Although it might not seem so at first glance, this entire programme put together by Jakub Hrůša will be somewhat in the spirit of Janáček. Of any work in the worldwide literature, Béla Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto is the closest to Janáček in terms of its mood and folk inspiration. And if one did not to know that the composer of the Scherzo triste was Janáček’s pupil Pavel Haas, one might reasonably attribute it to Janáček himself. The colours of this beautiful, original music seem to be an outgrowth of Janáček’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen, and the violin solo at the end foreshadows the next work on the programme, Taras Bulba. Suk’s Scherzo fantastique naturally follows in the compositional traditions of Dvořák, which Janáček also built upon, and we clearly find something like this in the Lachian Dances as well. It is as if all four works were somehow connected, yet each presents its composer’s mastery in an original way.
Just as Leoš Janáček is an original figure who is difficult to categorise among the world’s composers, Piotr Anderszewski is an absolutely unique phenomenon on today’s piano scene. This introverted star, a virtuoso but not a showman, carefully chooses his repertoire and musical collaborators. He appears regularly with Jakub Hrůša. Anderszewski has earned international awards for his recordings of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, and Szymanowski, and his Polish-Hungarian roots have naturally led him to perform the music of Béla Bartók.
Scherzo fantastique, Op. 25
Piano Concerto No. 3
Scherzo triste, Op. 5
Taras Bulba, a rhapsody for orchestra
Holds a place among the most striking figures in piano performance today. He was born in 1969 in Warsaw, where he also studied at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music. Since his solo debut in London’s Wigmore Hall in 1991 he has been appearing regularly on the most prestigious stages all over the world (e.g. in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, and Vienna’s Konzerthaus), both as a recitalist and in collaboration with numerous top-flight orchestras like the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. He holds many prestigious awards including an 'Echo Klassik'. In addition to the standard piano repertoire, he systematically promotes the legacy of Karol Szymanowski, and a recording he made of solo piano works by this composer won him a Classic FM Gramophone Award. This will not be Anderszewski's first appearance in the Dvořák Prague Festival: in 2010 he performed here in a programme of Bach and Beethoven.
“The Czech Philharmonic is very close to my heart artistically and personally. With the leading orchestra of our country, I have repeatedly experienced moments of beauty and deep feeling on the podium. I regard it as an honor that I may continue to be a part of the innermost musical family of the Czech Philharmonic, now alongside the new Chief Conductor, Semyon Bychkov, and together with my wonderful colleague Tomáš Netopil. I am looking forward to our joint projects, whether they will involve performing the classics from this country and around the world or excursions into the realm of lesser-known repertoire and contemporary music. It is my wish that together, our whole institution might continue successfully and harmoniously along the artistic path begun by Jiří Bělohlávek.“
Jakub Hrůša made his debut with the Czech Philharmonic in 2004 when he stepped in at short notice to conduct a programme of Janáček, Martinů and Dvořák. He had just graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague where Jiří Bělohlávek was amongst his teachers. Hrůša has subsequently conducted the Orchestra in forty concerts at home and on tour and, at the start of the 2015/16 season was appointed Permanent Guest Conductor. This season he conducts the opening concerts of the Czech Philharmonic season and has been named Principal Guest Conductor with effect from the 2018/19 season.
A regular guest with leading orchestras in both Europe and the USA, Jakub Hrůša is also Chief Conductor of Bamberg Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (TMSO), and Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra. He served as Music Director and Chief Conductor of PKF – Prague Philharmonia from 2009 to 2015. Recent orchestral highlights include debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Santa Cecilia, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, as well as return engagements with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Cleveland Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic. This season he will make his debuts with the San Francisco Symphony and Munich Philharmonic Orchestras.
Equally at home in operatic repertoire, Hrůša is a regular guest of the National Theatre in Prague and Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and between 2010 and 2012 he was Music Director of Glyndebourne on Tour. For Glyndebourne Festival, he has conducted Janáček‘s The Cunning Little Vixen, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Turn of the Screw, Bizet’s Carmen, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Puccini’s La bohème. Elsewhere he has conducted Janáček’s The Makropulos Affair (Wiener Staatsoper), Jenůfa (Finnish National Opera), and Dvořák’s Rusalka (Opéra national de Paris), alongside works by Puccini (Il trittico for Oper Frankfurt) and Mussorgsky (Boris Godunov for Royal Danish Opera). During the 2017/18 season, he returns to Opéra national de Paris for Lehár’s The Merry Widow, makes his debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden with Bizet’s Carmen, and conducts a new production of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa for Glyndebourne Festival.
In the studio, Jakub Hrůša has recorded the Tchaikovsky and Bruch Violin Concertos with the Czech Philharmonic and Nicola Benedetti for Universal; live recordings for Octavia Records of works by Berlioz, Strauss and Suk with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra; three discs for Pentatone with PKF-Prague Philharmonia; and six discs of Czech music for Supraphon. Marking the start of his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, Hrůša and the Orchestra recorded Smetana’s Má vlast, the first disc in a new partnership with Tudor.
In recognition of his championing of Janáček’s music abroad, Jakub Hrůša was awarded the inaugural Sir Charles Mackerras Prize. He is also President of the International Martinů Circle.
Josef Suk completed his Fantastic Scherzo, Op. 25 in 1903. The work was premiered at the Rudolfinum in April 1905 by the Prague Conservatory orchestra conducted by Jindřich Kaan. The title suggests a joyful, whimsical work, but Suk would not have been the maestro he was had he not included elements that disrupt the idyll; a surprising, variable metre creates a disturbing and absurd effect. The brilliant orchestration is modern and reminiscent of the works of French impressionists.
The composition is introduced by a playful theme from the woodwinds. Soon, with the entry of cellos and trumpets, the mood darkens. The strings then pick up the opening theme and the music flows in a waltz rhythm, interrupted by threatening interventions from the percussion that vary the metre. The middle section is ornamented with trills from the woodwinds while, underneath, strings and French horns repeat the main theme in diminution. In the reprise, the woodwinds and then the strings bring back the waltz and the work is brought to a conclusion with a lively coda.
Proceeding from his intrinsic Russophilia and finding in the heroic image of the fight of the Zaporozhian Cossacks a mythical parallel to the contemporary struggle of his own nation as well as that of the Russians, whom he considered allies of the Czechs, during World War I Leoš Janáček created his own musical apotheosis of militant Slavic patriotism, the orchestral rhapsody Taras Bulba. Based on a Gogol novella of the same name, it is an inherently dramatic piece, which upon its premiere in 1921 resonated appropriately in the context of other works eulogizing the Czechoslovak Republic.
The concentrated shape of the composition demonstrates Janáček’s mature style on all levels of the musical structure, especially in the so-called montage technique employing diverse blocks of music. The ubiquitous layers of what Janáček called “sčasovky”, i.e. typical figurations alternating two or more notes in quick succession, facilitate rapid change and especially the blending of moods, which are mostly tense, whirling, and restless. The resulting laconic expression is underlined by the terse and unusual orchestration, treating the orchestral apparatus in a chamber manner.
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