Czech Philharmonic • Piotr Anderszewski


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  • Duration of the programme 2 hours

Programme

Josef Suk
Scherzo fantastique, Op. 25 

Béla Bartók
Piano Concerto No. 3 

Pavel Haas
Scherzo triste, Op. 5 

Leoš Janáček
Taras Bulba, a rhapsody for orchestra

Performers

Piotr Anderszewski
piano

Jakub Hrůša
conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic Piotr Anderszewski

Rudolfinum — Dvorak Hall

Dress rehearsal


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.

Performers

Piotr Anderszewski  piano

Piotr Anderszewski is regarded as one of the outstanding musicians of his generation. He appears regularly in recital at such concert halls as the Wiener Konzerthaus, Berlin Philharmonie, Wigmore Hall, Carnegie Hall, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and the Concertgebouw Amsterdam. His collaborations with orchestra have included appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic and Berlin Staatskapelle orchestras, the London Symphony and Philharmonia orchestras and the NHK Symphony Orchestra. He has also placed special emphasis on playing and directing, working with orchestras such as the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Camerata Salzburg.

In the 2019/2020 season Anderszewski will appear with (among others) the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchestre de Paris. His play/direct collaborations will include concerts with his regular partners the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and a European tour with the Kammerorchester Basel. In recital he can be heard at the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, the Philharmonie in Cologne, the Alte Oper Frankfurt, and the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow.

Piotr Anderszewski has been an exclusive artist with Warner Classics/Erato (previously Virgin Classics) since 2000. His first recording for the label was Beethovenʼs Diabelli Variations, which went on to receive a number of prizes. He has also recorded Grammy-nominated discs of Bachʼs Partitas 1, 3 and 6 and Szymanowskiʼs solo piano works, the latter also receiving a Gramophone award in 2006. His recording devoted to works by Robert Schumann received the BBC Music Magazineʼs Recording of the Year award in 2012. Anderszewskiʼs disc of Bachʼs English Suites nos. 1, 3 and 5, released in November 2014, went on to win both a Gramophone award and an ECHO Klassik award in 2015. His most recent recording of two late Mozart concertos with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe was released in January 2018.

Recognised for the intensity and originality of his interpretations, Piotr Anderszewski has been a recipient of the Gilmore award, the Szymanowski Prize and a Royal Philharmonic Society award. He has also been the subject of several documentaries by the film maker Bruno Monsaingeon. “Piotr Anderszewski plays Diabelli Variations” (2001) explores Anderszewskiʼs particular relationship with Beethovenʼs iconic work. “Unquiet Traveller” (2008) is an unusual artist portrait, capturing Anderszewskiʼs reflections on music, performance and his Polish-Hungarian roots. In 2016 Anderszewski got behind the camera himself to explore his relationship with his native Warsaw, creating a film entitled “Je mʼappelle Varsovie”.

Jakub Hrůša  principal guest conductor
Jakub Hrůša

Born in the Czech Republic, Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, Music Director Designate of The Royal Opera, Covent Garden (Music Director from 2025), Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia.

He is a frequent guest with the world’s greatest orchestras, including the Vienna, Berlin, Munich and New York Philharmonics; Bavarian Radio, NHK, Chicago and Boston Symphonies; Leipzig Gewandhaus, Lucerne Festival, Royal Concertgebouw, Mahler Chamber and The Cleveland Orchestras; Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and Tonhalle Orchester Zürich. He has led opera productions for the Salzburg Festival (Káťa Kabanová with the Vienna Philharmonic in 2022), Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera House, Opéra National de Paris, and Zurich Opera. He has also been a regular guest with Glyndebourne Festival and served as Music Director of Glyndebourne On Tour for three years.

His relationships with leading vocal and instrumental soloists have included collaborations in recent seasons with Daniil Trifonov, Mitsuko Uchida, Hélène Grimaud, Behzod Abduraimov, Anne Sofie Mutter, Lukáš Vondráček, Lisa Batiashvili, Joshua Bell, Yefim Bronfman, Rudolf Buchbinder, Gautier Capuçon, Julia Fischer, Sol Gabetta, Hilary Hahn, Janine Jansen, Karita Mattila, Leonidas Kavakos, Lang Lang, Josef Špaček, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Klaus Florian Vogt, Yuja Wang, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Alisa Weilerstein and others.

