him.”
Marko Ivanović himself adds: “There are quite a few good student orchestras in the Czech Republic. The Czech Student Philharmonic, however, is unique primarily in that its ambition is to be a professional orchestra. And professional in the best sense of the word – in technical proficiency, clean ensemble playing, and preparation at home. And there is potential in this industriousness and conscientiousness in combination with enthusiasm and curiosity that have not yet been worn down, and that is something I very much enjoy working with and want to develop further. There is, of course, something of a trap for every professional ensemble – getting bogged down in a sort of daily routine and expecting from the conductor above all the most efficient and least painful path to an acceptable result. For me, it is all the more refreshing to study and discover a work with people for whom music is not just a job, but above all a passion. And one of my goals is to get our members to persevere in this healthy attitude towards orchestral practice in their future professional careers.”
Semyon Bychkov's tenure as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic was initiated with concerts in Prague, London, New York and Washington marking the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovak independence in 2018. Since the culmination of The Tchaikovsky Project in 2019 – a 7-CD box set released by Decca Classics and a series of international residencies – Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic have been focusing on the symphonic works of Mahler with performances and recordings scheduled both at home and abroad.
During the 2021/22 season, Mahler’s Fifth and Ninth Symphonies will be heard on tour at the Grafenegg Festival in Austria before performances in Prague. The Czech Philharmonic’s 126th season’s subscription concerts in October will open with Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. In the spring, a Czech Festival at Vienna’s Musikverein featuring Smetana’s Má vlast – recorded by Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic during lockdown - alongside works by Kabeláč, Dvořák, Martinů and Janáček will be followed by an extensive European tour including concerts at the Philharmonie in Berlin, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie and two concerts at London’s Barbican Centre.
Especially recognised for his interpretations of the core repertoire, Bychkov has also worked closely with many extraordinary contemporary composers including Luciano Berio, Henri Dutilleux and Maurizio Kagel. In recent seasons he has collaborated with René Staar, Thomas Larcher, Richard Dubignon, Detlev Glanert and Julian Anderson, conducting premières of their works with the Vienna Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw and the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms. Highlights of the new season include the German première of Larcher’s Piano Concerto with dedicatee Kirill Gerstein in Berlin, the Czech première of Bryce Dessner’s Mari and the world première of Anderson’s Prague Panoramas, also presented in Prague. The three new works are amongst fourteen commissions initiated by Bychkov at the start of his tenure with the Czech Philharmonic.
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, Bychkov 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.
By the time Bychkov returned to St Petersburg in 1989 as the Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor, he had enjoyed success in the US as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic. His international career, which began in France with Opéra de Lyon and at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, took off with a series of high-profile cancellations which resulted in invitations to conduct the New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras. In 1989, he was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris; in 1997, Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne; and the following year, Chief Conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.
Bychkov’s symphonic and operatic repertoire is wide-ranging. He conducts in all the major houses including La Scala, Opéra national de Paris, Dresden Semperoper, Wiener Staatsoper, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Teatro Real. Madrid. While Principal Guest Conductor of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, his productions of Janáček’s Jenůfa, Schubert’s Fierrabras, Puccini’s La bohème, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov each won the prestigious Premio Abbiati. New productions in Vienna included Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and Daphne, Wagner’s Lohengrin and Parsifal, and Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina; while in London, he made his debut with a new production of Strauss’ Elektra, and subsequently conducted new productions of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten and Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Recent productions include Wagner’s Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival and Strauss’s Elektra at the Wiener Staatsoper.
On the concert platform, the combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy has ensured that Bychkov’s performances are highly anticipated. In the UK, in addition to regular performances with the London Symphony Orchestra, his honorary titles at the Royal Academy of Music and the BBC Symphony Orchestra - with whom he appears annually at the BBC Proms – reflect the warmth of the relationships. In Europe, he tours frequently with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Munich Philharmonic, as well as being a frequent guest of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Orchestre National de France and the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia; in the US, he can be heard with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Symphony, Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras. This season, in addition to extensive concert commitments with the Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov's guest conducting engagements include further performances of Mahler’s symphonies with the Orchestre de Paris, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Oslo Philharmonic and LA Philharmonic, and Strauss’s Elektra at the Opéra national de Paris.
