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Magdalena Kožená and the song repertoire are made for each other. She will present selections from Dvořák’s Evening Songs along with songs by the Theresienstadt composers Hans Krása and Gideon Klein. Crowning the Czech programme will be the orchestral rhapsody Taras Bulba by Leoš Janáček.
The Wild Dove, Symphonic Poem, Op. 110 (19')
Antonín Dvořák (* orchestrated by Jiří Gemrot)
Večerní písně (Evening Songs) to verses by Vítězslav Hálek (selections) (20')
Když jsem se díval do nebe (“Visions of heaven I fondly paint”), Op. 31/7 (world premiere of the orchestral version) *
Umlklo stromů šumění (“The trees fell silent”), Op. 9/1 (world premiere of the orchestral version) *
Mně zdálo se (“I dreamt last night”), Op. 3/2
Já jsem ten rytíř (“I am that knight”), Op. 3/3
Když Bůh byl nejvíc rozkochán (“When God was in a happy mood”), Op. 3/4 (world premiere of the orchestral version) *
Songs, Op. 2, to verses by Gustav Pfleger-Moravský (selections)
Ó byl to krásný zlatý sen (“Oh, it was a lovely, golden dream”), Op. 2/2 (world premiere of the orchestral version) *
Mé srdce často v bolesti (“My heart often broods in pain”), Op. 2/6 (world premiere of the orchestral version) *
— Intermission —
Four Orchestral Songs, Op. 1, to texts by Christian Morgenstern (8')
Gideon Klein (orchestrated by Jiří Gemrot)
Ukolébavka (Lullaby) (world premiere of the orchestral version) (2')
Taras Bulba, rhapsody for orchestra (23')
Magdalena Kožená mezzo-soprano
Simon Rattle conductor
Antonín Dvořák wrote his Evening songs for voice and piano. At first, Magdalena Kožená performed them that way, but she later asked the Czech composer Jiří Gemrot to orchestrate them. The result is the selection to be heard on these subscription concerts along with two more songs from Dvořák’s Op. 2. Jiří Gemrot also orchestrated Gideon Klein’s Lullaby, while Hans Krása’s Four Orchestral Songs are heard in their original instrumentation. “I’m very curious about what the songs will sound like and how much they will please the public,” say Magdalena Kožená.
Born in the Czech city of Brno, Magdalena Kožená studied voice and piano at the Brno Conservatory and at Bratislava’s Academy of Performing Arts. Magdalena signed as an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist in 1999 and released her first album of Bach arias on its Archiv label. Her recital debut recording of songs by Dvořák, Janáček and Martinů followed in 2001 – the same year she was honoured with Gramophone’s Solo Vocal Award.
She was named Artist of the Year by Gramophone in 2004 and has since received numerous other prestigious awards, including the Echo Klassik, Record Academy Prize Tokyo, and Diapason d’or. In 2017, Magdalena forged a long-term relationship with Dutch classical music label Pentatone and has since released 3 recordings, the most recent of which is a collaboration with Yefim Bronfman entitled ‘Nostalgia’ (August 2021).
During her career, Magdalena has worked with the world’s leading conductors, including Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Gustavo Dudamel, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Mariss Jansons, Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir Roger Norrington. Her list of distinguished recital partners includes the pianists Daniel Barenboim, Malcolm Martineau, András Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida, with whom she has performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, and at the Aldeburgh, Edinburgh and Salzburg festivals. She is also in demand as soloist with the Berlin, Vienna and Czech Philharmonics, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Cleveland, Philadelphia and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras.
Magdalena bookends her 2022/23 season with two European piano recital tours: firstly with Yefim Bronfman at Edinburgh, Merano and Helsinki Festivals, Philharmonie Essen, Musikfest Berlin and Schloss Elmau and later with Mitsuko Uchida in Antwerp, Dortmund, Budapest and Prague Spring Festival. She re-joins her friends at Venice Baroque Orchestra for a concert tour of South America, performing a programme inspired by Handel’s Alcina and looks forward to reviving the role of Varvara (Káťa Kabanová) in concert with the London Symphony Orchestra and returning to Mozartwoche Salzburg in a semi-staged performance of Don Giovanni.
On the opera stage, Magdalena returns to the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin for Idamante (Idomeneo) and makes her operatic debut at the Gran Teatro del Liceu as Ottavia (Poppea). She also makes her much anticipated role debut in the title role of Alcina with Les Musiciens du Louvre in a tour to Paris, Hamburg, Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.
Magdalena was appointed a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2003 for her services to French music.
Sir Simon Rattle was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. From 1980 to 1998, Sir Simon was Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and was appointed Music Director in 1990. In 2002 he took up the position of Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker where he remained until the end of the 2017/2018 season. Sir Simon took up the position of Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra in September 2017. He will remain in this position until the 2023/2024 season, when he will become the orchestra’s Conductor Emeritus. From the 2023/2024 season Sir Simon will take up the position of Chief Conductor with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in Munich. He is a Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Founding Patron of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.
