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Czech Philharmonic • New Year’s Concert


This time, our annual shared musical welcoming in of the New Year will also be a birthday celebration. On 4 January 2021 it will have been 125 years since the musicians of the Czech Philharmonic first gathered on the stage of the Dvořák Hall under the baton of Antonín Dvořák.

Duration of the programme 2 hours

Programme

Julius Fučík
Entry of the Gladiators, march, Op. 68

Julius Fučík
The Grouchy Old Bear, polka for bassoon and orchestra, Op. 210

Josef Suk
Playing at Swans and Peacocks, 2nd movement of A Fairy Tale, Op. 16

Václav Trojan
The Frog from music for the fairytale The Emperor’s Nightingale

Oskar Nedbal
Cavalier Waltz from the operetta Polish Blood

Václav Vačkář
Memories of Zbiroh

Julius Fučík
Winter Storms Waltz, Op. 184

Jan Kučera
Concerto grosso for two violins, cello and orchestra (world première)

Antonín Dvořák
Polonaise from Act II of the opera Rusalka, Op. 114

Antonín Dvořák
Rondo in G Minor, Op. 94 for cello and orchestra

Bedřich Smetana
Skočná (Dance of the Comedians) from the opera The Bartered Bride

Antonín Dvořák
Slavonic Dance No. 8 in G Minor, Op. 46

Performers

Jan Mráček violin
Jiří Vodička
violin
Václav Petr cello

Robert Kozánek trombone
Ondřej Roskovec bassoon
Jaroslav Halíř trumpet

Tomáš Netopil conductor

Jiří Vejvoda host

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic • New Year’s Concert

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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Price from 200 to 3500 Kč Tickets and contact information

Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and streamed on facebook pages of the Czech Philharmonic and other partners.

Concert will be broadcasted on ČT art and streamed on facebook pages of the Czech Philharmonic and other partners on 1st January at 8.00pm.

This time, our annual shared musical welcoming in of the New Year will also be a birthday celebration. On 4 January 2021 it will have been 125 years since the musicians of the Czech Philharmonic first gathered on the stage of the Dvořák Hall under the baton of Antonín Dvořák. In the course of one and a quarter century, the leading Czech orchestra has undergone an initial struggle to maintain its existence, has grown artistically, and over the following decades has fulfilled one of its greatest goals by performing before capacity audiences in prestigious concert halls around the world.

We have decided to celebrate the New Year and this major anniversary“in dance rhythm”with works exclusively by Czech composers. Their music will give each instrumental group and their principal players including the concert masters a chance to shine. There will be selections from Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, Suk’s stylised polka from the second movement of A Fairy Tale, Op. 16, Smetana’s overture to the opera The Kiss, and a popular piece by Václav Trojan titled The Frog. The music of Dvořák’s pupil Oskar Nedbal will not be overlooked, either – a conductor, composer, and violist, Nedbal was an important figure in the European musical circles of his day. He had a major influence over the Czech Philharmonic’s artistic development, and he also led the orchestra out of financial difficulties. 24 December 2020 will be the 90th anniversary of his death. We will also be hearing the Cavalier Waltz from Nedbal’s operetta Polish Blood. We will also remember the music of another of Dvořák’s pupils, Julius Fučík, who dedicated pieces to the Czech Philharmonic including the march Sempre avanti!

For the occasion of the Czech Philharmonic jubilee, Jan Kučera has composed a Concerto grosso for two violins, cello and orchestra. The concertmasters Jiří Vodička, Jan Mráček, and Václav Petr will be featured in the world première of Kučera’s concerto.

Concert is organised by the Czech Philharmonic in cooperation with Impresario – Czech Artist Agency.

Performers

Jan Mráček  violin

Jan Mráček

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 Orchestra and almost all Czech regional orchestras.

Jan Mráček had the honor of being invited by Maestro Jiří Bělohlávek to guest lead the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra 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.

