Czech Philharmonic • Concert with residents of the season

Magdalena Kožená has included songs by Bohuslav Martinů on the programme of her special concert to draw attention to the beauty of this seldom heard music. Simon Rattle has a similar motivation with Robert Schumann, whose music is not often heard at the Rudolfinum.

Duration of the programme 1 hour 40 minutes


Robert Schumann
Genoveva, Op. 81, overture to the opera (10')

Bohuslav Martinů / arranged for orchestra by Jiří Teml
Songs on One Page, H 294 (8')

Bohuslav Martinů
Nipponari. Seven songs to Japanese lyric poetry for female voice and small orchestra, H 68 (21')

— Intermission —

Robert Schumann
Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61 (38')


Magdalena Kožená mezzo-soprano

Simon Rattle conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic • Concert with residents of the season

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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“To me, Schumann is the perfect essence of everything one understands by the word Romanticism. His music is deeply passionate and communicative, but it never descends into self pity. I don’t think there are many more moving compositions than the Adagio of Schumann’s Second Symphony. Unlike Mahler, he never gets caught up with himself emotionally, but the music he produces is like a crystal-pure extract. It is one of the loveliest symphonies I know, and one of the most difficult to perform”, says Sir Simon Rattle.


Magdalena Kožená  mezzo-soprano

Magdalena Kožená

Born in the Czech city of Brno, Magdalena Kožená studied voice and piano at the Brno Conservatory and at Bratislava’s Academy of Performing Arts. Magdalena signed as an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist in 1999 and released her first album of Bach arias on its Archiv label. Her recital debut recording of songs by Dvořák, Janáček and Martinů followed in 2001 – the same year she was honoured with Gramophone’s Solo Vocal Award.

She was named Artist of the Year by Gramophone in 2004 and has since received numerous other prestigious awards, including the Echo Klassik, Record Academy Prize Tokyo, and Diapason d’or. In 2017, Magdalena forged a long-term relationship with Dutch classical music label Pentatone and has since released 3 recordings, the most recent of which is a collaboration with Yefim Bronfman entitled ‘Nostalgia’ (August 2021).

During her career, Magdalena has worked with the world’s leading conductors, including Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Gustavo Dudamel, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Mariss Jansons, Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir Roger Norrington. Her list of distinguished recital partners includes the pianists Daniel Barenboim, Malcolm Martineau, András Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida, with whom she has performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, and at the Aldeburgh, Edinburgh and Salzburg festivals. She is also in demand as soloist with the Berlin, Vienna and Czech Philharmonics, the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Cleveland, Philadelphia and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras.

Magdalena bookends her 2022/23 season with two European piano recital tours: firstly with Yefim Bronfman at Edinburgh, Merano and Helsinki Festivals, Philharmonie Essen, Musikfest Berlin and Schloss Elmau and later with Mitsuko Uchida in Antwerp, Dortmund, Budapest and Prague Spring Festival. She re-joins her friends at Venice Baroque Orchestra for a concert tour of South America, performing a programme inspired by Handel’s Alcina and looks forward to reviving the role of Varvara (Káťa Kabanová) in concert with the London Symphony Orchestra and returning to Mozartwoche Salzburg in a semi-staged performance of Don Giovanni.

On the opera stage, Magdalena returns to the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin for Idamante (Idomeneo) and makes her operatic debut at the Gran Teatro del Liceu as Ottavia (Poppea). She also makes her much anticipated role debut in the title role of Alcina with Les Musiciens du Louvre in a tour to Paris, Hamburg, Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.

Magdalena was appointed a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2003 for her services to French music.

Simon Rattle  conductor

Simon Rattle

Sir Simon Rattle was born in Liverpool and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. From 1980 to 1998, Sir Simon was Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and was appointed Music Director in 1990. In 2002 he took up the position of Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker where he remained until the end of the 2017/2018 season. Sir Simon took up the position of Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra in September 2017. He will remain in this position until the 2023/2024 season, when he will become the orchestra’s Conductor Emeritus. From the 2023/2024 season Sir Simon will take up the position of Chief Conductor with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks in Munich. He is a Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Founding Patron of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

Sir Simon has made over 70 recordings for EMI record label (now Warner Classics) and has received numerous prestigious international awards for his recordings on various labels. He regularly tours within Europe and Asia and has strong longstanding relationships with the world’s leading orchestras and opera houses.

