Photo illustrating page  Alisa Weilerstein Czech Phil: The Spring Stars I

Czech Phil: The Spring Stars I • Alisa Weilerstein


Czech Philharmonic

American cellist Alisa Weilerstein belongs to the most frequent guests of the Czech Philharmonic. She will launch the concert series named Spring Stars of the Czech Phil by a popular piece by Edward Elgar. In the second half, principal guest conductor Jakub Hrůša will perform musical poem A Summer's Tale by Josef Suk with the orchestra.

Duration of the programme 1 hod 40 min

Programme

Edward Elgar
Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 85 (30')

— Intermission (10') —

Josef Suk
A Summer's Tale, Musical Poem for Large Orchestra, Op. 29 (54')

Performers

Alisa Weilerstein cello

Jakub Hrůša conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Marek Eben host

Photo illustrating the event Czech Phil: The Spring Stars I Alisa Weilerstein

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

9 Mar 2021  Tuesday 8.15pm

Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and social media of the Czech Philharmonic on 9th March at 8.15pm.

Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and social media of the Czech Philharmonic on 9th March at 8.15pm.

Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and social media of the Czech Philharmonic on 9th March at 8.15pm.

Performers

Alisa Weilerstein  violoncello
Alisa Weilerstein

“A young cellist whose emotionally resonant performances of both traditional and contemporary music have earned her international recognition, … Weilerstein is a consummate performer, combining technical precision with impassioned musicianship.” So stated the MacArthur Foundation when awarding Alisa Weilerstein a 2011 MacArthur “genius grant” Fellowship. An exclusive recording artist for Decca Classics since 2010, she is the first cellist to be signed by the prestigious label in more than 30 years.

For her first album on the Decca label, Weilerstein recorded the Elgar and Elliott Carter cello concertos with Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin. The disc was named “Recording of the Year 2013” by BBC Music. Her second Decca release, on which she plays Dvořák’s Cello Concerto with the Czech Philharmonic, topped the U.S. classical chart. Weilerstein released her fifth album on Decca in September 2016, playing Shostakovich’s two cello concertos with the Bavarian Radio Symphony under Pablo Heras-Casado, in performances recorded live the previous season.

Weilerstein has appeared with all the foremost orchestras of the United States and Europe, collaborating with conductors including Gustavo Dudamel, Christoph Eschenbach, Alan Gilbert, Manfred Honeck, Marek Janowski, Neeme Järvi, Paavo Järvi, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Yuri Temirkanov, and David Zinman. Her major career milestones include an emotionally tumultuous account of Elgar’s concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic and Daniel Barenboim in Oxford, England, for the orchestra’s 2010 European Concert, which was televised live and subsequently released on DVD by EuroArts. Other highlights of that time include her debut at the BBC Proms in 2010.

Committed to expanding the cello repertoire, Weilerstein is an ardent champion of new music. She gave the New York premiere of Matthias Pintscher’s Reflections on Narcissus, and has worked extensively with Osvaldo Golijov, who rewrote Azul for cello and orchestra (originally premiered by Yo-Yo Ma) for her New York premiere performance. At the 2008 Caramoor Festival, she gave the world premiere of Lera Auerbach’s 24 Preludes for Violoncello and Piano with the composer at the keyboard. Joseph Hallman, a 2014 Grammy Award nominee, has also written multiple works for Weilerstein.

Weilerstein has appeared at major music festivals throughout the world, including Aspen, Edinburgh, Jerusalem Chamber Music, La Jolla Summer Fest, Mostly Mozart, Salzburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Tanglewood, and Verbier. In addition to her appearances as a soloist and recitalist, Weilerstein performs regularly as a chamber musician. She has been part of a core group of musicians at the Spoleto Festival USA for the past eight years and also performs with her parents, Donald and Vivian Hornik Weilerstein, as the Weilerstein Trio.

The cellist is the winner of both Lincoln Center’s 2008 Martin E. Segal prize for exceptional achievement and the 2006 Leonard Bernstein Award. She received an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2000 and was selected for two prestigious young artists programs in the 2000/2001 season.

A graduate of the Young Artist Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied with Richard Weiss, the cellist also holds a degree in history from Columbia University. In 2008, Weilerstein, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was nine, became a Celebrity Advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Jakub Hrůša  conductor
Jakub Hrůša

Born in the Czech Republic, Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic.

He is a frequent guest with many of the world’s greatest orchestras. Recent performing highlights include debuts with the Vienna Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, and NHK Symphony, to all of which he was immediately re-invited. In addition to his titled positions, he also enjoys close relationships with the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and the Chicago Symphony.

