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Czech Philharmonic • Jakub Hrůša

Principle Guest Conductor Jakub Hrůša has once again prepared a bold programme based on dramatic contrasts. The concert opens with the world premiere of a work by Pavel Zemek Novák followed by a gem of the piano literature played by the brilliant Leif Ove Andsnes. After Grieg comes Vladimír Sommer’s evocative Vocal Symphony which will mark the Czech Philharmonic’s fourth performance of the work. 

Subscription series C


Pavel Zemek Novák
CANTO. Unisono per orchestra (world premiere)

Edvard Grieg
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16

Vladimír Sommer
Vocal Symphony for mezzo-soprano, narrator, choir, and orchestra


Leif Ove Andsnes piano
Markéta Cukrová mezzo-soprano
Martin Myšička narrator

Prague Philharmonic Choir
Lukáš Vasilek choirmaster

Jakub Hrůša conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic • Jakub Hrůša

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

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“I was a rather shy and insecure boy from the Norwegian countryside”, recalls one of today’s most celebrated pianists Leif Ove Andsnes. At age 15, he met the Czech piano pedagogue Jiří Hlinka, who was later his teacher at the conservatoire in Bergen. “Hlinka was a passionate person; to him, music was a matter of life and death. He opened up lots of new horizons for me, and I always came away from lessons with enormous motivation to go onwards, and I felt ever more secure in my playing”, says Andsnes in reference to, among other things, learning Grieg’s Piano Concerto, which he first studied under Hlinka’s guidance. 

Because of their shared nationality, Andsnes is frequently asked to perform this work which has followed him throughout his career. He first played it aged 20 in 1990 and after a break of a few years, returned to it in the early 2000s including recording it with the Berlin Philharmonic and Mariss Jansons. The New York Times hailed their release as the ‘Best CD of the Year’ and at the 2004 Gramophone Awards, it won the Award for ‘Best Concerto Recording.’ 

Alongside Grieg’s beautiful concerto, the Czech Philharmonic’s Principal Guest Conductor Jakub Hrůša has programmed works by two Czech composers. The first, CANTO by Pavel Zemek Novák, receives its world premiere: “A composer must be a madman and must be regarded as such. He mustn’t be surprised by this because he is doing things that others regard as madness: he works in isolation for a long time, sometimes without getting paid or even getting performances. He must give up hope of recognition from those closest to him or from the people where he lives. These are destructive elements. The humiliation that goes along with this must not come as a surprise. He has to watch how his peers enjoy great success, running government ministries. He can’t get caught up in that game. But in the end, he finds peace” – Pavel Zemek Novák in an interview for Harmonie.

Vladimír Sommer’s Vocal Symphony is a composition with an established reputation. The Czech Philharmonic first performed it in 1964 with Václav Neumann, and the Orchestra gave it further performances in the 1990s and early 2000s. The evocative composition, regarded as one of the most powerful works written by a Czech composer since the Second World War, was described by the music journalist Bohumil Vítek as follows: “Already at first hearing, the listener is crushed by a wide-ranging probe into the conscience of a cruel society indulging in gross violence without any scruples whatsoever. This, then, is a topical allegory with validity for all times, including today.”


Leif Ove Andsnes  piano

“I was rather a shy boy from a rural area of Norway,” recalls Leif Ove Andsnes, one of today’s most sought-after pianists, of his beginnings as a pianist. At the age of 15, Andsnes approached the leading Czech piano teacher Jiří Hlinka, with whom he later studied at the Bergen Music Conservatory. “I met this very passionate person for whom the music was life and death. He opened many doors for me, I always left the lesson with a great motivation to push myself further and I felt more and more confident in my playing,” says Andsnes, among other things, with regard to the rehearsal of Grieg’s Piano Concerto, which he first performed under Hlinka’s guidance.

This work by his compatriot is a staple of Andsnes’s repertoire and has accompanied him throughout his career. He first recorded it at the age of 20, in 1990, but after that he did not touch it for several years. He began performing it again at the beginning of the new millennium and recorded it anew, this time with greater detail, as critics have noted. The New York Times named Andsnes’s 2004 recording of Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Mariss Jansons the “Best CD of the Year”, and it won the prestigious award of the Gramophone magazine.

Andsnes has already six Gramophone Awards and eleven Grammy nominations for more than 30 CDs released on EMI Classics. In October 2023, a complete set of all of Andsnes’s recordings made for EMI Classics over the course of 20 years was published by its successor, Warner Classics. Andsnes’s current label is Sony Classical, which focuses on his latest performances. These mainly consist of two major projects with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, spread over several seasons. The most recent is “Mozart Momentum 1785/86”, which features Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 20–24. It was preceded by “The Beethoven Journey”, a project showcasing the complete series of Beethoven piano concertos, which they presented together both live and in recording studios; these performances have been captured in a documentary of the same name.

One of Andsnes’s more than 230 Beethoven concerts took place at the Prague Spring Festival, where – as usual in these projects – Andsnes led the Mahler Chamber Orchestra from the piano. A few years later he appeared at this festival with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, and in 2022 he was invited to give a recital at the Rudolf Firkušný Festival. Andsnes has also appeared with the Czech Philharmonic.

Commander of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav, recipient of the prestigious Peer Gynt Prize, the Gilmore Artist Award and honorary doctorates from the University of Bergen and the Juilliard School of Music in New York, he lives in Bergen with his partner and three children (due to the premature birth of his twins he had to cancel his participation in the Prague Spring Festival in 2013). At the same time, he travels the world, taking up positions as artist-in-residence (e.g., with the Berlin Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic) and is also involved in concert programming. For one season, he curated Carnegie Hall’s “Perspectives” series; he is the founding director of the Rosendal Chamber Music Festival in Norway; and for nearly 20 years has helped direct the Ojai Music Festival in California. He balances his busy soloist career with chamber music, and gives an annual masterclass at the Jiří Hlinka Piano Academy in Bergen, named after the teacher who, along with the Belgian pianist Jacques de Tiege, once became Andsnes’s main and essential guide to the world of piano performance.