Jiří Vodička  violin

Jiří Vodička

Jiří Vodička, a concertmaster, soloist, and chamber player, is one of the most important and sought-after Czech violinists, but it would not have taken much for him to have devoted himself to Latin-American dance instead of the violin. At age 12 he finally decided to devote himself fully to playing the highest-pitched string instrument. About his dancing, he comments coyly: “I got something from doing that, possibly in the area of feel for rhythm.” At the unusually early age of 14, he was admitted to the Institute for Artistic Studies at the University of Ostrava, where he studied under the renowned pedagogue Zdeněk Gola. He graduated in 2007 with a master’s degree. Even earlier, he had attracted attention by winning many competitions including the Kocian International Violin Competition and Prague Junior Note. In 2002 he also won the prize for the best participant at violin classes led by Václav Hudeček, with whom he later gave dozens of concerts all around the Czech Republic. His success continued as an adult, for example winning first and second prizes at the world-famous competition Young Concert Artists (2008) held in Leipzig and New York.

A father of five, he is the owner of the Wassermann Media production company, which he founded during the Coronavirus pandemic. In the 2023/2024 season, he has entered his ninth season as the concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic. He has made solo appearances not only with Czech orchestras like the Prague Philharmonia or the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, but also with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Westphalia, and the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra.

His professional activities are of greater breadth, however. In 2014, he recorded his debut solo album “Violino Solo” on the Supraphon label, and crossover fans can hear him on his worldwide Vivaldianno tour. He recently appeared at Prague Castle with Tomáš Kačo on the occasion of the state award presentation ceremony, he was formerly a member of the Smetana Trio (two more Supraphon CDs). He has performed chamber music with the outstanding Czech pianists Martin Kasík, Ivo Kahánek, Ivan Klánský, David Mareček, and Miroslav Sekera. Many of the concerts of the “Czech Paganini”, as Vodička is sometimes called because of his extraordinary technical skill, have been recorded by Czech Television, Czech Radio, or the German broadcasting company ARD. Besides all of that he teaches at the University of Ostrava.

The instrument he plays, a 1767 Italian violin made by Joseph Gagliano, came into his possession by what he calls “good old-fashioned patronage”. He received the violin for long-term use from the Czech Philharmonic’s former chief conductor Jiří Bělohlávek.

Václav Petr  cello

Václav Petr

One of the finest Czech cellists, Václav Petr has served as concert master of the Czech Philharmonic cello section for over a decade. He has performed as a soloist since the age of 12. As a member of The Trio, he has also devoted to chamber music.  

Václav Petr learned the rudiments of viola playing at the Jan Neruda School in Prague from Mirko Škampa and subsequently continued to study the instrument at the Academy of Performing Arts in the class of Daniel Veis, graduating under the guidance of Michal Kaňka. He further honed his skills at the Universität der Künste in Berlin under the tutelage of Wolfgang Boettcher, and also at international masterclasses (in Kronberg, Hamburg, Vaduz, Bonn and Baden-Baden). He has garnered a number of accolades, initially as a child (Prague Junior Note, International Cello Competition in Liezen, Talents of Europe) and then in Europe’s most prestigious contests (semi-final at the Grand Prix Emanuel Feuermann, victory at the Prague Spring Competition).

At the age of 24, after winning the audition, he became one of the youngest concert masters in the Czech Philharmonic’s history. As a soloist, he has performed with the Czech Philharmonic, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Philharmonia, the Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava and the Philharmonie Baden-Baden.

Václav Petr has made a name for himself as a chamber player too. Between 2009 and 2020, he was a member of the Josef Suk Piano Quartet, with whom he received first prizes at the competitions in Val Tidone and Verona (Salieri-Zinetti), as well as at the highly prestigious Premio Trio di Trieste. In 2019, he, the violinist and concert master Jiří Vodička, and the pianist Martin Kasík formed the Czech Philharmonic Piano Trio, later renamed The Trio. During the Covid pandemic, they made a recording of Bohuslav Martinů’s Bergerettes (clad in period costumes), which would earn them victory at an international competition in Vienna.

In December 2023, Václav Petr and the young Czech pianist Marek Kozák gained acclaim at the Bohuslav Martinů Days: “The interpretation of all the compositions reveals the signature of seasoned chamber musicians. The audience savoured the duo’s splendid work with tempo, agogics, dynamics and colour,” wrote Jiří Bezděk for the OperaPlus server. And who knows? Perhaps – just as at the festival – the two musicians will delight us with a piano-four-hands encore. 