Sir Simon has made over 70 recordings for EMI record label (now Warner Classics) and has received numerous prestigious international awards for his recordings on various labels. He regularly tours within Europe and Asia and has strong longstanding relationships with the world’s leading orchestras and opera houses.
Music education is of supreme importance to Sir Simon, and his partnership with the Berliner Philiharmoniker broke new ground with the education programme Zukunft(zavinac)Bphil, earning him the Comenius Prize, the Schiller Special Prize from the city of Mannheim, the Golden Camera and the Urania Medal. He and the Berliner Philharmoniker were also appointed International UNICEF Ambassadors in 2004 – the first time this honour has been conferred on an artistic ensemble. In 2019 Simon announced the creation of the LSO East London Academy, developed by the London Symphony Orchestra in partnership with 10 East London boroughs. This free program aims to identify and develop the potential of young East Londoners between the ages of 11 and 18 who show exceptional musical talent, irrespective of their background or financial circumstance. Sir Simon has also been awarded several prestigious personal honours which include a knighthood in 1994, becoming a member of the Order of Merit from Her Majesty the Queen in 2014 and was recently bestowed the Order of Merit in Berlin in 2018. In 2019, Sir Simon was given the Freedom of the City of London.
The 2022/2023 season will see him conduct the London Symphony Orchestra, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Staatskapelle Berlin, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra for their special ‘Freedom’ concerts. He will return to the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin to revive Mozart’s Idomeneo, and in summer 2023 he returns to the Aix en Provence Festival with the London Symphony Orchestra, where they will perform Gerard McBurney’s Wozzeck. He will tour Japan and South Korea with the London Symphony Orchestra, and later in the season they will embark on a tour to Australia.
By the mid-1890s, Antonín Dvořák was a composer acknowledged around the world for his “absolute” music, but surprisingly he changed direction suddenly towards programmatic genres. An even greater surprise for many was his choice of subject matter: gloomy ballades from the collection Kytice (A Bouquet) by Karel Jaromír Erben. Dvořák was captivated by Erben’s poetry for many years. Already in 1884, he had composed a cantata based on the ballade The Spectre’s Bride, but now he chose four more poems for purely orchestral compositions. He composed the first three symphonic poems based on Erben’s ballades (The Water Goblin, The Noon Witch, and The Golden Spinning Wheel) in the first half of 1896, and all three received their official premieres in October and November of that year in London, just as he was composing a fourth symphonic poem titled The Wild Dove (Holoubek) about a woman who poisons her husband. The whole work is based on a single motif that is transformed according to the moods of the individual sections—a funeral march, meeting a young man, a wedding celebration, all leading to the tragic ending; pangs of conscience, symbolised by the dove’s mournful cooing above the grave of the poisoned husband, drive the woman to suicide. The Wild Dove was premiered on 20 March 1898 in Brno by the Czech Symphony Orchestra with Leoš Janáček conducting, and on 3 December 1899 it was performed by the Vienna Philharmonic with Gustav Mahler conducting in Vienna.
The collection Evening Songs (Večerní písně) by Vítězslav Hálek (1835–1874) was published in 1859. It contained more than 60 poems inspired by Hálek’s love for his future wife. The simple lyricism, similar in character to folk poetry, was perfectly suited for Antonín Dvořák, whose Evening Songs are usually dated to 1876, but some of them may have been composed earlier. They were printed successively by three different publishers, so they have different opus numbers. Op. 3 was published by Hoffmeister in Leipzig (1880), Op. 9 was published that same year by Schlesinger in Berlin, and Op. 31 was issued in 1883 by F. A. Urbánek’s publishing house in Prague. Dvořák made arrangements of the songs “Mně zdálo se” (“I dreamt last night”) and „Já jsem ten rytíř“ (“I am that knight”) with orchestral accompaniment, which were first performed by the baritone Josef Lev on 6 December 1882 with the orchestra of the National Theatre conducted by Adolf Čech. The composer Jiří Gemrot (*1957) created the orchestral arrangement of the other songs.
In 1862 the poet Gustav Pfleger Moravský (1833–1875) published a collection of poetry titled Cypresses (Cypřiše), which inspired Dvořák to compose his very first song cycle. Dvořák had especially intimate feelings towards these songs, and he never attempted to have them performed in public or published as a whole (Cypresses was not published in that form until 2013), but he kept returning to the cycle. The mood of Pfleger’s poems tends to be compared to the verses of Wilhelm Müller, which Franz Schubert set to music, or of Heinrich Heine, who inspired Robert Schumann. From Dvořák’s musical setting, it is apparent that both composers served as his models. Four revised songs from the original Cypresses, two of which are on today’s programme, were issued in 1882 as Songs, Op. 2 by the Prague publisher Emanuel Starý.