Bychkov made extensive recordings for Philips with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Royal Concertgebouw, Philharmonia, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. Later, his 13-year collaboration (1997-2010) with WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne produced a series of benchmark recordings that included works by Strauss (Elektra, Daphne, Ein Heldenleben, Metamorphosen, Alpensinfonie, Till Eulenspiegel), Mahler (Symphony No. 3, Das Lied von der Erde), Shostakovich (Symphony Nos. 4, 7, 8, 10, 11), Rachmaninov (The Bells, Symphonic Dances, Symphony No. 2), Verdi (Requiem), a complete cycle of Brahms Symphonies, and works by Detlev Glanert and York Höller. His recording of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin was recommended by BBC’s Radio 3’s Building a Library (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 2015, Semyon Bychkov was named Conductor of the Year by the International Opera Awards.
We can introduce the first half of the concert as a friendly reunion of three composers from three entirely exceptional generations of Czech music. By date of birth, the oldest is Dvořák, then Janáček is somewhat younger, and the youngest is Suk. And the relations between them as student and teacher and as friends are just as amazing and inspirational as their music. What do they show us?
Suk’s march Towards a New Life (V nový život, 1919) is an occasional piece, but it is an absolutely extraordinary work, dedicated to the Sokol movement. It differs greatly from most marches that are associated either with war, the army, or some sort of military celebration. This Sokol march celebrates, to the contrary, that the war is over, and it is the final part of a triptych, which begins with the Meditation on the Old Czech Hymn ‘Saint Wenceslas’ and continues with the Legend of the Dead Victors written during the 1st World War. Marches tend to have vigorous rhythms, but this march is interesting for a certain tenderness and melodic charm, like all of Suk’s other works. It depicts the confident advance of the young generation after difficult times; this younger generation does not want to change the world by force, but has a sincere, unambiguous faith in a better future. In this way, it differs from the showy marches in the vein of Socialist Realism, familiar to us from the unfortunate period after the 2nd World War. The composer was in fact 35. He knew what he needed the young generation for, but he also knew how he could be of use to them as a teacher.
The march has an interesting parallel in the celebration of freedom in the third movement of Taras Bulba. This symphonic rhapsody was also composed during the 1st World War. Janáček is an interesting phenomenon in general: when Suk was writing his march, Janáček was already 65 years old – and yet at that very time he was able to do more than just keep pace; in his old age he overtook all the modernists and blazed the trail for the younger generation. The youthful power of his music remains fascinating to this day. After all, just being young is nothing to boast of; youthfulness became the way of life that Janáček maintained in the last decade of his life like no one else. In his musical treatment of the novel Taras Bulba, he set aside all of the heroic Cossack barbarism of Gogol’s original story from the days of tsarist Russia, and in his music all of the complexity and tragedy of the music of the Late Romantic composers of his generation. Ultimately, his Taras Bulba is not the Russian Cossack bard who brought both of his sons to their deaths and then dies himself, as is the case with Gogol’s story. Janáček wanted to tell the young generation not to be afraid, and above all that he himself was not afraid. In his own peculiar way, he set an example for the younger generation. Naturally, that is a bit risky, and it is very hard to teach this to someone, but it is vitally important. The concluding movement, The Prophecy, is a prophecy of freedom, but it is also burns with passion for Janáček’s country and for the people who had just been liberated.
And Dvořák? He was just thirteen years older than Janáček, surprisingly. And besides the fact that he gave us superb, world-class symphonic music, he was also an incredibly good teacher. Some decades earlier he recognised that his younger colleague from Brno, highly self-reliant, stubborn, even intractable as he may have been, was a great talent. He probably did not give Janáček any advice, which would have done no good in any case. But he was always generous and kind towards Janáček. On the other hand, Josef Suk was Antonín Dvořák’s model pupil (and later even his son-in-law). And Dvořák not only taught Suk perfect compositional craftsmanship, but also gently urged him to avoid the pitfalls of melancholy and pessimism that were everywhere at the end of the 19th century. He taught Suk to look into a future that lay elsewhere, and at the same time he taught him everything he needed to keep from getting lost in that future. So thank God for teachers like Dvořák.
