Czech Philharmonic • Giovanni Antonini

Two orchestras will take turns on stage during this programme: the Czech Student Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic. The junior ensemble will begin with a Mozart symphony and will experience working with the outstanding conductor Giovanni Antonini, who will also be the soloist in a concerto by Telemann.

Subscription series A | Duration of the programme 1 hour 40 minutes


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K 550 (35')

— Intermission —

Georg Philipp Telemann
Concerto in C major for recorder, strings and basso continuo, TWV 51:C1 (16')

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No. 41 C major, K 551, “Jupiter” (31')


Stefano Barneschi violin, concertmaster

Giovanni Antonini conductor, recorder

Czech Youth Philharmonic  

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic • Giovanni Antonini

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

Studentské vstupné

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Normální vstupné

Dress rehearsal
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“To me, Prague is a magical place, and I take every visit there to give a concert as a special opportunity. I am doubly looking forward to this visit because I will be conducting not only the great Czech Philharmonic, but also the Czech Student Philharmonic. As an orchestra with a long tradition, the Czech Philharmonic is now opening up to new ways of interpreting the classical repertoire. And young musicians are the future of classical music. Their energy and desire to learn are the engine that drives music, and they set an example for other young people that they draw to concert halls”, wrote Maestro Antonini.

The partner of the concerts of the Czech Youth Philharmonic is the VZP.


Stefano Barneschi  violin

Born in Milan but with strong Tuscan roots, he studied violin at the Civica Scuola di Musica under the lead of Carlo De Martini graduating in 1991. In the same year he joined the young baroque ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, starting a long career and playing in the most important festivals and musical seasons all over the world, performing with many prestigious artists including Isabelle Faust, Viktoria Mullova, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Giuliano Carmignola, Christophe Coin, Giovanni Sollima, Cecilia Bartoli, Julia Lehzneva. In 2001 he became concertmaster of the ensemble.

His recognized expertise in this role has brought him to lead many ensembles specialized in playing on historical instruments such as Anima Eterna Brugge, Orquesta Barroca de Sevilla, La Scintilla, I Barocchisti, Il Pomo dʼOro, La Divina Armonia. Heʼs regularly invited as concertmaster by the Kammerorchester Basel. In October 2019 he made his debut as concertmaster of the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala in Milan performing Handel’s Giulio Cesare conducted by Giovanni Antonini.

He has recorded for Teldec, Naïve, Decca, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, Winter&Winter, Passacaille, Amadeus, Alpha and many other labels.

He plays a 1830 violin by Giacinto Santagiuliana.

Giovanni Antonini  conductor, recorder

Giovanni Antonini

A native of Milan, Giovanni Antonini has long been acclaimed worldwide for his innovative and polished approach to performing the Baroque and Classical repertoire while fully respecting the precepts of historically informed interpretation. However, the path of early music had not been his first choice of study. He had originally applied to the conservatoire as a violinist, and it was only because he did not succeed at his audition that he ultimately began studying the recorder, and he became a master of the instrument. It was thanks to his study of the flute at the Civica Scuola di Musica that Antonini fully discovered the world of Baroque music. In addition, as he himself recalls, it was a great advantage that as a flautist specialising in historical interpretation, he did not have many artistic models to rely on and simply imitate (after all, in the 1980s the field was still in its infancy), so he had to seek out his own interpretive approaches. He found further support in his studies at the Centre de Musique Ancienne in Geneva, but the urge never abandoned him to penetrate truly deeply into the music and to create his own language, which is now so appreciated for its uniqueness.

In 1985 he founded his own Baroque ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, with which he still appears all around the world in the dual role of soloist (whether on the recorder or the Baroque transverse flute) and conductor. Overall, perhaps the most ambitious project he threw himself into a few years back with the Basel Chamber Orchestra was to record the complete symphonies of Haydn, and to finish by the year 2032, the 300th anniversary of the composer’s birth. The project Haydn2032, of which Antonini is the artistic director, is daring not only for its scope (Haydn wrote 108 Symphonies, so it is necessary to release 2 CDs with three or four symphonies every year!), but also because of the interpretive difficulties of Haydn’s music. “Haydn is very difficult to perform well because many of the interpretive paths can sound boring. But Haydn is not boring, it’s just the matter of finding the key to the correct interpretation,” explains Antonini. So far, 14 CDs have appeared (most recently this September), so the Haydn symphonic repertoire he has already recorded, rehearsed, or prepared has also influenced the programming of Antonini’s concerts in recent years.

