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Czech Philharmonic • New Year’s Concert


For New Year’s Eve, the repertoire will reflect the start of the Year of Czech Music. For the occasion, conductor Jakub Hrůša has made a varied selection of Czech compositions with a solo opportunity for the violinist Jiří Vodička, and at the conclusion, the pianist Olga Kern will commemorate the 100th birthday of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

Duration of the programme 1 hour 30 minutes

Programme

Antonín Dvořák
Nocturne in B major, Op. 40

Antonín Dvořák
Romance for Violin and Orchestra in F minor, Op. 11 (13')

Leoš Janáček
Lachian Dances (Selections) (6')
Dymák
Pilky

Antonín Dvořák
Mazurek for violin and orchestra, Op. 49 (6')

— Intermission —

Bedřich Smetana
The Bartered Bride, overture to the opera (7')

Oskar Nedbal
Valse triste from the ballet pantomime
The Tale of Simple Johnny (5')

Antonín Dvořák
Suite in A major, Op. 98b (8')
“American Suite”
movements I and V

George Gershwin
Rhapsody in Blue (16')

Performers

Olga Kern piano
Jiří Vodička violin

Jakub Hrůša conductor

Czech Philharmonic

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

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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Price from 300 to 2900 CZK Tickets and contact information

Customer Service of Czech Philharmonic

Tel.: +420 227 059 227
E-mail: info@czechphilharmonic.cz

Customer service is available on weekdays from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm.

 

Open the Year of Czech Music with us

Dear Listeners,
gift or cancellation vouchers are not accepted for these concerts.
Thank you for your understanding.

Concerts take place in collaboration with the Prague Sounds Festival.

Performers

Olga Kern  piano

Olga Kern

Pianist Olga Kern has established herself as one of the leading pianists of her generations. Born in a family of musicians, she jumpstarted her U.S. career with her historic Gold Medal win at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas as the first woman to do so in more than fifty years.  

Prize winner of Concertino Praga competition at the age of eleven; First prize winner of the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition at seventeen, Ms. Kern is a laureate of many international competitions. In 2016 she served as Jury Chairman of both the Seventh Cliburn International Amateur Piano Competition and the first Olga Kern International Piano Competition, where she also holds the title of Artistic Director. Ms. Kern frequently gives masterclasses and since September 2017 has served on the piano faculty of the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Beginning with the 2019 season, Ms. Kern was appointed the Connie & Marc Jacobson Director of Chamber Music at the Virginia Arts Festival. Ms. Kern was honored with the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in New York City in 2017. 

Recent and upcoming highlights include performances with the Minnesota Orchestra, the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, St. Louis, Dallas, Palm Beach, Milwaukee, Austin and Toledo, the National Symphony of Washington DC, the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Dublin symphony and many others; or the US tour with the Royal National Scottish Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, National Philharmonic of Russia and Warsaw Philharmonic.

In 2017/2018, she served as Artist in Residence with the San Antonio Symphony and went with the Chinese National Youth Orchestra on their tour to China. In 2019 she helped celebrate Leonard Slatkin’s 75th Birthday in a series of special concerts with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center. She will appear in recitals and concerts in Orford, Sunriver, Fort Worth (Cliburn), Carmel, San Francisco, Dallas, Pecs, Budapest, Lisbon, Milan, Sicily, and Calvia. In the autumn of 2022 Olga Kern has hosted her Third Triennial Olga Kern International Piano Competition. In the coming seasons, she will serve on the jury of many international competitions. 

Ms. Kernʼs discography includes her Grammy Nominated recording of Rachmaninoff’s Corelli Variations and transcriptions (2004), Brahms Variations (2007) and Chopin Piano Sonatas No. 2 and 3 (2010), the Tchaikovsky piano concerto with the Rochester Philharmonic, a CD of Russian composers including works by Balakirev; live recording CD of Chopin concerto with the Warsaw Philharmonic; Rachmaninoff cello sonata with Sol Gabetta and the CD of Brahms and Shostakovich Quintets with Dali Quartet. She was featured in several documentaries including the award-winning films about the 2001 Cliburn Competition, “Playing on the Edge”; “They came to play” and “Olga’s journey”.

Jiří Vodička  violin

Jiří Vodička

Jiří Vodička, concertmaster with the Czech Philharmonic, soloist and chamber musician, is one of the finest and most sought-after Czech violinists. An extremely gifted child, he made a name for himself by winning numerous prizes, notably in the Jaroslav Kocian International Violin Competition, the Prague Junior Note and Slovakia’s Čírenie talentov. In 2002, he came first in the Beethoven’ Hradec International Violin Competition, and received a prize for best pupil at Václav Hudeček’s violin classes. He later performed with Hudeček at dozens of concerts throughout the Czech Republic. In 2004, he became overall winner of the International Louis Spohr Competition for Young Violinists in Weimar. In 2008, he gained first and second prizes at the prestigious Young Concert Artists competition in Leipzig and New York.