Music education is of supreme importance to Sir Simon, and his partnership with the Berliner Philiharmoniker broke new ground with the education programme Zukunft@Bphil, earning him the Comenius Prize, the Schiller Special Prize from the city of Mannheim, the Golden Camera and the Urania Medal. He and the Berliner Philharmoniker were also appointed International UNICEF Ambassadors in 2004 – the first time this honour has been conferred on an artistic ensemble. In 2019 Simon announced the creation of the LSO East London Academy, developed by the London Symphony Orchestra in partnership with 10 East London boroughs. This free program aims to identify and develop the potential of young East Londoners between the ages of 11 and 18 who show exceptional musical talent, irrespective of their background or financial circumstance. Sir Simon has also been awarded several prestigious personal honours which include a knighthood in 1994, becoming a member of the Order of Merit from Her Majesty the Queen in 2014 and was recently bestowed the Order of Merit in Berlin in 2018. In 2019, Sir Simon was given the Freedom of the City of London.

The 2022/2023 season will see him conduct the London Symphony Orchestra, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Staatskapelle Berlin, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra for their special ‘Freedom’ concerts. He will return to the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin to revive Mozart’s Idomeneo, and in summer 2023 he returns to the Aix en Provence Festival with the London Symphony Orchestra, where they will perform Gerard McBurney’s Wozzeck. He will tour Japan and South Korea with the London Symphony Orchestra, and later in the season they will embark on a tour to Australia.


Robert Schumann
Genoveva, Op. 81, overture to the opera

There are some opera overtures that live a more active life on the concert stage that the operas to which they belong. This is also the case with the only opera by the German Romantic composer Robert Schumann, Genoveva, Op. 81. The opera has not found a place in the theatrical repertoire, and it has never been fully rehabilitated in spite of numerous recent attempts, but the overture quickly won recognition. The music critic Eduard Hanslick, already an important figure at the time, was of the opinion that the overture was the most successful part of the opera, and Schumann was also aware of its potential from the beginning. Schumann took the subject matter of a medieval legend about Genoveva of Brabant, shaping it into a libretto based on literary models by Ludwig Tieck and Christian Friedrich Hebbel from the first half of the 19th century.


The premiere took place in Leipzig in late June 1850, but the production was withdrawn from the repertory after a few performances. Schumann was certainly disappointed by the failure because he had spent a long time developing the idea for an opera and had considered various subjects before choosing Genoveva. He wrote it in the complicated atmosphere of the years 1847 and 1848, when the mentally ill composer’s mood was fluctuating severely, affecting his ability to engage in creative work. The story of Wagner’s Lohengrin (first performed in Weimar in August 1850) shares points in common with Genoveva, and it also overshadowed Schumann’s opera. As we know, however, the overture was given several concert performances and may have appeared in print even before the premiere of the opera itself. In the overture, Schumann uses the characteristic motifs of two main characters—Genoveva and the treacherous Golo. The music’s progression from C minor to C major follows the storyline: after dark and dramatic twists and turns, the opera’s climax is the joyous reunion of the married couple Siegfried and Genoveva.

Bohuslav Martinů
Songs on One Page, H 294

Bohuslav Martinů wrote his Songs on One Page, a cycle of seven songs for voice and piano with texts from Moravian folk poetry (“after Sušil”), during the Second World War in February and March 1943. The cycle is dedicated to the wife of the Czechoslovak ambassador in Washington, Olga Hurbanová. To this day, these short love poems and the almost mystical Sen Panny Marie (Dream of the Virgin Mary) captivate readers with their simplicity, novelty, and succinctness. Martinů set them to music in a similar vein, closely coupling the music to the words. Together with the New Chap-Book (1942) and the Songs on Two Pages (1944), this cycle is among the compositions that reflect the composer’s reminiscences of his homeland. The Songs on One Page were published in 1948 by Melantrich, but they did not escape politically tinged criticism from the pen of Antonín Sychra, who saw them as “artificially constructed greenhouse products” (1949). How wrong he was is shown by the enduring popularity of these lovely miniatures with amateur singers and concert artists. In 1997, at the request of Ilja Šmíd, executive director of the PKF — Prague Philharmonia, the Czech composer Jiří Teml (* 1935) prepared an orchestration of the Songs on One Page, demonstrating his understanding of the style of other composer and his great experience with orchestration. Magdalena Kožená gave the first performance of the songs in this arrangement.