We will also be hearing Haydn at today’s concert, which is, among other things, a continuation of cooperation from this past February, when he performed the music of Telemann and Mozart with the Czech Philharmonic and the Czech Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. Of course, Antonini does not overlook other greats masters of the 16th through the 18th centuries, whose works he has recorded with Il Gardino Armonico (including the Vivaldi concerto on today’s programme) or performed in concert with such major orchestras as the Berlin Philharmonic, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the London Symphony Orchestra and with renowned soloists like Cecilia Bartoli, Giuliano Carmignola, Isabelle Faust, and Katia and Marielle Labèque. He also devotes himself to opera; in recent years, for example, we have been able to see him at Milan’s La Scala (Giulio Cesare), the Zurich Opera House (Idomeneo), and the Theater an der Wien (Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo). He is also the artistic director of the Polish music festival Wratislavia Cantans and the principal guest conductor of the Basel Chamber Orchestra.

The Czech Youth Philharmonic  

In the modern history of the Czech Philharmonic, when the first steps were being taken towards an educational programme, the idea arose in 2006 – while Václav Riedlbauch was still the executive director – of giving symphonic concerts for student audiences, i.e. for a new generation of listeners. The choice fell to the former Prague (later Czech) Youth Orchestra, an ensemble with many years of tradition of a youthful, enthusiastic approach to music. This worked wonderfully because the students in the audience saw their peers on stage. Bound by their love of music, these musicians gave performances from 2006 to 2010 under the leadership of the conductor Marko Ivanović, playing such works as Janáček’s Sinfonietta, Dvořák’s New World Symphony, Cello Concerto, and Te Deum, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet suite.

When new management took over in 2011, the Czech Philharmonic greatly expanded its educational activities, and that was an opportunity for renewal of the student orchestra’s activities, renamed as the Czech Youth Philharmonic. The idea is to give the rising generation of musicians – mostly students at music schools, whether grammar schools with a music emphasis, conservatoires, or academies of music – the regular opportunity of rehearsing and performing great symphonic, concertante, and choral works. Over time, the efforts turned towards creating a permanent orchestra that would support its members in the perfecting of their ensemble playing and in the creation of long-term relationships and mutual understanding. The Czech Youth Philharmonic musicians also serve as “bearers of light” in relation to their peers by showing them that young people can love classical music and can present it enthusiastically to others.

Since the 2013/2014 season, the orchestra has been performing regularly at concerts of the Czech Philharmonic’s educational series Four Steps to the New World (under the baton of Marko Ivanović), and at the series Penguins at the Rudolfinum (with Vojtěch Jouza) and Who’s Afraid of the Philharmonic? (with Ondřej Vrabec). In April 2019, the Czech Youth Philharmonic appeared with Ida Kelarová and the Čhavorenge children’s choir at Šun Devloro concerts – musical celebrations of International Romani Day. In November 2019, the orchestra played under the baton of Robert Kružík at the Students’ Day Concert with the participation of Joachim Gauck and Petr Pithart.

In June 2020, the conductor Simon Rattle came to Prague insisting that he did not want to conduct just the Czech Philharmonic, but also “some orchestra with young people.” When the choice fell to the Czech Youth Philharmonic, that was an enormous challenge for its members. Sir Simon enjoyed working with the young musicians, and he was unsparing in his praise: “The Czech Youth Philharmonic reminds me of the orchestra of the Verbier Festival, which is made up of the best music students from all around the world, led by players from the Metropolitan Opera. That’s the level they are on.” In February 2021, the Czech Youth Philharmonic first appeared under the baton of chief conductor Semyon Bychkov in the televised concert “A přece se učí” (“But Learning Continues”).

