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Czech Philharmonic • Bad Kissingen


The first festival concert will feature the overture to Smetana's opera The Two Widows. Together with French piano virtuoso Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the Czech Philharmonic will also play Ravel's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G major. The grand finale will be Dvořák's Slavonic Dances, Op. 46.

Programme

Bedřich Smetana
The Two Widows, overture to the opera

Maurice Ravel
Piano Concerto in G major

Antonín Dvořák
Slavonic Dances, Op. 46

Performers

Pierre-Laurent Aimard piano

Tomáš Netopil conductor

Czech Philharmonic

Photo illustrating the event Czech Philharmonic • Bad Kissingen

Bad Kissingen — Regentenbau

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Performers

Pierre-Laurent Aimard  piano

Pierre-Laurent Aimard

The French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who was acquainted with Boulez, Messiaen, and Ligeti, is regarded by most listeners as an interpreter of music of the 20th-century avant-garde, but when he appears at famous venues like New York’s Carnegie Hall or the Konzerthaus in Vienna, he also plays older music, bringing a new perspective to its interpretation. He is also unafraid to take on major projects like performing Beethoven’s complete piano concertos, which he programmed to open the 2020/2021 season as the artist-in-residence of the orchestra Musikkollegium Winterthur.

Foremost among the many honours Pierre-Laurent Aimard has received is the prestigious International Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for 2017. As the son of two neuropsychiatrists, it was actually by chance that he discovered music. While going through the attic of a relative, he found various musical instruments including a piano. “It was love at first sight”, he says. At first he studied at the conservatoire in his hometown Lyon, but at age 12 he was invited to join Yvonne Loriod’s studio at the Paris Conservatoire. He was fascinated by music of the 20th century from his childhood, playing his first piece by Schoenberg at seven years of age! Fortunately, he had the chance to develop that interest once he was older. An important step was collaboration with Pierre Boulez and his newly founded Ensemble intercontemporain, and later he advanced his career by working with such leading composers as György Kurtág, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Marco Stroppa, and Olivier Messaiaen. 

Aimard’s 2018 recording of Messiaen’s Catalogue d'oiseaux earned the pianist many awards including Germany’s prestigious critics’ award Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik. He has also won acclaim for recording the complete piano music of György Ligeti, some of whose compositions will be appearing on the programmes of Aimard’s concerts this season in Europe, North America, Japan, and China in honour of the 100th anniversary of Liget’s birth. Also awaiting him are two premieres: a piano concerto by Clara Iannotta at the festival Acht Brucken and the Portuguese premiere of the composition Se da contra las piedras la libertad by Klaus Ospald. He has also engaged in long-term chamber music collaboration with Tamara Stefanović and the jazz pianist Michael Wollny, and with the French actor Denis Podalydès he is preparing a special theatrical project with music by Ligeti, Kurtág, Schoenberg, and Cage. 

Aimard is coming to Prague with Ravel’s Piano Concerto, which he has played with many ensembles including the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and George Benjamin at the BBC Proms, and his comprehension of Ravel’s music is also documented by a recording with the Cleveland Orchestra and Pierre Boulez (2010).

“I wouldn’t say that I’m a pianist—I’m a musician, and the piano just happens to be my instrument. I don’t like to limit myself to just a single function because that limits my perception of music”, says Aimard. Besides performing a wide range of repertoire as a pianist, he has also served in such positions as artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival. He is a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, and teaching has been an important part of this professional life: he has been an instructor at the Cologne University of Music and Dance and at Paris’s College de France, and he gives lecture concerts and workshops. In the spring of 2020 he relaunched his online project Explore the Score, which focuses on interpreting and teaching Ligeti’s music. 

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.

Compositions

Bedřich Smetana
The Two Widows, overture to the opera

Maurice Ravel
Piano Concerto in G major

Thirteen years younger than Debussy, Maurice Ravel followed in the footsteps of the pioneer of Impressionism in many ways while also advancing the style. Already as a young man, he took a different path from that followed by the musical establishment, having been inspired both by Baroque music and by jazz and modern trends. He enjoyed experimenting, and he proudly claimed his Basque ancestry. His output was not large, consisting of piano music, chamber works, two piano concertos, ballets, two operas, and eight song cycles. Being an excellent pianist, he had long toyed with the idea of composing a work for piano and orchestra, but it would not be until the sixth decade of his life that he finished his piano concertos, one quickly after the other. The impetus that led him to write the concertos was his first successful tour of the USA in 1928, after which he planned another tour to present himself as the piano soloist in his new concerto. That tour, however, never took place. In 1932, Ravel suffered a head injury in a traffic accident, and his condition continually worsened over the last five years of his life.

In 1929, Ravel first wrote his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major on commission for the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm during the First World War. Immediately thereafter, he went to work on his Piano Concerto in G major, and in conceiving it he took inspiration from Mozart: “In my opinion, the music of a concerto should be light and brilliant and should not descend into profundity and drama. It is said of certain classics that their concertos were written not ‘for’, but ‘against’ the piano. I agree completely. I intended to give the concerto the title ‘Divertissement’. Then it occurred to me that it was unnecessary to do so because the title ‘Concerto’ ought to be sufficiently clear.” In January 1932, the pianist Marguerite Long gave the work its premiere with Ravel leading the orchestra. It was Ravel’s conducting that got the worst reception from the critics. The soloist’s performance and the work itself received favourable reviews.

The piano takes part in the cheerful uproar right from the beginning, joined playfully by the percussion and piccolo. A moment later, a “jazzy” theme is heard in the piano and echoed by the clarinet, reminding us that the work was intended to captivate American audiences. Jazz enchanted Ravel when he heard it on his American tour, and in his concerto he combined it in an original way with Impressionistic dreaminess and with modern, rhythmicised tectonics. The second movement begins with the solo piano playing a slow, gentle waltz with a melody of breathtaking lyricism in the right hand. The melody is then taken up by the flute, and the orchestra quietly makes its presence felt. The English horn introduces another theme ornamented by the piano’s fanciful garlands, and a long trill illuminates the ending. We know from Ravel’s comments that the Adagio, which makes such a natural, fervent impression, cost him great effort, and he made many changes to it until the very last moment. The short, brilliant finale is entirely in keeping with Ravel’s playful compositional style. The piano alternates virtuosic runs and rhythmic passages with the orchestra, in which the strings get not a moment’s rest. Listeners will not miss the trombone glissandos, the bassoon solo, and whole array of percussion ranging from the whip to the snare drum and even a thump on the bass drum at the very end.

Antonín Dvořák
Slavonic Dances, Op. 46

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