As a recording artist, Jakub Hrůša has received numerous awards and nominations for his discography. Most recently, he received the Opus Klassik Conductor of the Year nomination and the ICMA prize for Symphonic Music for his recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, and the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik for his recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, both with Bamberg Symphony. In 2021, his disc of Martinů and Bartók violin concertos with Bamberg Symphony and Frank Peter Zimmermann was nominated for BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone awards, and his recording of the Dvořák Violin Concerto with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Augustin Hadelich was nominated for a Grammy Award. His recordings of Dvořák and Martinů Piano Concertos with Ivo Kahánek and the Bamberg Symphony, and Vanessa by Samuel Barber from Glyndebourne both won BBC Music Magazine Awards in 2020.

Jakub Hrůša studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where his teachers included Jiří Bělohlávek. He is President of the International Martinů Circle and The Dvořák Society. He was the inaugural recipient of the Sir Charles Mackerras Prize, and in 2020 was awarded both the Antonín Dvořák Prize by the Czech Republic’s Academy of Classical Music, and – together with Bamberg Symphony – the Bavarian State Prize for Music.

Compositions

Josef Suk
Scherzo fantastique op. 25

Suk composed his Scherzo fantastique in G Minor, Op. 25, between July and October of 1903 while working on the Fantasy in G Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 24, and before the symphonic poem Praga, op. 26. The composer chose a ternary form (A-B-Aʼ + Coda), with material from the first section abbreviated and varied in the third section, while the middle section is slower and features lyrical passages. The transition between the A and B sections consists of harmonic undulations. The Coda brings the work to a close. The dynamic layout of the work plays an important role, with the sound reaching a maximum volume in the middle third of part A and towards the conclusion.

The Scherzo was premiered on 18 April 1905 at the Rudolfinum in Prague at a concert of the conservatoire orchestra with the school’s director Jindřich Kàan z Albestů conducting. It was performed again six months later at the first popular concert of the Czech Philharmonic at the Municipal House under the baton of Oskar Nedbal, to whom the printed score is dedicated. The score was published together with a piano reduction in Leipzig at the time of the performance by the Czech Philharmonic.

That same year, the composer reviewed the range of expression of his existing works, and he asserted that his music had become associated with “drive and passion”, and that the public might be surprised by the dreamy mood of A Fairy Tale (Op. 16, a suite of incidental music to Zeyer’s play Radúz and Mahulena) or by the monumentality of the symphonic poem Praga. He then described the Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra and the Scherzo fantastique as unclassifiable, and he attributed a “demonic character” to them. In 1921, Suk took a very critical view of this stage: “The Scherzo fantastique somehow stands aside from my oeuvre, [...] I seem to be resorting to playing around with notes, and when doing so, perhaps something makes me wonder instinctively about what there is beyond us. Thus a scherzo, and a fantastical one. But in the spirit there is uncertainty; it is will without enthusiasm and without conviction. So I get stuck on motifs, and I’m not ashamed to repeat myself – repeating the same things endlessly. The fantastical element is in the dynamics, and nothing more. There are jokes in the instrumentation, but the music, while exotic, is less original than anything that preceded it. Or, to put it in two words: witty nothingness.” The composer was undoubtedly comparing this work written without much mental anguish with his later orchestral scherzos, which he created in an entirely different intellectual context, and which appeared in his symphonic tetralogy and had a tragic or tragic-sarcastic subtext (3rd movement – Vivace – of the Asrael Symphony, Op. 27, and the 4th movement of A Summer’s Tale, Op. 29, which bears the title In the Power of Phantoms and is subtitled Fantastic scherzo). Fortunately, it has been confirmed again in this instance that a work can live a life of its own without the composer’s influence. Suk’s youthfully playful Scherzo from 1903 immediately won the favour of musicians, critics, and the public as a representative example of music as art for its own sake (l’art-pour-l’art) and as a manifestation of remarkable invention, wonderful handling of motifs, and masterful orchestration.