In the 2022/2023 season, the Czech Youth Philharmonic gave its debut at Czech Philharmonic subscription concerts with the conductors Semyon Bychkov and Giovanni Antonini. This year, philharmonic subscribers will hear the Czech Youth Philharmonic under the baton of Jakuba Hrůša and, once again, Giovanni Antonini. In the series “Steps to the New World”, the young musicians will perform works by Bizet, Grieg, Smetana, Wagner, and other composers under the baton of Marko Ivanović.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K 550 & Symphony No. 41 C major, K 551, “Jupiter”

For the 32-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1788 was a year full of loss and disappointment. Upon his return from Prague, he obtained a position at the imperial court he had desired, but instead of being made court composer, he was put in charge of chamber music with less than half the salary. Until Mozart’s death in Vienna, the position of court composer remained vacant. His Prague opera Don Giovanni got a chilly reception in Vienna, and the lack of interest in his other compositions caused him financial problems. For this reason, that summer Mozart wrote three big symphonies that turned out to be his last: E flat major, K 543, G minor, K 550, and C major, K 551. There has been speculation about the purpose for which they were composed. Mozart may have intended to have them published by Artaria, which had printed Haydn’s Paris Symphonies not long beforehand. He may have been placing his hopes on a planned journey to London, where those symphonies could have served him well as an introduction. What is certain is that all three of these symphonies were received very positively soon after Mozart’s death, and they came to represent the phenomenon of symphonic music to the music critics of the period. 

Mozart finished his Symphony in G minor on 25 July 1788 and assigned it the number 40, then it was given the number 550 in the Köchel catalogue. The work’s emotional power is highly original, and its unconventionality is also reflected by, among of things, the choice of key. According to the aesthetics of the period, a composition’s character corresponded to the key in which it was written. Mozart only wrote two minor-key symphonies (both in G minor, so this work is sometimes called the “Great G minor”), and there are also only two piano concertos in minor keys. At the same time, the symphony reflects features of an artistic movement known as Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress), which emphasised strong emotions. There are also differences in its orchestration: the work does not call for otherwise commonly used trumpets and timpani, and Mozart even added clarinets to the definitive revision before those instruments were routinely employed in symphonies.

The first movement begins not with lush harmonies in accordance with tradition, but instead with just a quiet accompaniment by the strings, anticipating the mournfully sighing violin melody and forming an inconspicuous undertone throughout the movement. The contrasting chromatic second theme is in the major mode and is divided between the strings and the winds. In the recapitulation, it appears in the minor mode. There are more surprises as the symphony progresses. Against the background of the seemingly monotonous beginning of the second movement, the composer begins to play subtle games, creating tension with accents and melodic contrasts, in which the timbres of the wind instruments play an important role. The usual light, brilliant menuet is replaced by a weighty movement, and only the trio brings relief briefly. The finale is also chromatic, with a main theme for strings based on an arpeggio. Few works of the Classical era show the direct path to the Romanticism of the 19th century as clearly as does the Symphony in G minor.

Two weeks later, on 10 August 1788, Mozart made the following entry in a list of his compositions written in his own hand: “Symphony. 2 violins, 1 flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 French horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, violas, and basses.” His very last symphonic work contrasts with the tense, gloomy Symphony in G minor—its mood is jubilant with a tendency towards monumentality. Thanks to the huge fourth movement, the work began to be known as the “symphony with the fugal finale”. In 1808, the journal Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung wrote that in Leipzig the work was “so popular among local lovers of the arts that it could not be denied them even for a single year.” The Symphony No. 41 in C major, K 551, was also highly regarded in London, where the score was published in 1810 with the motto “the highest triumph of instrumental composition”. The symphony has the enduring nickname “Jupiter”, which first appeared in the programme of the Edinburgh Music Festival in October 1819 and then in London at a concert of the Royal Philharmonic Society and in reviews of the concert. The symphony probably got its nickname from the London violinist and musical entrepreneur Johann Peter Salomon, emphasising the work’s quality by identifying it metaphorically with the king of the Roman gods. And the symphony’s nickname caught on.

