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Czech Philharmonic • New Year’s Concerts


For this season’s New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day concerts led by Tomáš Netopil, the Czech Philharmonic returns to music of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries -  the “belle époque” -  when French music crossed the boundary of traditional aesthetics and thrilled listeners with beautiful melodies, grand Romanticism, and of course, Impressionism. Let’s dance together into the New Year with charm and elegance!

Programme

Camille Saint-Saëns
Bacchanale from the opera Samson et Dalila, Op. 47

Gabriel Fauré
Sicilienne from the suite Pelléas et Mélisande, Op. 80

Eugène Ysaÿe
Caprice d’après l’étude en forme de valse de Saint-Saëns, Op. 52

Francis Poulenc
Rondeau from the suite Les biches

Camille Saint-Saëns
Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33

Gabriel Fauré
Pavane, Op. 50 

Francis Poulenc
Rag-mazurka from the suite Les biches

Jules Massenet
Meditation, symphonic intermezzo from the opera Thaïs

Maurice Ravel
La Valse

Performers

Josef Špaček violin
Ivan Vokáč cello

Tomáš Netopil conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Marek Eben moderator (There will be a moderator only for the concerts on 1 Jan. 2025.)

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

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

Dress rehearsal
Available seats
369
3
Available seats
687
3
Available seats
580
4
Available seats
440
2
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.

*Marek Eben moderates only concerts on 1. 1. 2025.

From the latter half of the 19th century to the early 20th, French classical music enjoyed one of its richest periods. This era, often called the “belle époque”, was a time of creative blossoming, innovation, and a search for new means of expression. Composers like Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré, Maurice Ravel – who was Fauré’s pupil -and Camille Saint-Saëns played key roles in changing musical aesthetics, enchanting the whole world in the same way their visual arts counterparts did with their creations.

A characteristic feature of French music of this period is the transition from traditional musical forms and harmonies to experimentation featuring a new range of tone colours and musical structures. Ravel’s music, often associated with Impressionism, perhaps departed the most from conventional harmonies and melodic lines, giving rise to an innovative musical language full of colour and rhythm. This music can evoke clear images and intense feelings, and unlike the slightly later attempts by representatives of the Second Viennese School, for listeners, it remains accessible and, to put it honestly, enjoyable.

At its New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day concerts this season, the Czech Philharmonic will celebrate this musical living legacy under conductor Tomáš Netopil. The cocktail of French programming will of course also feature opera and ballet music because combining visual arts, dance, and music led French composers to write such brilliant works as Samson et Dalila, Pelléas et Mélisande, Thaïs, or the lesser known but beautiful ballet Les Biches. Josef Špaček, the former long-time Concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic, together with Principal Cellist Ivan Vokáč appear as soloists. Marek Eben will present both concerts on 1 January for the audience in the Rudolfinum and those tuning in via the live broadcast. 

Performers

Josef Špaček  violin, guest artist

Josef Špaček

“Working with Josef Špaček is amazing. He is a wonderful person with good heart. You can feel this in his playing, which is gracious, teeming with emotion. And his technique is marvellous. He is one of the greatest solo violinists of the present time,” says the conductor Manfred Honeck, under whom the young virtuoso has regularly given concerts, in the Czech Television documentary Devět sezón (Nine Seasons) The 2023 film provides an interesting account of Špaček’s life, also shedding light on his nine-year tenure as the Czech Philharmonic’s concert master.  

Although not having been a member for four years, Josef Špaček has not ceased to collaborate with the Czech Philharmonic, pursuing numerous joint projects. And even though appearing as a soloist with celebrated orchestras worldwide and as a chamber player at the most prestigious concert venues, he continues to perform in Czech towns and remote villages. 

Josef Špaček is a member of the exciting international Trio Zimbalist, giving performances all over the globe. He has regularly appeared in the Czech Republic with the cellist Tomáš Jamník and the pianist Miroslav Sekera, with whom he has created critically acclaimed albums. He has also made recordings with the Czech Philharmonic (featuring Janáček’s and Dvořák’s violin concertos, and Suk’s Fantasy), the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Petr Popelka (Bohuslav Martinů’s music).

Born in 1986 in Třebíč, Bohemia, Josef Špaček showed his exceptional talent at an early age. Music was a natural part of his childhood (his father has been a cellist of the Czech Philharmonic for over three decades, and his siblings played instruments too), as described by his mother in the book Špačci ve fraku. After graduating from the Prague Conservatory 
(under the tutelage of Jaroslav Foltýn), Josef went on to study in the USA, where he attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia (his teachers included Ida Kavafian and Jaime Laredo) and The Julliard School in New York (tutored by Itzak Perlman). 

After completing his formal education, he returned to his homeland, where he was named the youngest ever concert master of the Czech Philharmonic. At the same time, he performed as a soloist and chamber player, garnering international recognition. A watershed in his career was victory at the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, whereupon he began receiving invitations from the world’s most renowned institutions. Due to his having an ever more challenging and busy schedule as a musician – and to his family situation, especially following the birth of three children – he resigned from the post of concert master of the Czech Philharmonic so as to focus solely on being a soloist. Owing to his immense talent and great diligence, his childhood dream to become a famous violinist has come to pass.  

