1 / 6
Helping with the Czech Phil and Škoda Auto
The benefit concert celebrating 125 years of the Škoda Auto will help families of covid-19 victims among caregivers working in social services. Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov offers a magnificent programme which includes works by Antonín Dvořák, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Alessandro Marcell, Camille Saint-Saëns and Georges Bizet.
Jan Mráček violin
Václav Petr cello
Walter Hofbauer trumpet
Semjon Byčkov conductor
Marek Eben host
Dress code: semi-formal/business
The benefit concert Helping with the Czech Phil and Škoda Auto will help families of covid-19 victims from among caregivers in social services who got infected while fighting the pandemic in the front line over the past months. You can donate via www.darujme.cz/helpsurvivors.
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 the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra and Romanian Radio Symphony (both under Sascha Goetzel), Lappeenranta City Orchestra (Finland), Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK), Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra and almost all Czech regional orchestras.
Jan Mráček had the honor of being invited by Maestro Jiří Bělohlávek to guest lead the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra 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.
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.
In addition to his British debut with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, in season 2017/2018 Jan Mráček made his American debut with the St Louis Symphony under Han-Na Chang, with the Symphony of Florida with James Judd, debuts in Dubai with the Vienna Concert Verein and in China with the Slovenian Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic under Manuel López-Gómez as well as recitals at festivals in Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Greece. In April 2017 he made his Swiss debut with the Tchaikovsky concerto as an Orpheum Foundation soloist in Zurich’s Tonhalle with the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra under Vladimir Fedoseyev. In July 2017 he performed with the Asian Youth Orchestra in Tokyo. In November 2018, Jan Mráček played Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Prague Symphony Orchestra again under the direction of Vladimir Fedoseyev.
Jan Mráček plays on a Carlo Fernando Landolfi violin, Milan 1758, generously loaned to him by Mr Peter Biddulph.
Born in 1989 in Prague, Václav Petr began playing the cello at the age of four under the guidance of Mirko Škampa. In 2008 he graduated from the Jan Neruda Grammar School of Music in Prague. While still a student, he received several accolades at both Czech and international competitions, including 2nd prizes at the international cello competitions in Ústí nad Orlicí (2001) and Liezen, Austria (2002). In 2004 he won 1st prize and a number of other awards at Prague Junior Note and in 2005 was overall winner of Talents for Europe.
Moreover, he garnered success at the Concertino Praga radio competition (2007), the David Popper International Cello Competition in Budapest (2007), the Antonio Janigro International Cello Competition in Zagreb (2008), the Bohuslav Martinů International Cello Competition in Prague (2008, 2012), the Johann Friedrich Dotzauer International Competition in Dresden (2009), the Rudolf Matz International Competition in Dubrovnik (2010), and other competitions. In 2010, on the basis of a DVD recording, he was chosen to be one of the 12 participants of the Grand Prix Emanuel Feurmann in Berlin.
At the age of twelve, Václav Petr had his first solo performance with an orchestra. In 2004, 2006 and 2008 he appeared as a soloist at the Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum in Prague, accompanied by the PKF – Prague Philharmonia within the “Josef Suk Presents Young Talents” cycle. He has also performed abroad, in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, Croatia and other countries.
In 2008 and 2010 he attended master classes in Kronberg, studying with Anner Bylsma and David Geringas. In 2009 he received a scholarship for Jens Peter Maintz’s summer master classes in Hamburg. On the basis of a recording, he was selected to participate in the 2010 European Music Academy in Bonn, guided by Wolfgang Boettcher, who also taught him in July of the same year at the 40th International Master Classes in Vaduz. In 2010 he was selected to join Marie Kliegel’s class within the Holland Music Sessions.
Václav Petr is also an active chamber player. Since 2009 he has been a member of Ensemble Taras (formerly the Taras Piano Trio), with whom in 2010 he won 1st prize at the international music competition in Val Tidone, Italy. In 2012, he and the violinist Radim Kresta (as a violin-cello duo) came third in the Salieri-Zinetti International Chamber Music Competition and a year later (as a piano quartet, with the violist Eva Krestová and the pianist Václav Mácha) they won the competition. In 2013 the quartet won the prestigious Premio Trio di Trieste, which resulted in their being afforded the opportunity to record a CD and DVD and tour Europe and the USA.