As a conductor of opera, he has been a regular guest with the Glyndebourne Festival, conducting Vanessa, The Cunning Little Vixen, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Carmen, The Turn of the Screw, Don Giovanni, and La bohème and serving as the Music Director of Glyndebourne on Tour for three years. Elsewhere he has led productions for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Carmen), Vienna State Opera (The Makropulos Case), Zurich Opera (The Makropulos Case), and Opéra National de Paris (Rusalka). His relationships with leading vocal and instrumental soloists have included collaborations in recent seasons with Behzod Abduraimov, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Piotr Anderszewski, Leif Ove Andsnes, Emanuel Ax, Lisa Batiashvili, Joshua Bell, Jonathan Biss, Yefim Bronfman, Rudolf Buchbinder, Renaud Capuçon, Isabelle Faust, Bernarda Fink, Martin Fröst, Julia Fischer, Vilde Frang, Sol Gabetta, Véronique Gens, Christian Gerhaher, Kirill Gerstein, Vadim Gluzman, Karen Gomyo, Augustin Hadelich, Hilary Hahn, Barbara Hannigan, Alina Ibragimova, Janine Jansen, Karita Mattila, Leonidas Kavakos, Sergey Khachatryan, Denis Kozhukhin, Lang Lang, Igor Levit, Jan Lisiecki, Albrecht Mayer, Johannes Moser, Viktoria Mullova, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Kristine Opolais, Stephanie d’Oustrac, Emmanuel Pahud, Olga Peretyatko, Jean-Guihen Queyras, Josef Špaček, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Daniil Trifonov, Simon Trpčeski, Mitsuko Uchida, Klaus Florian Vogt, Yuja Wang, Frank Peter Zimmermann, and Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider.

As a recording artist, recent releases have included Dvořák and Brahms Symphonies with Bamberg Symphony (Tudor), Suk’s Asrael Symphony with the Bavarian Radio Symphony (BR Klassik), and Dvořák’s Requiem and Te Deum with the Czech Philharmonic (Decca). In 2020, two of his recordings – Dvořák and Martinů Piano Concertos with Ivo Kahánek and the Bamberg Symphony (Supraphon) and Vanessa from Glyndebourne (Opus Arte) – won BBC Music Magazine Awards.

Jakub Hrůša studied conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where his teachers included Jiří Bělohlávek. He is currently President of the International Martinů Circle and the Dvořák Society, and was the inaugural recipient of the Sir Charles Mackerras Prize. In 2020, he received both ICMA and Grammy® nominations, and was awarded the Antonín Dvořák Prize by Czech Republic’s Academy of Classical Music.

Marek Eben  host
Marek Eben

Compositions

Edward Elgar
Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 85

Adagio – Moderato
Lento – Allegro molto
Adagio
Allegro – Moderato – Allegro, ma non-troppo – Poco più lento – Adagio

Edward Elgar is one of the four most prominent composers in British music history – together with Henry Purcell, George Friedrich Handel and Benjamin Britten. A relatively long period of time separates him from Handel, the late Baroque composer of English oratorios. To this day, therefore, Elgar is still called “the greatest English composer since Handel”. Several compositions by Elgar have remained staples of the international classical repertoire to this day as well. One of them is his only cello concerto.

In the very beginning, Elgar received his musical education from his father, a music dealer and organist in the town of Broadheath where Elgar was born, who taught him the piano, organ and violin. Thereafter, Elgar learned to play other instruments on his own and was a self-taught composer. In musical circles, where academicians prevailed over spontaneous creators, he felt rather lonely. He decided to become a freelance musician at a relatively young age and never accepted permanent employment. He made a living as a conductor, performer, teacher and composer. The list of his works is very long and is dominated by occasional pieces, choral compositions, church music, marches, chamber music – in short, commissioned works. In 1889 he married the daughter of a high-ranking officer of the British Army, who not only brought property and social status to the marriage, but above all gave him a lot of love and understanding. Elgar did not have much self-confidence and suffered from doubt and depression all his life, but his wife Alice always stood by his side. In 1899, Elgar composed the orchestral work Enigma Variations, Op. 36, which brought him great fame at the age of 42. The composition is a tribute to Alice and to the many friends who stood behind Elgar at the beginning of his career when nothing was certain. Conductor Hans Richter declared it a masterpiece, and its performance in Britain and Germany established Elgar’s lasting reputation.

Elgar’s most fruitful period then followed – in the 1910s he composed, among other works, two symphonies and the Violin Concerto in B minor, but his greatest success was the first four of the Pomp and Circumstance Marches. The very first march in the first series was praised by the future King Edward VII, who asked Elgar to provide lyrics for it because he thought the melody would make a great song. That was done and today the Land of Hope and Glory is an unofficial anthem of the British Empire, and as a tradition it is sung by the audience every year on the closing night of the BBC Proms.

The horrors of the First World War, the loss of one of his close friends, and the serious illness of his wife Alice caused Elgar’s mental health to decline during the following decade. Nevertheless, he managed to compose several successful chamber pieces, especially the masterful Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85. His wife’s death in the spring of 1920 totally paralyzed him. From then on, he basically just produced arrangements and instrumentations as well as writing some incidental music. In the final four years of his life, however, he returned to orchestral compositions and worked on his third symphony, which he left unfinished. At that time, fast progress was being made in the recording of music, so a number of Elgar’s works, played by outstanding performers, were recorded under the composer’s supervision.