At the tender age of 14, Jiří Vodička enrolled at the Institute for Art Studies at the University of Ostrava, where he studied under the renowned teacher Prof. Zdeněk Gola, graduating with a master’s degree in 2007.

Jiří Vodička has regularly performed as a soloist with a host of leading orchestras in the Czech Republic and further afield, including the Czech Philharmonic, the Prague Philharmonia, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra,  the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen. He has worked with Jiří Bělohlávek, Jakub Hrůša, Tomáš Netopil and other top conductors.

In 2014, he made his debut solo album, Violino Solo, released on Supraphon. Featuring some of the most challenging compositions for solo violin, it met with a positive critical response in the Czech Republic and elsewhere. Many of his concerts have been broadcast by Czech Television, Czech Radio and Germany’s ARD.

As a chamber musician, he has performed with the major Czech pianists Martin Kasík, Ivo
Kahánek, Ivan Klánský and Miroslav Sekera. In 2011, he was invited by the celebrated violinist Gidon Kremer to appear at his Kammermusikfest in Lockenhaus, Austria, together with many world-famous artists. He has regularly performed at such prominent festivals as the Prague Spring, Janáček’s May, the Grand Festival of China, the Hohenloher Kultursommer, and the Choriner Musiksommer. Since 2012, he has been a member of the Smetana Trio, with whom he has recorded two acclaimed CDs for Supraphon (BBC Music Magazine Award and Diapason d’Or).

In 2015, he was named concertmaster with the Czech Philharmonic. He teaches at the Prague Conservatory and at Ostrava University.

Jiří Vodička plays a violin made by Joseph Gagliano in 1767.

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.

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 the 2023 Opus Klassik Conductor of the Year.

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, and Opéra National de Paris. He has also been a regular guest with Glyndebourne Festival and served as Music Director of Glyndebourne On Tour for three years. In the 2023/2024 season, he conducts Janacek’s Jenůfa for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. 

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, 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, Yuja Wang, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Alisa Weilerstein and others.

As a recording artist, Jakub Hrusa has received numerous awards and nominations for his discography. Most recently with Bamberg Symphony, he received the ICMA Prize for Symphonic Music in both 2023 and 2022, for his recordings of Rott’s Symphony No. 1 and Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4. He was awarded the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik for his recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, and in 2021 his recording of Martinů and Bartók violin concertos with Frank Peter Zimmermann was nominated for BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone awards, and his disc 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 (Supraphon), and Vanessa from Glyndebourne (Opus Arte) both won BBC Music Magazine Awards in 2020. 

Jakub Hrůša studied conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where his teachers included Jiří Bělohlávek. He is currently President of the International Martinů Circle and The Dvořák Society, and an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in London. 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

Antonín Dvořák
Romance for Violin and Orchestra in F minor, Op. 11

From 1862 to 1871, partly during Smetana’s tenure as conductor, Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) was playing viola in that theatre’s orchestra. By then, he was not only playing viola and organ, but also composing. One of his early works is the Romance for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 11. It is related to the slow second movement of Dvořák’s String Quartet in F minor (1873), which Dvořák recast as a Romance, adding more themes. This may have been done in 1873 or perhaps even as late as 1877, when the violinist Josef Markus, concertmaster of the Provisional Theatre, gave a public performance of the Romance in the concert hall on Prague’s Žofín Island. There are also versions with piano accompaniment, amongst which Dvořák’s authentic version holds a place of honour. He made that arrangement even before publication of the orchestral version (1879). Dvořák later dedicated it to the violin virtuoso František Ondříček. The one-movement composition (Andante con moto) stands out for its melodic beauty and sense of inner calm, which is enhanced by the restrained orchestration.

Leoš Janáček
Lachian Dances (selections)

New Year’s celebrations usually ride a wave of joyous energy, or else they are dance parties, and the overture to The Bartered Bride foreshadowed both of those possibilities. The Lachian Dances by Leoš Janáček (1854–1928) are one of the popular cycles of stylised orchestral dances. They appeared in their original form at the turn of the 1880s and ’90s during the composer’s “folklore period”, and they reflected his interest in ethnography, folk dances, their choreography, and the Lachia region with its typical dialect and peculiar customs. Dvořák’s orchestral Slavonic Dance, which Janáček knew and performed himself in Brno, were another source of inspiration. In the late 1880s, Janáček discussed the possibility of a staged production of the dances, originally titled Wallachian Dances, with Prague’s National Theatre, but nothing came of it. Part of the motivic material found its way into the ballet Rákos Rákoczy. From the 1924 version of the Lachian Dances, our programme includes the third dance Dymák, also called The Blacksmith, and the well-known, boisterous concluding dance Pilky.