Since 2008 Václav Petr has studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (starting in the class of Daniel Veis and since 2011 continuing to hone his skills with Michal Kaňka). In 2010 and 2011 he studied within the Erasmus program at the Universität der Künste in Berlin with Wolfgang Boettcher. Since January 2014 he has been a concert master of the Czech Philharmonic orchestra.
At the age of 26, the trumpeter Walter Hofbauer has already captivated music critics with his outstanding artistic performances and to achieve exceptional results and recognition. He comes from the Czech town Třešť and was raised in a musical family. At age 8 he began studying trumpet with Evžen Mašát, and he soon won first prize at several nationwide competitions. In September 2009 he entered Jiří Jaroněk’s studio at the Prague Conservatoire, and he soon became the overall winner of the conservatoire competition. Already as a second-year student, he played first trumpet in the orchestra of the Prague Conservatoire at the opening concert of the Prague Spring Festival under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek, the chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. Two years later, he won the audition for the Orchestral Academy of the Czech Philharmonic. He graduated from the conservatoire in 2015, and that same year he was admitted to the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where he continued his studies under the guidance of Vladimír Rejlek. As a laureate of the Concertino Praga International Radio Competition, he appeared at the Rudolfinum as a soloist with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, and he became a full-time member of that orchestra in 2014. Since the 2017/2018 he has also been a member of the Orchestra of the National Theatre.
“This was a testament not only to Mahler, but also to Mr. Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic... this was a moving and intelligent reading of the Resurrection, dramatic in the opening and finale, sweet and playful in the inner movements, and sublime in the setting of Urlicht...”
The New York Times
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 First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Symphonies will all be heard internationally including on tour at the Grafenegg Festival in Austria during the summer. 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, Berlin, Oslo and LA Philharmonic Orchestras, 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.
Festival March, Slavonic Dance, Silent Woods for Cello and Orchestra
Antonín Dvořák is undoubtedly the most frequently performed Czech composer. He laid the foundations for the composing of Czech cantatas and oratorios, and he was an excellent symphonist and author of chamber music. His operatic masterpieces are the pillars of Czech music drama. Dvořák’s music has a wealth of melodic and harmonic invention as an outgrowth of its Czech roots. He wrote nine symphonies, several symphonic poems, ten operas, great oratorios, three instrumental concertos, and much chamber music.
Dvořák composed his Festival March, Op. 54, in early 1879 as the introduction to a performance given in celebration of the silver wedding anniversary of the emperor and his wife. The orchestra of the Provisional Theatre under the baton of Adolf Čech premiered the celebratory work with its brilliantly effective coda on 23 April 1879.
In 1878 Dvořák was asked by his Berlin publisher Simrock to compose a set of compositions for piano four-hands as a sort of counterpart to Brahms’s Hungarian Dances. The composer finished a set of eight dances in just three weeks. He used Czech folk dances as his point of departure, but he created his own musical themes. The charms of the piano original are enhanced in the orchestral version, and both were published in 1878. The orchestral version of the Slavonic Dances instantly found a home on Czech and foreign concert stages. The extraordinary success of the Slavonic Dances contributed significantly to Dvořák’s European fame, and the Czech and international repertoire gained a work of inestimable worth.
After the success of the first series of dances, the publisher wanted to repeat their commercial success, so he persuaded Dvořák to compose a second set. The composer long demurred, once writing to Simrock: “It’s damned hard to do the same thing twice!” After eight years, at the end of 1886 the time had finally come, and Dvořák wrote to Simrock: “I’m really enjoying my Slavonic Dances, and I think they will be entirely different!” Once again, work went quickly, and the eight new dances were done in a month. The seventh dance of the second series of Slavonic Dances is a Serbian kolo with the tempo marking Allegro vivace. The orchestra of the National Theatre played the premiere on 6 January 1887 with Dvořák himself conducting.