Markéta Cukrová  mezzo-soprano

Thanks to her extraordinary versatility and sense of style, the mezzo-soprano Markéta Cukrová is a sought-after performer of vocal music from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Her long-standing success in early music performance has led to collaboration with renowned ensembles and orchestras (including La Risonanza, Collegium Marianum, Collegium Vocale Gent, Collegium 1704, Orkiestra Historyczna, the Czech Philharmonic and the Flemish Philharmonic), with whom she has made more than 20 recordings. Her album of arias by J. D. Zelenka with the Ensemble Tourbillon and her recording of J. J. Ryba’s Stabat Mater with the L’Armonia Terrena orchestra, which received the 2017 Diapason d’Or, are highly acclaimed by the European professional community.

In addition to her extensive concert activity, Cukrová also devotes herself to theater, both in the Czech Republic and abroad (Händel-Festspiele in Göttingen). In recent years, she has been nominated for the Thalia Award for the role of the Wanderer in L’Amour de loin, the Jantar [Amber] Award for Artists of the Moravian-Silesian Region for the portrayal of Bianca in The Rape of Lucretia, and the Classic Prague Award in the concert performance category.

Cukrová studied singing at the State Conservatory in Bratislava and also took private singing lessons with Marie Urbanová. She graduated from the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in English studies. She is also a music teacher and has translated into Czech the book True Singing – a conversation with the successful singing teacher Margreet Honig about singing technique and teaching.

In 2022, Cukrová appeared in Vladimír Sommer’s Vocal Symphony at the Janáček Festival in Brno, enjoying wide critical acclaim. “Cukrová’s self-assured interpretation can be appreciated especially for the absolute clarity of expression, which she unwaveringly maintained throughout.” (Jiří Čevela, Harmonie)

Martin Myšička  spoken word

“I was considered a bohemian at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University and an intellectual at the Theater Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts,” says Martin Myšička, who attended both schools at the same time, about his student years. Although he no longer deals with nuclear physics, he admits that studying it made a great difference, especially because of “the cultivation of rational thinking and analysis, which are useful for everyone.” Myšička is currently the artistic director of the Dejvice Theater, where he applies these skills to directing, which he has recently tried there. However, he is best known as an actor, a profession to which he has devoted himself for more than 20 years, during which he has appeared in more than 3,500 performances. At first he played in the Ypsilon Studio and the National Theater in Prague and was engaged as a guest in the Na zábradlí Theater and the West Bohemian Theater in Cheb. In 1997 he joined the Dejvice Theater, where he has starred in many productions, including The Brothers Karamazov, The Government Inspector, Oblomov, Tales of Ordinary Madness, Dubbing Street, The Elegance of the Molecule and The Murder of Gonzago. He has also worked in television and film, such as Whisper, Identity Card, Lost in Munich; the series Black Barons, The Fourth Star, Cosmo, The Destruction of the Dejvice Theater, Mills of the Gods, and The Settlement. He also likes to work for radio. He and his wife Bára have been subscribers of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra for many seasons, with whom he also occasionally collaborates professionally.

Prague Philharmonic Choir  

The Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC), founded in 1935 by the choirmaster Jan Kühn, is the oldest professional mixed choir in the Czech Republic. Their current choirmaster and artistic director is Lukáš Vasilek, and the second choirmaster is Lukáš Kozubík.

The choir has earned the highest acclaim in the oratorio and cantata repertoire, performing with the world’s most famous orchestras. In this country, they collaborate regularly with the Czech Philharmonic and the Prague Philharmonia. They also perform opera as the choir-in-residence of the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria.

This season, they will appear at four choral concerts of their own, with programmes focusing mainly on difficult, lesser-known works of the choral repertoire. Again this year they will be devoting themselves to educational projects: for voice students, they are organising the Academy of Choral Singing, and for young children there is a cycle of educational concerts.

The choir has been honoured with the 2018 Classic Prague Award and the 2022 Antonín Dvořák Prize.

Lukáš Vasilek  choirmaster

Lukáš Vasilek

Lukáš Vasilek studied conducting and musicology. Since 2007, he has been the chief choirmaster of the Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC). Most of his artistic work with the choir consists of rehearsing and performing the a cappella repertoire and preparing the choir to perform in large-scale cantatas, oratorios, and operatic projects, during which he collaborates with world-famous conductors and orchestras (such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic).

Besides leading the PPC, he also engages in other artistic activities, especially in collaboration with the vocal ensemble Martinů Voices, which he founded in 2010. As a conductor or choirmaster, his name appears on a large number of recordings that the PPC have made for important international labels (Decca Classics, Supraphon); in recent years, he has been devoting himself systematically to the recording of Bohuslav Martinů’s choral music. His recordings have received extraordinary acclaim abroad and have earned honours including awards from the prestigious journals Gramophone, BBC Music Magazine, and Diapason.

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 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.

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 Hrůša has received numerous awards and nominations for his discography. Most recently, he received the Opus Klassik Conductor of the Year 2023 prize and the ICMA prize for Symphonic Music for his recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, and the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik for his recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, both with Bamberg Symphony. In 2021, his disc of Martinů and Bartók violin concertos with Bamberg Symphony and Frank Peter Zimmermann was nominated for BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone awards, and his recording of the Dvořák Violin Concerto with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Augustin Hadelich was nominated for a Grammy Award. 

Jakub Hrůša studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where his teachers included Jiří Bělohlávek. He is President of the International Martinů Circle and The Dvořák Society. 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. 

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