Bohuslav Martinů
Nipponari – Seven songs to Japanese lyric poetry for female voice and small orchestra, H 68

Martinů’s first attempt at the genre of songs accompanied by a larger or smaller instrumental ensemble was the seven-part cycle Nipponari, H 68, which he wrote in the summer and autumn of 1912 as a 22-year-old youth who had not yet completed his studies at the conservatoire and was dividing his time between Prague and his birthplace Polička. In the cycle, he built upon experience from his early songs composed for voice and piano, which are numerous but not very important. For the most part, he wrote musical settings of Czech love poetry (by J. V. Sládek, A. E. Mužík, V. Hlavsa etc.) and of symbolist verses or folk poetry in some exceptional cases. Martinů’s earliest preserved song dates from 1910 (Než se naděješ, H 6). In Nipponari, the composer took inspiration from old Japanese poems, with which he became acquainted through a Czech translation by Emanuel z Lešehradu (Nipponari, ukázky žaponské lyriky, 1909). At the same time, he fell under the influence of French Impressionism and of Debussy’s La mer, piano music, and songs in particular. He also knew Puccini’s opera Madama Butterfly, of course; in 1920 he even contemplated writing an opera with “Japanese” subject matter based on Jan Havlasa’s novel Okna do mlhy (Windows into the Mist), but nothing ever came the idea.

In Nipponari, the voice (in the mezzo-soprano range) is accompanied by a small orchestra consisting of flutes, English horn, triangle, tam-tam, celesta, harp, and piano reinforced by a string section, but the instrumentation of the individual songs is variable. The main goal is to portray a dreamy atmosphere. Scenes of nature are poetically intermingled with images of daily life. The songs are in a different order in the composer’s version for voice and piano (Prague, 1912). Martinů dedicated the work to Theo Drill-Oridge, a vocal soloist with the opera companies in Vienna and Berlin. She enchanted Martinů when she appeared on the stage of the National Theatre in Verdi roles (1911) and again a year later in operas by Gluck and Wagner.

Robert Schumann
Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61

Robert Schumann also gets the last word on today’s programme, this time as a symphonic composer. His Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61, dates from 1845–1846; it is the third of Schumann’s four symphonies chronologically. The symphony was written in Dresden, where Robert and Clara had moved from Leipzig, hoping to find peace and quiet for composing, societal recognition, and a sympathetic public. However, the year 1845 was marred by the composer’s severe depression, and his struggle with it was also reflected in his work on the symphony. While Genoveva is sometimes compared to Beethoven’s Leonore, Schumann’s Symphony in C major has a counterpart in Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The work is dedicated to King Oscar I, King of Sweden and Norway from the House of Bernadotte, who succeeded his father as king in 1844 and was himself, incidentally, a composer. Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy conducted the symphony’s first performance on 5 November 1846 at the Leipzig Gewandhaus. The first movement begins with a brass chorale, which leads to the sharply rhythmic Allegro. The following Scherzo has two trios, the second of which develops the B-A-C-H motif, as if his previous work for organ, Six Fugues on the Name B-A-C-H, Op. 60, had not entirely disappeared from his memory. The third movement with its contrapuntal middle section flows along broadly in the melancholy key of C minor. The fourth movement, written in sonata form just like the first movement, unifies the whole symphony motivically, and the work ends with a majestic coda.

The corrections of the Second Symphony before its publication and the making of arrangements for piano four- and eight-hands, revised by the composer in 1848, date to the same period as the composition of Genoveva. The two works share in common not only the period when they were written, but also, most importantly, a similar message about the victory of good over evil.