The poet Christian Morgenstern (1871–1914) was famed mainly for his farcical verses and the nonsense collection Galgenlieder (Gallows Songs), first published in 1905. It was not by chance that Hans Krása chose to set Morgenstern’s verses to music. Many of his works exhibit a tendency towards the grotesque and irony even during the most difficult times of his life under the racial persecution that brought his life to a violent end. Krása’s musical setting was first performed on 4 May 1921 at one of the philharmonic concerts of the New German Theatre with the singer Max Klein and the conductor Alexander Zemlinsky. “Hans Krása’s first work, the Orchestral Songs to Verses by Christian Morgenstern, is mistitled because while they are nothing less than orchestra songs in the usual sense, if they sail under a false flag, they create an impression on the public that the composer did not want,” wrote the critic Ernst Rychnovsky after the premiere. “By their nature, these songs are orchestral grotesques accompanied by a singing voice. Emphasising the word ‘grotesque’ allows the correct distancing to arise between the work and its effect on the public, so something that might cause shaking heads if perceived in the wrong way becomes easier to understand and grasp.”
Krása’s short motifs correspond to the curtness of Morgenstern’s verses, and he achieves a parodistic character by contrasts of pitch ranges, glissandos, notes played with mutes, tone painting, and also, for example, a passing but clear reference to Debussy in the song “The Goat and the Blindworm” or to the duet “Faithful loving” from The Bartered Bride in the song “No!”. The composer offered the score to Universal Edition in Vienna for publication—with the title Four Orchestral Grotesques, possibly on the basis of a review by Ernst Rychnovský—but it did not appear in print. On 16 December 1991 the rediscovered work was performed by the RIAS Youth Orchestra with the soloist Simona Alex and the conductor Israel Yinon in Berlin.
In 1929 the poet Emanuel Harusi (whose real name was Emmanuel Novogrebelski, 1903–1979) wrote the text of the lullaby “Sch’chaw b’ni” under the impression of the news of the birth of his son. Harusi came from the Russian town Nikolayev. The ideas of Theodore Herzl caught on with the town’s strong Jewish community, and they influenced the young poet. He moved to Palestine, and a melody he had known since childhood as the “niggun of Shalom Kharitonov” (Kharitonov’s brother Ahron is sometimes identified as the author) inspired him. The song’s popularity can also be seen from the Lullaby (Ukolébavka) by Gideon Klein, dated 6 February 1943 in Theresienstadt. Klein set Harusi’s words to his own music. The autograph, kept at the Jewish Museum in Prague, consists of two pages of notation for voice and piano written in ink. The text (transcribed into the Latin alphabet) is added in pencil. Klein’s musical setting sets up a polarity between the major and minor modes, expressing solace, bitterness, sorrow, desire, and hopelessness so eloquently that it needs no words. The version of the Lullaby on today’s programme has been orchestrated by Jiří Gemrot.
Taras Bulba, a rhapsody for orchestra by Leoš Janáček, is one of the expressions of the composer’s Russophilism. Since childhood he had been a proponent of Slavic traditions and Pan-Slavism, which became a political force in the 19th century. Towards the end of the century, this tendency was intensified by the danger threatened by Bismarck’s Germany. The ancient disputes among the Slavs themselves were overlooked. Since 1897, Janáček had been the chairman of Brno’s Russian Circle, and Russian themes appeared several times in his works. He began composing a symphonic rhapsody based on Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol’s story Taras Bulba in 1915. That year, the Russian Circle was banned because Russia was an enemy power at war with the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. It is therefore no coincidence that Janáček chose heroic Russian subject matter at this time. The three movements of his composition embody three characters from Gogol’s tale – the Cossack ataman Taras and his sons Andrei and Ostap. In the context of the development of Russian literature, Gogol’s story (first published in 1835) was interpreted as an expression of “the idea of national liberation”, “a tableau vivant of former glory and greatness”. Janáček’s rhapsody focuses on the fates of three individuals, resulting in a shift of meaning in comparison with Gogol’s original. Andrei is killed by his own father for having betrayed his country for the love of a Polish noblewoman. Ostap is martyred before Taras’s eyes, and Taras himself is finally captured and burned at the stake (in the story, the deaths of Andrei and Ostap are mere episodes). In the first movement, we sense that the lengthy lyrical passage with an oboe melody represents Andrei’s love, while Taras’s revenge is characterised by the impact of the trombones. In the second movement, Ostap’s suffering is illustrated by string tremolos, trumpets, and clarinet, and in the third movement we recognise the rhythm of the krakowiak, a Polish folk dance (a symbol of the victorious Poles before the pyre where Taras burned at the stake). Organ and brass represent the apotheosis of the strange hero Taras, who has been turned—like so many others—from a marauding warrior into a national symbol. The composition was finished in 1918, and the premiere took place on 9 October 1921 with the orchestra of the National Theatre in Brno and František Neumann conducting. Václav Talich conducted the Prague premiere on 9 November 1924 with Czech Philharmonic.