Robert Kozánek  trombone

Robert Kozánek

He studied at the P. J. Vejvanovský Conservatory in Kroměříž (Czech Republic) and graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague in 2002. He attended Professor Michel Becquet’s masterclass organised by the Czech-French Academy of Music in Telč (Czech Republic) in 1998 and completed a six-month stay at the Guildhall School of Music in London with Professor Simon Wills in 2001. He was named the laureate of international competitions in Geneva (Switzerland, 1998), Gdansk (Poland, 1999), Markneukirchen (Germany, 2002), Jeju (South Korea, 2002), Lieksa (Finland) and Helsinki (2003).

He is the principal trombonist of the Czech Philharmonic and became the section leader in the 2014-2015 season. As a soloist, he has performed with PKF – Prague Philharmonia, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and other Czech orchestras. He has recorded three solo CDs and some twenty more with various chamber ensembles. He has taught at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno since 2003 and was appointed associate professor in 2011.

Ondřej Roskovec  bassoon

Ondřej Roskovec

He studied with Professor Jiří Formáček at the Prague Conservatory and with professors Jiří Seidl and František Heman at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Before graduating, he had already won many competitions and was the laureate of the International Competition Prague Spring and the Prize of the Pro Harmonia Mundi Foundation (1996).

In 1995, he was one of the founding members of the Afflatus Quintet, which won the 1st prize at the prestigious ARD Music Competition in Munich in 1997. He has performed with the ensemble on many stages in Europe and in Japan and has recorded eight CDs, mainly for the Japanese label Octavia Records, for which he also records as a soloist (CD “Combination” in 2006 and recording of J. S. Bach’s Suites BWV 1007-9 in 2013). He performed in the Czech Nonet between 1989 and 1993.

He is the principal bassoonist of the Czech Philharmonic and has been teaching at the Prague Conservatory since 2002. Together with his colleagues, he founded the Summer Bassoon Academy in Rataje nad Sázavou (Czech Republic). In 2016, he co-founded the Czech Double-Reed Society. He gets invitations to teach abroad, such as the Royal Academy in London, Hochschule für Musik in Vienna and Theater und Medien in Hannover (Germany).

Jaroslav Halíř  trumpet

Jaroslav Halíř

In 1992 Jaroslav Halíř won the international competition Concertino Praga. Shortly afterwards he was invited to participate at the trumpet seminar of the European Music Academy in Bonn led by Prof. Edward H. Tarr. Subsequently he began to give solo performances and garnered many prizes in international musical competitions.

In 1995 he recorded his first solo CD. In 1996 he became a member of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, where since 2001 he has been the first trumpet and also performed as a soloist in the works of A. Jolivet, J. Matěj and V. Trojan. He is one of the most sought-after studio performers of modern music, and since 2010 a member of the jazz ensemble Czech Philharmonic JazzBand.

Tomáš Netopil  conductor

Tomáš Netopil

Since the 2018/2019 season, Tomáš Netopil has been the Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, with which he regularly prepares concert programmes at the Rudolfinum and on tours. The 2022/2023 season was his tenth and final as General Music Director of the Aalto Theater and Philharmonic in Essen, Germany. From the 2025/2026 season, he will take up the post of chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra. 

In 2018, Tomáš Netopil created the International Summer Music Academy in Kroměříž, offering students exceptional artistic instruction and the chance to meet and work with major international musicians. In the summer of 2021, in association with the Dvořákova Praha Festival, the Academy established the Dvořák Prague Youth Philharmonic with musicians from conservatories and music academies, coached by principal players of the Czech Philharmonic.

As evidenced by his engagement in Essen, Tomáš Netopil is a sought-after opera conductor. From 2008 to 2012, he was the music director of the Opera of the National Theatre in Prague. Operatic highlights beyond Essen include the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden (La clemenza di Tito, Rusalka, The Cunning Little Vixen, La Juive, The Bartered Bride, and Busoni’s Doktor Faust), the Vienna Staatsoper (his most recent successes include Idomeneo, Der Freischütz, and a new production of Leonore), and the Netherlands Opera (Jenůfa). His concert highlights of recent seasons have included the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich as well as engagements with the Orchestre de Paris, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Orchestra Sinfonica della Rai, the Orchestre National de Montpellier, and Concentus Musicus Wien.

Tomáš Netopil’s discography for Supraphon includes Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass (the first-ever recording of the original 1927 version), Dvořák’s complete cello works, Martinů’s Ariane and Double Concerto, and Smetana’s Má vlast with the Prague Symphony Orchestra. During his tenure in Essen, he has recorded Suk’s Asrael and Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 6 and 9.