Antonín Dvořák
Mazurek for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 49

The title of the Mazurek for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 49, by Antonín Dvořák makes reference to the Polish mazurka, and it borrows certain elements from that dance, but it is a virtuosic showpiece with two contrasting themes, the first rhythmically bold and second lyrical. The work was written at the suggestion of the publisher Simrock, who asked Dvořák for some sort of smaller-scale work (that would be easy to sell) in the style of the Slavonic Dances. The original version for violin and piano dates from 1879 and was premiered in late March of that year at a concert presented by the Music Department of the Artists’ Society, where the violinist Ferdinand Lachner played it with Zdeněk Fibich. A version for violin and small orchestra soon followed. One proof of fact that a small form does not necessarily mean small importance is the dedication of the Mazurek to the famed violinist Pablo de Sarasate and the inclusion of the composition on several programmes with Dvořák accompanying Lachner during Dvořák’s “farewell tour” in 1892 before his departure for America.

Bedřich Smetana
The Bartered Bride, overture to the opera

As the Year of Czech Music, 2024 will be above all the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bedřich Smetana (1824–1884), while other important anniversaries—120 years since Dvořák’s death, 170 years since Janáček’s birth, and 150th birthdays of Nedbal and Suk—may be overshadowed. The Czech Philharmonic’s New Year’s Concert, however, is a celebration that will not overlook any of them, although Smetana gets the first word. Few compositions in the treasury of classical music are as familiar to listeners as the Overture to The Bartered Bride (1863). Contrary to the usual procedure, it was with the overture that Bedřich Smetana began work on his second opera, this time a comedy (a “plaything”, as he put it, in comparison with the previous, more serious opera The Brandenburgers in Bohemia). He wrote the overture in sonata form and connected it motivically to the end of Act II. The Bartered Bride was first played on the stage of the Provisional Theatre on 30 May 1866, and it had been performed there more than 110 times before the theatre ceased operations on 14 April 1883.

Oskar Nedbal
Valse triste from the ballet pantomime The Tale of Simple Johnny

Valse triste by Dvořák’s pupil Oskar Nedbal (1874–1930) suggests more serious associations, subconsciously reminding us of Nedbal’s tragic death. However, the world-famous waltz dates from the beginning of the century, when the January 1902 performance of his ballet-pantomime The Tale of Simple Johnny at the National Theatre was added to the list of his successes as a composer (Nedbal was also a violist and a talented conductor). Based on a scenario by František Karel Hejda, the work also attracted the interest of the Court Opera in Vienna, and Nedbal was asked to add a few new dance numbers. Valse triste is said to have been written aboard a train travelling from Barcelona to Vienna. This would have been nothing unusual giving the hectic touring of the Bohemian Quartet, of which Nedbal was a founding member… A production of part of The Tale of Simple Johnny in Vienna (premiered on 28 April 1903) with dazzlingly beautiful sets and costumes took place before an aristocratic audience. Sadly, the composer was far from being so fortunate in his family life: it was in 1903 that his young wife Josefina died.

Antonín Dvořák
Suite in A major, Op. 98b “American Suite” (selections)

Antonín Dvořák composed his Suite in A major, Op. 98b, during the early months of 1894 while still in America. A piano work of intimate character, it consisted of five contrasting movements. Dvořák’s friend Josef Sallač later described the suite as “a work of Dvořákian charm and originality, both for the sincerity of its moods and for its thematic ideas, which mostly retain a certain American character.” The composer himself was certainly aware of this, and he arranged his Suite in A major for orchestra a year later. The first movement (Andante con moto) and the second (Molto vivace) are in ABA form, and the third (Moderato alla polacca) is stylised as a polonaise or as a Czech dance called the sousedská. There follows a subtle Andante, then finally the concluding movement (Allegro) brings the pentatonic theme of the first movement back into play. The orchestral version was not premiered until 1910 by the Czech Philharmonic under the baton of Karel Kovařovic.

George Gershwin
Rhapsody in Blue

The attentive reader will certainly not miss that most of the pieces on today’s programme have both an orchestral version and a more intimate version either for piano or for solo instrument with piano. Rhapsody in Blue by the American composer George Gershwin (1898–1937) also took a complicated path to reach its final form. Gershwin wrote it for two pianos, but pianist and arranger Ferde Grofé created an accompaniment for a small ensemble. Things did not end there. As the work grew in popularity, so did the size of the orchestra. Today, the 1942 version is usually played. The jazz-influenced Rhapsody has no connection to the other birthday celebrations, but it also has its own jubilee this year: 100 years since its premiere (New York, 1924). It might seem like a ferocious way to end a programme that is based in the second half of the 19th century and ventures no farther than the first two decades of the 20th, but as Gershwin himself said, “In the rhapsody I tried to express our manner of living, the tempo of our modern life with its speed and chaos and vitality.”

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