Ivan Vokáč  cello

Ivan Vokáč

Ivan Vokáč has entered his second season with the Czech Philharmonic as concert master of the cello section. He has collaborated with the orchestra for over a decade, including back in 2017, performing in Krzysztof Penderecki’s Concerto Grosso for Three Cellos and Orchestra. Yet he does not appear as a soloist frequently. 

Petr Vokáč has garnered numerous international accolades. He has won first prizes at the Cello Competition in Liezen, the Dotzauer Competition in Dresden, the Bohuslav Martinů Competition in Prague and the Leoš Janáček Competition in Brno. In 2006, he and the violinist Jakub Junek became overall winners at Concertino Praga; in 2012, he advanced to the semi-final of the Prague Spring Competition, thus being the most successful Czech participant. Moreover, he has received awards as a chamber player, including in the Johannes Brahms Wettbewerb in Pörtschach, first as a member of Taras Piano Trio and later with Lobkowicz Trio, which whom he has performed up to the present day. The latter ensemble, made up of Ivan Vokáč, Jan Mráček and Lukáš Klánský, has also won the 2017 Czech Chamber Music Society Award. 

His repertoire is wide-ranging, encompassing several genres. “The classical music performance principles can be perfectly applied in rock, jazz, popular and film music,” says the young cellist. He has closely collaborated with the Cello Republic ensemble (formerly Prague Cello Quartet), who present in concert their own arrangements of classical pieces, as well as non-classical music, enthralling audiences in the Czech Republic and beyond, including within regular tours of Japan. What’s more, Ivan Vokáč plays the piano with Escualo Quintet, focused on authentic performance of Argentine tango. 

Vokáč studied the cello and the piano. Whereas he reserved the former for classical music, the latter satisfied his passion for jazz. Yet neither of the two instruments kindled his early love of music. “As a child, I was fascinated by the double-bass, so much so that whenever it appeared on TV, I’d stand a metre away from the screen and stare spellbound. And when I then got a violin, I would never place it beneath my neck, but lean the instrument against the bed and play it the way the double-bass is played. But try giving a double-bass to a four-year-old boy…,” Vokáč recalls. He would replace the violin with the cello, which he believed would ultimately lead him to the double-bass, yet that would not come to pass. Vokáč would remain faithful to the cello. After taking private lessons from Oldřich Kavale, he studied the instrument at the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts (under the guidance of Miroslav Petráš), and he also attended masterclasses given by renowned cellists (Steven Isserlis, Boris Pergamenshikov, etc.). Ivan Vokáč was subsequently invited to festivals at home and abroad, began working with Czech Radio and Czech Television, before being engaged at the Czech Philharmonic. 

Tomáš Netopil  conductor

Tomáš Netopil

Since the 2018/2019 season, Tomáš Netopil has been the Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, with which he regularly prepares concert programmes at the Rudolfinum and on tours. The 2022/2023 season was his tenth and final as General Music Director of the Aalto Theater and Philharmonic in Essen, Germany. From the 2025/2026 season, he will take up the post of chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra. 

In 2018, Tomáš Netopil created the International Summer Music Academy in Kroměříž, offering students exceptional artistic instruction and the chance to meet and work with major international musicians. In the summer of 2021, in association with the Dvořákova Praha Festival, the Academy established the Dvořák Prague Youth Philharmonic with musicians from conservatories and music academies, coached by principal players of the Czech Philharmonic.

As evidenced by his engagement in Essen, Tomáš Netopil is a sought-after opera conductor. From 2008 to 2012, he was the music director of the Opera of the National Theatre in Prague. Operatic highlights beyond Essen include the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden (La clemenza di Tito, Rusalka, The Cunning Little Vixen, La Juive, The Bartered Bride, and Busoni’s Doktor Faust), the Vienna Staatsoper (his most recent successes include Idomeneo, Der Freischütz, and a new production of Leonore), and the Netherlands Opera (Jenůfa). His concert highlights of recent seasons have included the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich as well as engagements with the Orchestre de Paris, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Orchestra Sinfonica della Rai, the Orchestre National de Montpellier, and Concentus Musicus Wien.

Tomáš Netopil’s discography for Supraphon includes Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass (the first-ever recording of the original 1927 version), Dvořák’s complete cello works, Martinů’s Ariane and Double Concerto, and Smetana’s Má vlast with the Prague Symphony Orchestra. During his tenure in Essen, he has recorded Suk’s Asrael and Mahler’s Symphonies Nos. 6 and 9.

He studied violin and conducting in his native Czech Republic and at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm under the guidance of Professor Jorma Panula. In 2002 he won the inaugural Sir Georg Solti Conductors Competition at the Alte Oper Frankfurt. In his spare time, he likes to fly small planes.

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.

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