The Cello Concerto in E minor, completed in 1919, is undoubtedly the last major completed work by Edward Elgar. It is of an intimate, contemplative character with emotional depth, and at the same time, it is restrained. This reflects Elgar’s concerns in the aftermath of the First World War – he felt that the era of Victorian and Edwardian England was coming to an end, he was financially insecure, and he and his wife were both in ill health.

The concerto is shorter and more concise in terms of instrumentation than Elgar’s orchestral works of an earlier date. Although written in four movements, it is quite short, lasting only about half an hour. The concerto opens with a short recitative for solo cello, marked with Elgar’s favorite instruction, Nobilmente. The motif of this introduction, which returns briefly in the second movement and also at the end of the whole composition, contrasts sharply with the main theme, subsequently played by the violas, expressing resignation, bitterness, and only flickering moments of hope.

The first movement is linked to the second by a rhapsodic passage with pizzicato arpeggios, followed by the virtuoso Allegro molto. The heart of the piece is the passionate Adagio, paring down the orchestra so the solo cello can sing freely above it. Out of the deep melancholy of the third movement there rises a fast, fourth movement with an alternating character, as if to say, “Cheer up and carry on!”.

The premiere of the concerto, given at the beginning of the season by the London Symphony Orchestra on 27 October 1919, was a debacle. Elgar conducted the composition himself, but the other works in the program were conducted by Albert Coates, who had taken up most of the time available for rehearsal and not allowed enough time for Elgar to prepare the orchestra. During the composer’s lifetime, the concerto’s reputation was not established, although it was performed and recorded then. The work did not acquire a new life until the 1960s, when it was taken on by the legendary cellist Jacqueline du Pré. Thanks to her heartfelt, convincing interpretation, Elgar’s concerto became a very popular piece of the solo cello repertoire.

Josef Suk
A Summer’s Tale, symphonic poem for large orchestra, Op. 29

Voices of Life and Consolation
Midday
Blind Musicians
In the Power of Phantom
Night

In 1907, Josef Suk was slowly recovering from the depths of the greatest sorrow in his life. Three years prior, the 33-year-old composer had lost his teacher and father-in-law, Antonín Dvořák, and two years prior had lost his beloved wife Otilie, Dvořák’s daughter. Suk was left alone with his young son, but as the second violinist of the Bohemian Quartet he had to give concerts all over Europe. He expressed the pain from the loss of these two people dear to him in Asrael Symphony, a great, heartfelt poem about death, dedicated to their memory. In May 1907, during the tour of the Bohemian Quartet, he sketched out a new orchestral movement, followed by others in June and July – one of them, which he intended to put at the beginning of the whole series, was called “Voices of New Life”. By the end of August, Suk had finished the entire orchestral composition in rough outline. After the holidays he had to put this work aside and again devote himself to concert activities. In April 1908, during a tour in Opatija, Croatia, he orchestrated the first movement. He did most of the remaining work in the summer, completing the fifth movement during Christmas 1908 in Prague. The score was finished on 1 January 1909, as is marked on its back page. This is the story of A Summer’s Tale, a five-movement symphonic poem for large orchestra, which is in many ways innovative and, like all compositions by Suk, wholeheartedly profound.

Many music critics and musicologists have addressed the stylistic classification of A Summer’s Tale. Some of them called Suk an Impressionist, which he strongly resisted: “Again someone somewhere said that it was Impressionist. I don’t know, I don’t understand those ‘isms’, but A Summer’s Tale does not feature impressions of the moment, but the impressions made through experience a long time ago, and not just superficially, but also in the depths of one’s soul.” Suk’s modernism was also at issue. In a review of A Summer’s Tale written after its premiere in Vienna, Julius Korngold wrote: “Last but not least, a striking artistic transformation. The composer’s inclination towards radical musical modernity. […] He uses all the possibilities of modern musical dissonance to paint mental states. […] Stunningly strong, moody passages are heard. In the final Adagio, ‘Night’, the music finds its way back home. How wonderful are the sounds extracted by Suk, a master of instrumental color at any rate, from his orchestra!” It was already obvious then that A Summer’s Tale, with its special treatment of compositional means, its demanding nature, its depth of inspiration and its serious thoughts would rank among the best of Czech classical music of the 20th century.

The composition was premiered at a concert of the Orchestral Association on 26 January 1909 by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, complemented by other players from the National Theater Orchestra, and conducted by Karel Kovařovic, to whom Suk had dedicated it.

“After seeking wild escape, I find peace in nature,” Suk later commented on the idea of A Summer’s Tale, which was born out of his personal struggle with innermost pain. He described the whole work as follows: “A rush which leads to the hymnal elation of the first movement, an ode to the sun in the second movement, compassion for those who have never been able to see anything [‘Blind Musicians’], and a storm and wild desire in the scherzo-like fourth movement entitled ‘In the Power of Phantoms’ give way in the final movement to the mystical tranquility of the night. The tired eyes, still wide open in amazement, are closed by a good, sound sleep, and the first shudder of the awakening earth and the first rays of the rising sun sound to the sleeping soul like a mystical bell.”

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