He studied violin and conducting in his native Czech Republic and at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm under the guidance of Professor Jorma Panula. In 2002 he won the inaugural Sir Georg Solti Conductors Competition at the Alte Oper Frankfurt. In his spare time, he likes to fly small planes.

Compositions

Julius Fučík
Entry of the Gladiators, march, Op. 68

The Entry of the Gladiators, march Op. 68 (Einzug der Gladiatoren) by Julius Fučík (1872–1916) is one of the world’s most popular marches. Its author, a composition pupil of Karel Stecker and Antonín Dvořák, won fame primarily as a military bandleader. In that capacity, he served in two infantry regiments of the Austro-Hungarian military and was stationed at various times in Sarajevo, Budapest, Subotica (Serbia), and Terezín (Theresianstadt). He wrote his triumphant Entry of the Gladiators, march in Sarajevo in 1899. The piece has appeared in several different arrangements, including versions for mechanical musical instruments. Above all, it heard at circuses when the clowns enter.

Julius Fučík
The Grouchy Old Bear, polka for bassoon and orchestra, Op. 210

Julius Fučík was also a gifted instrumentalist. At the Prague Conservatoire he studied bassoon and tympani, and as a bassoonist he played in a wind trio and various orchestras before he began his career as a bandmaster. The burlesque polka The Grouchy Old Bear, Op. 210 (Der alte Brummbär, 1907) reveals that besides skill as a bassoonist, the composer also had a sense of humour. Colloquially, the German word Brummbär means bumblebee, the sound of which resembles a bassoon.

Josef Suk
Playing at Swans and Peacocks, 2nd movement of A Fairy Tale, Op. 16

Playing at Swans and Peacocks by Josef Suk (1874–1935) draws upon motifs from incidental music that this leading representative of Czech modernism composed for Zeyer’s play Radúz and Mahulena. Suk, an excellent violinist and pianist and another composition pupil of Dvořák, finished the incidental music in 1898, and from it he then arranged the suite A Fairy Tale, Op. 16. The suite was premiered in 1901 by the Czech Philharmonic under the baton of Oskar Nedbal. The second movement of the suite, a piece in the style of a polka titled Playing at Swans and Peacocks, combines a dance intermezzo with song motifs. There is no lack of emotional warmth, as is typical of Suk’s “Radúz” period, when he was influenced by his love for Otilie Dvořáková, among other things.

Václav Trojan
The Frog from music for the fairytale The Emperor’s Nightingale

Václav Trojan (1907–1983) wrote the brilliant piece Žabák (The Frog) as part of the music for the film Císařův slavík (The Emperor’s Nightingale) based on the fairy tale by H. C. Andersen. In it, he imitated a specific natural sound. The trombone, “when played with a mute, acquires a peculiar sound that approaches that of a frog’s voice,” the composer latter remarked. “It begins staccato, so I can unobtrusively confuse the listener and make it seem as if there is a frog croaking somewhere. And once the imagination has been stimulated, I can afford to let the frog sing beautifully.” Trojan wrote his genial music for Jiří Trnka’s marionette film in 1948, and later the composer arranged it into an orchestral suite. The nostalgic and somewhat comic frog croaks in the style of blues.

Oskar Nedbal
Cavalier Waltz from the operetta Polish Blood

Oskar Nedbal (1874–1930) was of the same generation as Suk and Fučík and was a classmate with them in Dvořák’s composition course. His musical talent also extended to playing viola and conducting. He wrote his Kavalier-Walzer based on motifs from his operetta Polish Blood (Polenblut), which was a great success at its Vienna premiere in 1913. According to the period press, it even overshadowed the premiere of Puccini’s opera La fanciulla del West, which Vienna had heard the day before. Nedbal is said to have enjoyed the performance of Polish Blood so much that he stuffed handkerchiefs into his mouth to keep from laughing out loud on the conductor’s podium.