Béla Bartók
Piano Concerto No. 3

The Piano Concerto No. 3 by Béla Bartók comes from the end of the life of the world-famous composer, pianist, and ethnomusicologist. In October 1940 Bartók fled to the USA to escape the Nazi menace in central Europe. He struggled with worsening leukaemia, and he underwent an artistic crisis lasting several years. It was only in 1943 that his work began to pay off thanks to a commission from Koussevitzky for an orchestral work (Concerto for Orchestra). Bartók’s Third Piano Concerto (1945) was intended as a birthday gift to his second wife Ditta Pásztory-Bartók. 

The composer and violinist Tibor Serly visited Bartók in September 1945 at his friend’s apartment in Manhattan the last night before he was taken to hospital. He found Bartók in bed surrounded by medicine bottles and manuscript paper, trying to finish the orchestration of a concerto. In a desperate struggle against time, the composer’s son Peter was helping him by marking bar lines on blank sheets of manuscript paper. At the very last minute, Bartók was writing sketches for a seventh string quartet, and his thoughts were also fixated on another concerto, this time for two pianos. He told the doctor at the hospital “I am only sorry that I have to leave with my baggage full.” At the end of the score of the piano concerto is an inscription by the composer in his native language that says it all: “vége” (the end). Bartók died on 26 September 1945 at New York’s West Side Hospital. He did not manage to finish scoring the last seventeen bars of the Third Piano Concerto, so his friend Serly did it for him on the basis of the composer’s comments and sketches. The concerto was premiered on 8 February 1946 at a concert of the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Eugene Ormandy with György Sándor at the piano.

In spite of his poor health, Bartók wrote a work full of vitality and originality. The concerto is conceived on a neoclassical ground plan, including the layout of the tempos and motifs. The musical themes of the opening Allegretto reminds us of Bartók’s eternal inspiration from folk motifs, but their handling is highly sophisticated and fully employs the technical advances of the twentieth century. The first section of the second movement, Adagio religioso, is a variation on a theme from Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 132, the “Heiliger Dankgesang”. The second section is at a brisker tempo and is a typical example of Bartókian “night music”, which is intended to set a nocturnal mood and to evoke the mysterious through the imitation of sounds of nature. The third movement, Allegro vivace, affords the soloist the most opportunities for brilliant display, and its motivic material again returns to folk roots. Here, contrapuntal technique combines with daring instrumental strokes and surprising turns of harmony, keeping the listener in suspense until the final chord.

Pavel Haas
Scherzo triste op. 5

The second half of the programme also begins with an orchestral scherzo. The composer is Pavel Haas, brother of the famed actor Hugo Haas. The Scherzo triste for large orchestra, Op. 5, was written in 1921 in Brno in the composition class at the Master School of Prague Conservatory, where Haas was one of the first students. During the summer semester of that year, Professor Leoš Janáček was lecturing on “complicating composition” and motifs, and in connection with this material, he gave orchestral composition assignments. The first version of the work, the symphonic poem Majales, reflects the environment of the school. In the composition, Haas dealt with his own sad experience of unrequited love in the setting of a park beneath Špilberk Castle: “A great garden with the breath of springtime and love... My soul is restless like a stormy sea, my heart tossed like an abandoned, unending desire, as sorrowful as the setting sun... Darkness – evening – spring evening – sorrowful evening... The stars shine like my only hope... She did not come... Again one of those evenings when a person loses faith in love, live, and everything...” The teacher made drastic changes to the score, so the original version underwent substantial revisions in both Janáček’s and Haas’s hands. The work was premiered on 12 November 1926 at a concert of the Orchestral Society in Brno, and it was dedicated to the conductor Břetislav Bakala. The similarity to Janáček’s music of this period is striking. The lyrical passages and playful rhythmic ideas are reminiscent of music from the opera The Cunning Little Vixen, as is the solo violin, which is an important element of the scherzo’s orchestration.

Leoš Janáček
Taras Bulba, rhapsody fororchestra

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.

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