The Czech Student Philharmonic is paying tribute to three composers with a clear message that is especially important in these times.
While we stay at home in the first half of the concert with music that is somehow intimately close to Czech people, in the second half we go out into the world and encounter three great musicians. For the orchestra, this will be a demanding school of higher learning, and a kind of learning that cannot be done online. They will be forced to sink or swim in the waters of demanding symphonic repertoire, led by the no less demanding chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. Music of the youthful Beethoven will be heard, flanked by two opera overtures by two very different giants of opera, Wagner and Verdi. Of course, they both raised opera to such heights because they had learned something from Beethoven – in spite of the fact that Beethoven was not all that interested in opera. These three composers represent the most prestigious European school of the 19th century.
Verdi and Wagner were contemporaries, born in the year of one of Napoleon’s bloodiest battles, known as the Battle of the Nations. Wagner was actually born in Leipzig, near where the battle took place. And it is no coincidence that the music of the greatest Italian and German opera composers sometimes comes across like a battle between two nations, two distinctive, antithetical, confident countries, each with its own great music history. The were both the victims of nationalism to the extent that it is still urgently important to learn to understand their music from different perspectives and to look for what they have in common with each other and with us. No matter how you look at it, Italy gave the world opera and brought it to its supreme form, and Verdi’s behaviour is correspondingly calm and confident. Wagner, to the contrary, behaved like an arrogant troublemaker, constantly taking a stand against something and needing to compete with and triumph over everyone else. But he was a musician of genius who learned much from other composers, including those he slandered in revolutionary pamphlets written against them. Finding out what they thought or even occasionally said about each other is fun and interesting, but it is not what is most important. Europe was always big enough for both of them, and their most fundamental ideals are the same ones that they were able to learn from Beethoven: the ideals of freedom, humanity, and dignity.
Wagner grew up among theatre people, and he was interested mainly in theatre until the moment he heard Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony at the age of 15. From then on, the desire to compose never left him, and when writing operas, his love for symphonic music led him to treat the orchestra with the same degree of importance that he found in Beethoven’s music. For the world of opera, he discovered the German Middle Ages, the old Nordic and Germanic sagas, passion, and mysticism. But then in one opera he showed his country in a completely different light: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Herbert von Karajan regarded it as Wagner’s most humane work, although the whole opera might be a bit inhumanely long. Medieval Nuremberg is portrayed here as a charming, pleasant, even rather comical small town. Naturally, the opera ends with an ode to the German masters, but the story tells of Nuremberg’s craftsmen banded together with typical professional pride in a guild of musicians, singers who compete for the title of “master singer”. It is a rather pleasant, almost idyllic picture of the relationships between craftsmanship, art, community organisations, and social events – an old-fashioned fairytale about good relations between culture and business. And it is about how interest in culture is fostered in a small city with an almost cultish level of interest. So many people are on stage in the final scene that it is nearly impossible to perform the work in this country, even without special public health measures. But that does not matter. Let us learn from this most interesting work, which could have been created only in Germany.
It is interesting that Ludwig van Beethoven composed his Piano Concerto No. 3 in the same key of C minor as his Fifth Symphony, which he finished eight years later and is the most famous of his symphonies. He composed the concerto when he was 30, and it was his first attempt to write a work in that genre in a large-scale symphonic form. At 30, he stood at the beginning of the path leading towards his greatest works. He was steadfast and determined, although he could not yet know what great struggles awaited him with his deafness and many other obstacles.
The opera Lo forza del destino has only the theme of fate in common with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. A fateful curse pursues one of the characters to such an extent that he succumbs to it, and for this reason, both of the more likeable characters ultimately perish. But that is how things go sometimes in operas. But Verdi was at the height of his powers, and for the opera he wrote one of his most brilliant overtures. In other operas he set great dramatic subjects by Shakespeare, Schiller, and Victor Hugo to music, all with Enlightenment themes that were causing upheaval in Europe and bringing about a freer, more beautiful world, and not only in Italy.
Our wish for the Czech Student Philharmonic is that they successfully withstand their attractive and demanding journey of study through musical Europe.