Václav Vačkář
Memories of Zbiroh

Václav Vačkář (1881–1954) is familiar to audiences mainly as a composer of marches and waltzes, but his extensive oeuvre also encompasses other genres. He was an excellent player of the flugelhorn, trumpet, and violin, and he travelled around performing with several orchestras including the Czech Philharmonic. He served as a bandmaster in Korčul (Croatia), Krakow (Poland), and Boskovice (Moravia), and he also worked in Prague’s cinemas. Once films with soundtracks became widespread, he began devoting himself exclusively to organising musical events, music publishing, and composing. His serenade Vzpomínka na Zbiroh (Memories of Zbiroh) captures his personal experience of visiting the family of Mr. Herzog, a forester from the Bohemian town Zbiroh.

Julius Fučík
Winter Storms Waltz, Op. 184

The concert waltz Winter Storms Waltz, Op. 184 (Winterstürme-Walzer) by Julius Fučík, like The Grouchy Old Bear, also dates from 1907. It exhibits the composer’s feeling for melody, drama, and orchestral colour. Like several other works on today’s programme, this popular piece has appeared in a wide variety of arrangements, including versions for string quartet and for piano.

Jan Kučera
Concerto grosso for two violins, cello and orchestra

Jan Kučera (* 1977) is a Czech composer, pianist, arranger, and conductor. He is currently the chief conductor of the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra. He has successful opera performances to his credit as well as collaborations with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and other ensembles. Besides the classical repertoire, he also frequently performs the music of contemporary composers, including his own works in the symphonic, chamber music, song, ballet, and theatrical genres. The Concerto grosso for two violins, cello, and orchestra was composed on commission for this occasion, and it was finished in April 2020 during the spring quarantine. The audience will witness the world premiere of a modern version of the concerto grosso – a baroque musical form based on a dialogue between a group of solo instruments and an orchestral tutti. Between the energetic outer movements, a simple, melodious theme appears at a very slow tempo – a message of hope that the new year will bring better news that the last one.

Antonín Dvořák
Polonaise from Act II of the opera Rusalka, Op. 114

From among the works of Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904), overflowing with joy and musical purity, we will first hear the Polonaise from Act II of the opera Rusalka, Op. 114 (1900). For the scene at the castle, the composer chose to write a polonaise – a dance in triple metre with a characteristic rhythm that evokes images of aristocratic society, representing the world of human beings in contrast with the story’s fairytale elements. (Dvořák had already sketched the theme of the festive Polonaise in 1894 as material for a piano work titled Dithyramb that he never finished.) The opera’s premiere in March 1901 on the stage of the National Theatre in Prague was a triumph for the composer. The work is especially admired for its melodic inventiveness and wonderful orchestration.

Antonín Dvořák
Rondo in G Minor, Op. 94 for cello and orchestra

Antonín Dvořák composed his Rondo in G Minor, Op. 94 for cello and orchestra in connection with his “farewell tour” of Bohemian and Moravian cities before his departure for New York, where he had been invited to be the director of the conservatoire. Originally, this three-part rondo was intended for solo cello and piano. It was first heard in that version in Chrudim in January 1892, where it was played by Hanuš Wihan with the composer at the piano. Dvořák orchestrated the piece in October 1893 while living in America.

Bedřich Smetana
Skočná (Dance of the Comedians) from the opera The Bartered Bride

While the Polonaise from Rusalka evokes life in a castle, the Skočná from the opera The Bartered Bride (Prodaná nevěsta) by Bedřich Smetana (1824–1884) comes from a village scene with comedians. Perhaps his most popular opera, after its premiere in 1866 it crystallised into its definitive form by 1870. The Skočná, a quick dance in duple time, appears in the third version performed in 1869. The Bartered Bride (Prodaná nevěsta) has remained a holiday favourite not only because of the beauty of its musical and its accessibility, but also because of rich performance history.

Antonín Dvořák
Slavonic Dance No. 8 in G Minor, Op. 46

The New Year’s Concert will conclude with another work by Antonín Dvořák, his Slavonic Dance No. 8 in G minor, Op. 46. With this dance, a furiant, the composer concluded his first series of Slavonic Dances, which he wrote in versions for piano four-hands and for orchestra in 1878. That same year, the Slavonic Dances, Op. 46, were introduced to the public at a concert of the Society of Czech Journalists under the baton of Adolf Čech. Very soon, they won great acclaim even beyond the borders of Austria-Hungary. The optimistic, melodically and rhythmically refreshing Furiant in G minor has been played by community ensembles and military bands and by amateurs as well as by great symphony orchestras.

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