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Helping with the Czech Phil and Škoda Auto


The benefit concert celebrating 125 years of the Škoda Auto will help families of covid-19 victims among caregivers working in social services. Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov offers a magnificent programme which includes works by Antonín Dvořák, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Alessandro Marcell, Camille Saint-Saëns and Georges Bizet.

Duration of the programme 1 hour 45 minutes

Programme

Antonín Dvořák
Festival March, Op. 54a

Antonín Dvořák
Slavonic Dance No. 7 in C major, Op. 72

Antonín Dvořák
Silent Woods for cello and orchestra, Op. 68/5

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Romeo and Juliet, overture - fantasy

— Intermission —

Alessandro Marcello
Concerto in C minor for oboe and string orchestra, arr. for trumpet

Camille Saint-Saëns
Introduction et rondo capriccioso, Op. 28

Georges Bizet
L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1
Overture, Minuet, Adagietto

Georges Bizet
L'Arlésienne Suite No. 2
Farandola

Performers

Jan Mráček violin
Václav Petr cello
Walter Hofbauer trumpet

Semjon Byčkov conductor
Česká filharmonie

Marek Eben host

Photo illustrating the event Helping with the Czech Phil and Škoda Auto

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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Tickets and contact information

The concert will be streamed live on Facebook profile of the Czech Philharmonic.

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.

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. 

Walter Hofbauer   trumpet

At the age of 26, the trumpeter Walter Hofbauer has already captivated music critics with his outstanding artistic performances and to achieve exceptional results and recognition. He comes from the Czech town Třešť and was raised in a musical family. At age 8 he began studying trumpet with Evžen Mašát, and he soon won first prize at several nationwide competitions. In September 2009 he entered Jiří Jaroněk’s studio at the Prague Conservatoire, and he soon became the overall winner of the conservatoire competition. Already as a second-year student, he played first trumpet in the orchestra of the Prague Conservatoire at the opening concert of the Prague Spring Festival under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek, the chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. Two years later, he won the audition for the Orchestral Academy of the Czech Philharmonic. He graduated from the conservatoire in 2015, and that same year he was admitted to the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where he continued his studies under the guidance of Vladimír Rejlek. As a laureate of the Concertino Praga International Radio Competition, he appeared at the Rudolfinum as a soloist with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, and he became a full-time member of that orchestra in 2014. Since the 2017/2018 he has also been a member of the Orchestra of the National Theatre.

Semyon Bychkov  conductor

Semyon Bychkov

In the 2023/2024 season, Semyon Bychkov’s programmes centred on Dvořák’s last three symphonies, the concertos for piano, violin and cello, and three overtures: In Nature’s Realm, Carnival Overture, and Othello. In addition to conducting at Prague’s Rudolfinum, Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic took the all Dvořák programmes to Korea and across Japan with three concerts at Tokyo’s famed Suntory Hall. Later, in spring, an extensive European tour took the programmes to Spain, Austria, Germany, Belgium, and France and, at the end of year, the Year of Czech Music 2024 will culminate with three concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York. As well as featuring Dvořák’s concertos for piano, violin and cello, the programmes will include three poems from Smetana’s Má vlast, Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass for which the orchestra will be joined by the Prague Philharmonic Choir. 

Bychkov’s inaugural season with the Czech Philharmonic was celebrated with an international tour that took the orchestra from performances at home in Prague to concerts in London, New York, and Washington. The following year saw the completion of The Tchaikovsky Project – the release of a 7-CD box set devoted to Tchaikovsky’s symphonic repertoire – and a series of international residencies. In his first season with the Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov also instigated the commissioning of 14 new works which have subsequently been premiered by the Czech Philharmonic and performed by orchestras across Europe and in the United States.

As well as the focus on Dvořák’s music, Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic are exploring the symphonies of Mahler as part of PENTATONE’s ongoing complete Mahler cycle. The first symphonies in the cycle – Symphony No. 4 and Symphony No. 5 were released in 2022, followed in 2023 by Symphony No. 1 and Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”. Last season’s highlights included performances of Mahler’s Third Symphony in Prague and Baden-Baden, and during the 2024/2025 season, Bychkov will conduct Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 with the orchestra in Prague, New York, and Toronto, and Symphony No. 8 in Prague.

