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In this project, pupils from elementary schools of the arts all around the Czech Republic encounter their experienced colleagues from the Czech Philharmonic. After half a year of intense preparations, the project culminates with joint rehearsals for a gala concert where the orchestra plays under the baton of Petr Altrichter.
Carl Maria von Weber
Oberon, overture to the opera
The Devil and Kate, prelude to Act III of the opera
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Swan Lake – selections from the ballet
Joint Orchestra of Music School Pupils and Players of the Czech Philharmonic
Petr Altrichter conductor
The ticket price for the public rehearsal is CZK 150.
The joint orchestra was created through cooperation between the Czech Philharmonic and the Association of Elementary Schools of the Arts (AZUŠ ČR) back in 2014. It regularly consists of nearly 60 pupils from elementary schools of the arts and 30 Czech Philharmonic players. From January to June, they meet for preparatory rehearsals (including sectional rehearsals). Under the conductors Ladislav Cigler, Robert Kružík, and Petr Altrichter, the young musicians familiarise themselves with the challenges of the individual parts, and they also experience the thrill of ensemble playing, gaining inspiration and experience from the Czech Philharmonic players, and learning to play as a group even in their free time outside of rehearsals. Teachers from elementary schools of the arts also bring the sharing of experiences and new stimuli to the project They provide needed support for all of the young musicians.
What did the participants think about their two-year experience in the 2019-2021 project, which was extended by the pandemic?
“I forgot about myself and was just breathing with the others… During the applause I had tears in my eyes, and I had to fight them back, and then that evening the tears came back again, because I was sorry that it was over, and that it would not be repeated. I wanted to experience that feeling again, to play endlessly, and never stop… Just to remain in that amazing state when somehow the whole universe came together for me.”
“Life is like a bench at a crossroads. You can sit quietly and watch people pass by… There is no risk to sitting on the bench, but it brings few experiences. But when someone decides to get up and set out on a path, they risk getting lost if they don’t trust their own feet, but plenty of surprises definitely await them… I think this orchestra is one of the loveliest journeys I have had the honour of taking. In particular, the supporting comments of the conductor and philharmonic players helped me several times emotionally with experiencing everything down to the tiniest details. That helped me get my bearings both in the music and in life. Being a part of something big is what gives people perspective and open’s their hearts to life.”
“What did I get from it? I realised that even the best players are just people—they are understanding and empathetic even though they are role models. I played something that I never believed I would be able to play. I understood that music isn’t just about the right notes, but also about feelings, technique, the tilt of the bow… about putting yourself into the piece. I was also very impressed by what the conductor said at a forum: ‘If people do not have inner peace, meaning they have not come to terms with themselves, they can hardly expect to find that in music.’”
Petr Altrichter is one of the most distinguished Czech conductors, and he has earned an illustrious reputation for the dynamism and depth of his interpretations of symphonic music. He was raised in a musical family and played musical instruments from a young age. Having graduated from the Conservatory in Ostrava as a French horn player and conductor, he continued his studies at the Janáček Academy of the Performing Arts in Brno in orchestral conducting under Otakar Trhlík and František Jílek and choral conducting with Josef Veselka and Lubomír Mátl. After completing his studies in Brno, he worked as a choirmaster and conductor with the Brno Academic Choir, and contributed to the winning of many prizes at foreign choral competitions and festivals (Middlesbrough, Debrecen…).
Altrichter attracted international attention in 1976, when he won second prize and a special prize of the jury at the renowned International Conducting Competition in Besançon, France. Based on this achievement he began to work with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra as an assistant of Václav Neumann, which started his artistic career. Not long after that, he began to receive invitations to conduct orchestras abroad. After working with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, in 1988 he became the principal guest conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra and in 1991 he was appointed its chief conductor. With that orchestra, he made frequent foreign tours to Japan, the USA, Switzerland, Germany, France, and other countries. At the same time he also closely collaborated with the Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, with which he often gave performances abroad introducing many gifted young soloists (such as Isabelle van Keulen and Radek Baborák).
From 1993 to 2004 he also worked as the Music Director of the Südwestdeutsche Philharmonie in Constance, Germany, with which he gave concerts regularly at the Tonhalle in Zurich and at the KKL in Lucerne, and also toured Switzerland and Italy. Having made his U.K. debut with the Prague Symphony Orchestra at the Edinburgh Festival in 1990, Petr Altrichter made his London debut with the English Chamber Orchestra 1993. He then conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1994 to a great critical acclaim. He was subsequently appointed its Principal Conductor, a post he held from 1997 until 2001. With this orchestra he appeared at the 2000 BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and made several highly-praised recordings on the orchestra’s own label, RLPO live.
In 2001 Altrichter was invited to become the Chief Conductor of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, and he remained there for seven years, returning to the orchestra with which he had been associated since his student days and which he continues to guest conduct up to this day. He is also a regular guest of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, with which he has maintained a steady artistic relationship since his beginnings there as an assistant conductor, and of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, with which he recorded an award-winning CD with Antonín Dvořák’s music. Since the 2018/2019 season, he has been a permanent guest conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, with whom he has been working for many years.
In 2015 he toured Germany with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and in late 2015 and early 2016, he toured China with the same orchestra. At the beginning of the 2017/2018 season, he conducted the Czech Philharmonic at the Dvořák Prague International Festival and later toured very successfully in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan with the same orchestra. In the spring of 2017 he toured Japan with the Prague Symphony Orchestra. In 2018 he toured the United Kingdom with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. In May 2019 he will be touring with the Czech Philharmonic in China.
Altrichter has appeared as a guest conductor with many leading international orchestras, including Japan’s NHK Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. In the United Kingdom he has collaborated with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The orchestras he has guest conducted also include the Bruckner Orchestra in Linz, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra, the Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Baden-Baden, the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra in Riga, the Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra, the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen and the Odense Symphony Orchestra.
He is a frequent guest at festivals such as Prague Spring, Janáček May in Ostrava, Smetana’s Litomyšl, Moravian Autumn in Brno, and the Bratislava Music Festival. He has made guest appearances at major festivals in Salzburg, Edinburgh, Avignon, Athens, Cheltenham, Paris, Madrid, Chicago, Zurich, Lucerne, Seville, Palermo, and elsewhere.
The bulk of Petr Altrichter’s repertoire consists of Czech music (Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček, and Bohuslav Martinů), Russian music (especially Dmitri Shostakovich), and the works of Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner. Outstanding soloists and performers from around the world (Garrick Ohlsson, John Lill, Tabea Zimmermann and others) value his flexibility in leading orchestral accompaniments, and they seek out collaboration with him.