The concert will be streamed live on Facebook profile of the Czech Philharmonic.
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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
The concert will be streamed live on Facebook profile of the Czech Philharmonic.
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.
Václav Petr is one of the most prominent cellists of his generation. He was a semi-finalist of the international cello competition Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann (Germany), the winner of the 70th Prague Spring competition (Czech Republic), and the overall winner of Talents for Europe. He began his studies with Mirek Škampa at the Jan Neruda Grammar School in Prague before moving on to study at the Music Academy of Performing Arts in Prague with Daniel Veis and graduating from Michal Kaňka’s studio. He developed his playing with Wolfgang Boettcher at Berlin’s Universität der Künste and took part in the European Music Academy in Bonn. In 2015, he completed the Carl Flesch Academy masterclass courses with a solo performance alongside the Baden-Baden Philharmonic. He started his solo career at just 12 years of age, and he has since appeared with such orchestras as the Czech Philharmonic, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Prague Philharmonia. Being only 24 years old when selected as the Czech Philharmonic’s cello concertmaster, he became one of the youngest musicians to hold that post in the orchestra’s history. Václav Petr plays the “Teschenmacher” cello (1757) from Giovanni Battista Guadagnini’s workshop, on loan from a private collection.
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.
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.
Marek Eben was born in 1957 in Prague. He studied music drama at the Prague Conservatoire. After finishing school, he worked at the Vítězslav Nezval Theatre in Karlovy Vary, then at the Kladno Theatre, and from 1983 to 2002 he was an ensemble member at Prague’s Studio Ypsilon Theatre. Besides acting, he also involves himself with music. He is the exclusive songwriter for the band The Eben Brothers, which has released five albums (Malé písně do tmy, 1984; Tichá domácnost, 1995; Já na tom dělám, 2002; Chlebíčky, 2008; Čas holin, 2014), and he wrote the music for the films Bizon and Hele on letí and for the television series Poste restante. He has also composed music and written texts for about 20 plays (including Matěj Poctivý – Matthew the Honest, Vosková figura – The Wax Figure, Amerika, and Othello for Studio Ypsilon and The Winter’s Tale for the National Theatre). Since 1996, he has been the moderator of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
He has worked extensively on television, serving as the moderator of various programmes such as the contest O poklad Anežky České (The Treasure of St Agnes of Bohemia), the TýTý Awards Presentation, Stardance, and the discussion programme Na plovárně (At the Swimming Pool), which won the Elsa Award in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 for the best talk show. Marek Eben has also won this prize as a moderator in 2001, 2002, 2006, and 2007. He is also the two-time overall winner of the TýTý Awards.
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.
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.
[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.
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.