While especially recognised for his interpretations of the core repertoire, Bychkov has built strong and lasting relationships with many extraordinary contemporary composers including Luciano Berio, Henri Dutilleux, and Maurizio Kagel. More recent collaborations include those with Julian Anderson, Bryce Dessner, Detlev Glanert, Thierry Escaich, and Thomas Larcher whose works he has premiered with the Czech Philharmonic, as well as with the Concertgebouworkest, the Vienna, Berlin, New York and Munich Philharmonic Orchestras, Cleveland Orchestra, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

In common with the Czech Philharmonic, Bychkov has one foot firmly in the culture of the East and one in the West. Born in St Petersburg in 1952, Bychkov emigrated to the United States in 1975 and has lived in Europe since the mid-1980s. Singled out at the age of five for an extraordinarily privileged musical education, Bychkov studied piano before winning his place at the Glinka Choir School where, aged 13, he received his first lesson in conducting. He was 17 when he was accepted at the Leningrad Conservatory to study with the legendary Ilya Musin and, within three years won the influential Rachmaninoff Conducting Competition. Bychkov left the former Soviet Union when he was denied the prize of conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic.

By the time Bychkov returned to St Petersburg in 1989 as the Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor, he had enjoyed success in the US as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and the Buffalo Philharmonic. His international career, which began in France with Opéra de Lyon and at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, took off with a series of high-profile cancellations which resulted in invitations to conduct the New York and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras and the Concertgebouworkest. In 1989, he was named Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris; in 1997, Chief Conductor of the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne; and in 1998, Chief Conductor of the Dresden Semperoper.

Bychkov’s symphonic and operatic repertoire is wide-ranging. He conducts in all the major opera houses including La Scala, Opéra national de Paris, Dresden Semperoper, Wiener Staatsoper, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Teatro Real. While Principal Guest Conductor of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, his productions of Janáček’s Jenůfa, Schubert’s Fierrabras, Puccini’s La bohème, Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, and Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov each won the prestigious Premio Abbiati. In Vienna, he has conducted new productions of Strauss’ Daphne, Wagner’s Lohengrin and Parsifal, and Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina, as well as revivals of Strauss’ Elektra and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde; while in London, he made his operatic debut with a new production of Strauss’ Elektra, and subsequently conducted new productions of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten, and Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Recent productions include Wagner’s Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival, Strauss’ Elektra and Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in Madrid. He returned to Bayreuth to conduct a new production of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde in summer 2024.

Bychkov’s combination of innate musicality and rigorous Russian pedagogy has ensured that his performances are highly anticipated. In the UK, the warmth of his relationships is reflected in honorary titles at the Royal Academy of Music and the BBC Symphony Orchestra – with whom he appears annually at the BBC Proms. In Europe, he tours with the Concertgebouworkest and Munich Philharmonic, as well as being a guest of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Orchestre National de France, and Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia; in the US, he can be heard with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Symphony, Philadelphia, and Cleveland Orchestras.

Bychkov has recorded extensively for Philips with the Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Concertgebouworkest, Philharmonia, London Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris. His 13‑year collaboration (1997–2010) with WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne produced a series of benchmark recordings that included works by Strauss (Elektra, Daphne, Ein Heldenleben, Metamorphosen, Alpensinfonie, Till Eulenspiegel), Mahler (Symphonies No. 3, Das Lied von der Erde), Shostakovich (Symphony Nos. 4, 7, 8, 10, 11), Rachmaninoff (The Bells, Symphonic Dances, Symphony No. 2), Verdi (Requiem), a complete cycle of Brahms Symphonies, and works by Detlev Glanert and York Höller. His 1992 recording of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with the Orchestre de Paris was recommended by BBC’s Radio 3’s Building a Library (2020); Wagner’s Lohengrin was BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Year (2010); and Schmidt’s Symphony No. 2 with the Vienna Philharmonic was BBC Music Magazine’s Record of the Month (2018). Of The Tchaikovsky Project released in 2019, BBC Music Magazine wrote, “The most beautiful orchestra playing imaginable can be heard on Semyon Bychkov’s 2017 recording with the Czech Philharmonic, in which Decca’s state-of-the art recording captures every detail.”

In 2015, Semyon Bychkov was named Conductor of the Year by the International Opera Awards. He received an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal Academy of Music in July 2022 and the award for Conductor of the Year from Musical America in October 2022.