Before Dvořák’s first departure to the USA (September 1892), from January to May he gave a five-month farewell concert tour of Bohemia and Moravia. He worked on preparing his repertoire during the final months of 1891, and in December he made arrangements from, among other things, a part of an older set of pieces for piano four-hands titled Ze Šumavy (From the Bohemian Forest), a six-movement cycle of lovely sketches, poetic musical images, and a wide range of moods. Silent Woods, the fifth piece in the cycle, is serious in mood and is written in D flat major. The version for cello and piano bears the Czech title Klid, which simply means “Silence”. It was completed on 28 December 1891, and it was premiered in Rakovník on 31 January 1892 with Hanuš Wihan on cello and Antonín Dvořák at the piano.
Romeo and Juliet, Fantasy-Overture (final version, 1880)
The composer, music critic, and conductor Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of the founding fathers of Russia’s musical culture. He was Russia’s first professional composer, earning a living mainly by writing music rather than by playing an instrument, conducting, or teaching. His compositional legacy is vast, with works in a variety of genres, and his music combines elements of Russian folk music with inspiration from European Classicism and Romanticism. He composed six symphonies, nine operas, three ballets, and a number of instrumental works. His style is characterised by lyricism and melancholy.
Many composers have written music based on Shakespeare’s play about the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. In 1869, Tchaikovsky took inspiration from his friend Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev, the composer and ideological leader of a group of composer known as “The Mighty Handful”. It was at Balakirev’s suggestion that Tchaikovsky went to work on the overture Romeo and Juliet. The work had a difficult birth: “Just imagine; I’m completely burned out, and not one single decent musical idea comes into my head. I’m beginning to fear that my muse has flown off to some distant place, and I might be a long time waiting for her”. In the end, Tchaikovsky finished the composition, but he still was not completely satisfied. He revised the overture several more times before it assumed its definitive form in 1880. The work begins with a slow introduction connected with the character of Friar Lawrence. In the sonata allegro that follows, the composer works with two opposing musical symbols: a rhythmically restless theme that characterises the feud of the Montagues and Capulets, and a lyrical them that depicts the ardent song of love of their children. The Overture-Fantasy concludes with a consoling epilogue that quotes the motif of Friar Lawrence with a plaintive variation of the love theme.
Concerto C minor for Oboe and Strings, version for trumpet
[Andante e spiccato]
Alessandro Marcello brings us to the first half of the 18th century, the golden age of the Venetian Republic. The composer, poet, philosopher, and mathematician was a member of a leading family of aristocrats and politicians who had great influence over goings-on in the city, including cultural events. Thanks to the excellent education he had received, he engaged himself in many fields, but music was dearest to him. He gave concerts of his own compositions in all of Venice’s palaces. Of those works, the collection of six oboe concertos remains the most successful. They are also often arranged for other instruments. Today, we will hear one of them played on a trumpet. They were created during the era when the solo concerto was undergoing its greatest development, assuming the form that is familiar today. The pioneer of the concerto form was one of Marcello’s Venetian contemporaries, Antonio Vivaldi. The concertos are characterised by highly virtuosic solo parts, which were made possible by the advancements in instrument design at the time.
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28
The French composer, pianist, and organist Camille Saint-Saëns originally conceived the rondo from his Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28, as the finale of his Violin Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 20, which he composed in 1858 for Pablo de Sarasate, who was just 15 years old at the time, but was already highly respected. In the end, however, he concluded that brief work with a reprise of its first movement. The virtuosic rondo is full of chromatic runs and rhythms with a southern temperament, and the composer returned to it a few years later in 1863, adding a slow, pensive introduction.
One might wonder: is it good fortune, or is it a curse when a composer is so famous for one work that everything else he has written remains overshadowed or even unknown? When Georges Bizet is mentioned, Carmen always immediately comes to mind, but few remember any of the other works among his fifteen operas and operettas. It is good that today we will be hearing different but equally beautiful music by the same composer. Bizet composed incidental music to Alphonse Daudet’s play L’Arlésienne in 1872. The play was a failure and was withdrawn from the repertoire after just 15 performances, but Bizet’s music transitioned successfully to the concert hall, and it remains in the repertoire to this day. That year, the composer put together a four-movement orchestral suite from themes in the incidental music. Bizet was one of the first composers to add the saxophone to the standard orchestra, as we will hear clearly in the first movement titled Prélude. Four years after Bizet’s death, the composer Ernest Guiraud arranged a second suite from the material of the incidental music, and from it we will be hear the concluding Farandole.