The main theme of the first movement contains two mutually contrasting motifs: an energetic one in forte for the whole orchestra, and a more melodic one for the strings played piano. The violins and violas introduce the second theme, then the whole orchestra plays a forte third theme. The beginning of the second movement is imbued with inner calm and luminescence, yet it is only in this movement that we find any hint of the dark shadows so typical of the Symphony in G minor. That mood emerges in the second theme, characterised by the key of C minor and the unsettling rhythm of the violins. The violins are to be muted throughout the movement, dampening their sound. A gentle menuet frames a trio built on a contrast between its playful introduction and an energetic middle section. The fourth movement is one of the most remarkable pieces of music that Mozart ever wrote—this is probably the first time in the history of the symphony that a finale is given weight equal to or even greater that that of the first movement. Moreover, the composer displays an incredible synthesis of old and new, combining fugue with sonata form, “learned” polyphony with “gallant” homophony, the Baroque with Classicism. Right at the beginning, the second violins play the main theme, which is further treated fugally, taken up successively by the first violins, violas, and cellos. Mozart uses a total of four themes and combines them with each other! In addition, all of this contrapuntal mastery is built upon the clear foundation of sonata form. The Jupiter Symphony is regarded as a highpoint of 18th-century symphonic music for good reason.

Georg Philipp Telemann
Concerto in C major for recorder, strings and basso continuo, TWV 51:C1

In the era of modern media, the life and career of the Magdeburg native Georg Philipp Telemann would undoubtedly enjoy enormous attention and popularity. After all, even in the 18th century he managed to earn fame as the greatest living composer despite being a contemporary of Bach and Handel. He was in every respect completely self-taught because his mother, a widow, did not regard education as important. Without any support whatsoever, he learned to play flute, violin, viola da gamba, oboe, trombone, contrabass, and various keyboard instruments, and he discovered the mysteries of musical composition for himself. At age 20, he departed for Leipzig to study law, but that city instead awakened in him an even greater desire to be a musician. During his first year there, he became the assistant to the organist Johann Kuhnau at St Thomas’s Church and the organist at the university chapel, and he reorganised the students’ collegium musicum into an efficient orchestra that gave public concerts. For this reason, the Leipzig city government made him the director of the local opera company, for which he wrote four operas in quick succession. Just a few years later, we find Telemann in the Silesian town Sorau (today Żary, Poland) serving as the Kapellmeister. There, he became familiar with Polish and Moravian music. Next he was at the court in Eisenach, then in 1712 he became church choirmaster and director of music for the city of Frankfurt am Main. Finally, he caught on in Hamburg, where he was the city’s music director from 1721 until his death. That prestigious position included responsibility for the music at the five main churches and the operations of the Hamburg Opera, the position of head cantor at the Johanneum, a famous music school, leading the students’ collegium musicum, and organising public concerts.

All of these duties involved providing repertoire, so Telemann became one of the most prolific composers in music history (including the creation of 31 annual cycles of cantatas for every Sunday). He had remarkable knowledge of a wide range of the styles of the period, and he was able to imitate both the Italian and the French idioms despite having almost never left the territory of present-day Germany. By combining influences, he created his own style, usually described as “mixed” or “German”. His compositions stand out for their melodic originality, colourful harmonies, soaring rhythms, and imaginative orchestration. Dozens of his compositions appeared in print in his lifetime and were played all over Germany. However, there was a radical stylistic change soon after his death, as we hear in the music of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Then the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel was rediscovered in the 19th century, and only yet another century later did Telemann’s music again begin to find renewed appreciation.

Georg Philipp Telemann also wrote several instrumental concertos: six for violin, two for viola, eight for French horn, five for trumpet, two for chalumeaux, six for oboe, one for bassoon, five for recorder, and four for transverse flute. In 1725 he composed the Concerto in C major for alto recorder, strings, and basso continuo, which mostly exhibits Italian influences. There are many concertos for the “flauto dolce”, as the recorder was called in Italian, written by Telemann’s contemporaries including the great composer Antonio Vivaldi.