Bychkov was one of the first musicians to express his position on the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, since when he has spoken in support of Ukraine in Prague’s Wenceslas Square; on the radio and television in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Austria, the UK, and the USA; written By Invitation for The Economist; and appeared as a guest on BBC World’s HARDtalk.

Marek Eben  host

Marek Eben

Marek Eben was born in 1957 in Prague. He studied music drama at the Prague Conservatoire. After finishing school, he worked at the Vítězslav Nezval Theatre in Karlovy Vary, then at the Kladno Theatre, and from 1983 to 2002 he was an ensemble member at Prague’s Studio Ypsilon Theatre. Besides acting, he also involves himself with music. He is the exclusive songwriter for the band The Eben Brothers, which has released five albums (Malé písně do tmy, 1984; Tichá domácnost, 1995; Já na tom dělám, 2002; Chlebíčky, 2008; Čas holin, 2014), and he wrote the music for the films Bizon and Hele on letí and for the television series Poste restante. He has also composed music and written texts for about 20 plays (including Matěj Poctivý – Matthew the Honest, Vosková figura – The Wax Figure, Amerika, and Othello for Studio Ypsilon and The Winter’s Tale for the National Theatre). Since 1996, he has been the moderator of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

He has worked extensively on television, serving as the moderator of various programmes such as the contest O poklad Anežky České (The Treasure of St Agnes of Bohemia), the TýTý Awards Presentation, Stardance, and the discussion programme Na plovárně (At the Swimming Pool), which won the Elsa Award in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 for the best talk show. Marek Eben has also won this prize as a moderator in 2001, 2002, 2006, and 2007. He is also the two-time overall winner of the TýTý Awards.

Compositions

Antonín Dvořák
Festival March, Slavonic Dance, Silent Woods for Cello and Orchestra

Antonín Dvořák is undoubtedly the most frequently performed Czech composer. He laid the foundations for the composing of Czech cantatas and oratorios, and he was an excellent symphonist and author of chamber music. His operatic masterpieces are the pillars of Czech music drama. Dvořák’s music has a wealth of melodic and harmonic invention as an outgrowth of its Czech roots. He wrote nine symphonies, several symphonic poems, ten operas, great oratorios, three instrumental concertos, and much chamber music.

Dvořák composed his Festival March, Op. 54, in early 1879 as the introduction to a performance given in celebration of the silver wedding anniversary of the emperor and his wife. The orchestra of the Provisional Theatre under the baton of Adolf Čech premiered the celebratory work with its brilliantly effective coda on 23 April 1879.

In 1878 Dvořák was asked by his Berlin publisher Simrock to compose a set of compositions for piano four-hands as a sort of counterpart to Brahms’s Hungarian Dances. The composer finished a set of eight dances in just three weeks. He used Czech folk dances as his point of departure, but he created his own musical themes. The charms of the piano original are enhanced in the orchestral version, and both were published in 1878. The orchestral version of the Slavonic Dances instantly found a home on Czech and foreign concert stages. The extraordinary success of the Slavonic Dances contributed significantly to Dvořák’s European fame, and the Czech and international repertoire gained a work of inestimable worth.

After the success of the first series of dances, the publisher wanted to repeat their commercial success, so he persuaded Dvořák to compose a second set. The composer long demurred, once writing to Simrock: “It’s damned hard to do the same thing twice!” After eight years, at the end of 1886 the time had finally come, and Dvořák wrote to Simrock: “I’m really enjoying my Slavonic Dances, and I think they will be entirely different!” Once again, work went quickly, and the eight new dances were done in a month. The seventh dance of the second series of Slavonic Dances is a Serbian kolo with the tempo marking Allegro vivace. The orchestra of the National Theatre played the premiere on 6 January 1887 with Dvořák himself conducting.

Before Dvořák’s first departure to the USA (September 1892), from January to May he gave a five-month farewell concert tour of Bohemia and Moravia. He worked on preparing his repertoire during the final months of 1891, and in December he made arrangements from, among other things, a part of an older set of pieces for piano four-hands titled Ze Šumavy (From the Bohemian Forest), a six-movement cycle of lovely sketches, poetic musical images, and a wide range of moods. Silent Woods, the fifth piece in the cycle, is serious in mood and is written in D flat major. The version for cello and piano bears the Czech title Klid, which simply means “Silence”. It was completed on 28 December 1891, and it was premiered in Rakovník on 31 January 1892 with Hanuš Wihan on cello and Antonín Dvořák at the piano.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Romeo and Juliet, Fantasy-Overture (final version, 1880)

The composer, music critic, and conductor Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of the founding fathers of Russia’s musical culture. He was Russia’s first professional composer, earning a living mainly by writing music rather than by playing an instrument, conducting, or teaching. His compositional legacy is vast, with works in a variety of genres, and his music combines elements of Russian folk music with inspiration from European Classicism and Romanticism. He composed six symphonies, nine operas, three ballets, and a number of instrumental works. His style is characterised by lyricism and melancholy.

Many composers have written music based on Shakespeare’s play about the star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. In 1869, Tchaikovsky took inspiration from his friend Mily Alexeyevich Balakirev, the composer and ideological leader of a group of composer known as “The Mighty Handful”. It was at Balakirev’s suggestion that Tchaikovsky went to work on the overture Romeo and Juliet. The work had a difficult birth: “Just imagine; I’m completely burned out, and not one single decent musical idea comes into my head. I’m beginning to fear that my muse has flown off to some distant place, and I might be a long time waiting for her”. In the end, Tchaikovsky finished the composition, but he still was not completely satisfied. He revised the overture several more times before it assumed its definitive form in 1880. The work begins with a slow introduction connected with the character of Friar Lawrence. In the sonata allegro that follows, the composer works with two opposing musical symbols: a rhythmically restless theme that characterises the feud of the Montagues and Capulets, and a lyrical them that depicts the ardent song of love of their children. The Overture-Fantasy concludes with a consoling epilogue that quotes the motif of Friar Lawrence with a plaintive variation of the love theme.

Alessandro Marcello
Concerto C minor for Oboe and Strings, version for trumpet

[Andante e spiccato]
Adagio
Presto

Alessandro Marcello brings us to the first half of the 18th century, the golden age of the Venetian Republic. The composer, poet, philosopher, and mathematician was a member of a leading family of aristocrats and politicians who had great influence over goings-on in the city, including cultural events. Thanks to the excellent education he had received, he engaged himself in many fields, but music was dearest to him. He gave concerts of his own compositions in all of Venice’s palaces. Of those works, the collection of six oboe concertos remains the most successful. They are also often arranged for other instruments. Today, we will hear one of them played on a trumpet. They were created during the era when the solo concerto was undergoing its greatest development, assuming the form that is familiar today. The pioneer of the concerto form was one of Marcello’s Venetian contemporaries, Antonio Vivaldi. The concertos are characterised by highly virtuosic solo parts, which were made possible by the advancements in instrument design at the time.

Camille Saint-Saëns
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28

The French composer, pianist, and organist Camille Saint-Saëns originally conceived the rondo from his Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28, as the finale of his Violin Concerto No. 1 in C major, Op. 20, which he composed in 1858 for Pablo de Sarasate, who was just 15 years old at the time, but was already highly respected. In the end, however, he concluded that brief work with a reprise of its first movement. The virtuosic rondo is full of chromatic runs and rhythms with a southern temperament, and the composer returned to it a few years later in 1863, adding a slow, pensive introduction.

Georges Bizet
L’Arlésienne

One might wonder: is it good fortune, or is it a curse when a composer is so famous for one work that everything else he has written remains overshadowed or even unknown? When Georges Bizet is mentioned, Carmen always immediately comes to mind, but few remember any of the other works among his fifteen operas and operettas. It is good that today we will be hearing different but equally beautiful music by the same composer. Bizet composed incidental music to Alphonse Daudet’s play L’Arlésienne in 1872. The play was a failure and was withdrawn from the repertoire after just 15 performances, but Bizet’s music transitioned successfully to the concert hall, and it remains in the repertoire to this day. That year, the composer put together a four-movement orchestral suite from themes in the incidental music. Bizet was one of the first composers to add the saxophone to the standard orchestra, as we will hear clearly in the first movement titled Prélude. Four years after Bizet’s death, the composer Ernest Guiraud arranged a second suite from the material of the incidental music, and from it we will be hear the concluding Farandole.

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