In May and June 2014, the Czech Philharmonic will be touring South Korea and China. Under the baton of Chief conductor Jiří Bělohlávek, the orchestra will perform in Seongnam, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou.
Concert programme includes pieces by Dvořák, Smetana, Brahms, von Weber and Beethoven. In Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 1 and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3, the orchestra will be joined by the renowned English pianist Paul Lewis.
26. 5. 2014 / SOUTH KOREA / SEONGNAM
28. 5. 2014 / SHANGHAI
31. 5. 2014 / BEIJING
1. 6. 2014 / BEIJING
4. 6. 2014 / HONG KONG
3. 6. 2014 / HONG KONG
6. 6. 2014 / GUANGZHOU
Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Czech Philharmonic
Principal Guest Conductor, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor Laureate, BBC Symphony (London)
Renowned Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek was appointed Music Director and Artistic Director of the Czech Philharmonic in 2012, following on from his successful tenure as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, of which he is now a Conductor Laureate. He was Chief Conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra (1977–89), Music Director of the Prague Philharmonia (1994–2004), was appointed President of the Prague Spring Festival in 2006. From 2013 to 2017, he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
In opera, he has collaborated with the Vienna State Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Opéra National de Paris, the Teatro Real Madrid, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Zurich Opera, and the National Theatre in Prague. He has also conducted and recorded several opera-in-concert presentations with the BBC Symphony, to great acclaim. Confirming his preeminence as the conductor of Janacek, this past season he conducted the Czech Phil in a concert presentation of Jenůfa at the London Royal Festival Hall, as well as in full production the San Francisco Opera. This was followed by a performance of Janacek The Makropulos Case with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the BBC Proms.
Under his leadership the Czech Philharmonic is enjoying unprecedented success both at home in Prague, and on extensive tours. Together they have toured in the past three seasons on three continents, including Europe, Asia and North America. Their recent residency in Vienna at the Musikverein was a great success, and has lead to similar events being planned in other world capitals. The Czech Philharmonic announced in January 2017 that their partnership with Maestro Bělohlávek is now officially extended to 2022!
In addition to his ongoing Prague seasons and touring engagements with the Czech, he continues to perform as a guest conductor with the world’s major orchestras, including recent appearances with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (including at the London Proms), New York Philharmonic, Pittsburgh Symphony, Washington National Symphony, and Deutsches Symphony Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and Vienna Symphony Orchestra. In the coming season, in addition to major projects with Czech Phil, he looks forward to engagements with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Bayerische Rundfunk Orchestra Munich, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, St Petersburg Philharmonic, and more.
With the Czech Philharmonic, he will conduct a major Asian tour in Autumn 2017 with concerts in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, in addition to appearances on tour in Europe, the highlight of which will be a performance of Janáček Glagolitic Mass at the Salzburg Festival in August 2018.
Jiří Bělohlávek has recorded extensively, with recent projects with the Czech Philharmonic including the complete symphonies and concertos of Dvořák. The series with Decca continues in the coming season, when a major disc of Suk will be recorded.
In 2012 he was awarded an honorary CBE for his services to British music.
Perceived as the first German national opera, Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz remains a vivid and popular work. It was premiered in Berlin’s Schauspielhaus on 18 June 1821 and soon thereafter mounted at Prague’s Estates Theatre (29 December 1821). Weber had a personal relationship with the latter opera house: he was its music director from 1813 to 1816, and conducted Der Freischütz there in February 1822 and for its fiftieth performance in November 1823. Often performed as a stand-alone concert work, the overture to Der Freischütz summarises, in a nutshell, the story of the whole opera, using leitmotifs which Weber deployed to characterise the “dramatis personae”. In particular, the overture foregrounds the conflict between the huntsmen’s idyll and the dark forces – a favourite romantic topic. The action takes place in Bohemia after the Thirty Years War. The important place of Der Freischütz in Czech culture is due in no small part to Jan Nepomuk Štěpánek, in whose translation the work was performed as Střelec kauzedlník, one of the earliest operas sung in Czech. In the 1820s no less than in the 1950s and 1960s, Der Freischütz was among the most frequently performed operas in the Czech lands.
In 1854, Johannes Brahms (1833–1897) sketched a sonata for two pianos. Two years later, he brought the idea to fruition in the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in D minor Op. 15. The piece was premiered to great acclaim on 23 January 1859 in Hanover; four days later, it was performed at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig – on both occasions, Brahms himself played the piano and the concerts were conducted by his friend Joseph Joachim. The reception in Leipzig, however, was negative, with the critics denouncing the piece as unfinished, pointing out that “the motifs are undeveloped, the harmony maimed and the rhythm staggering on weak legs, the technique is schoolboyish...”
Two months later, on 24 March 1859, Brahms performed the concerto in his native Hamburg and it again met with a good reception. The work was further promoted by Clara Schumann, who first played it, with Brahms conducting, in Hamburg on 3 December 1861. The first movement opens with a long exposition of the orchestra, while the piano, besides the exposition themes, introduces its own theme, which is treated in the development. The calm of the second movement corresponds to the words “Benedictus, qui venit in nomine Domini” (Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord), which Brahms wrote at the head of its score. The concluding Rondo is dominated by an energetic idea, which is compensated by more lyrical passages and two piano cadenzas.
Dvořák composed Symphony No. 6 in D major, Op. 60 spontaneously in the fall of 1880. It is the first work of Dvořák’s symphonic series to be published in print and as the first of all his symphonies it was performed abroad. The symphony was created during a short time span. Dvořák sketched it between 27 August and 20 September 1880 and finished the score soon afterwards between 27 September and 15 October. This took place in his “Slavic” period when during the previous two years 1878–1880 he composed three Slavonic Rhapsodies, the first series of his Slavonic Dances, Czech Suite and Violin Concerto in A minor.
Symphony No. 6 is an optimistic work with a warm and sunny atmosphere. Dvořák said that he tried to write a viable work which would please him as well. The countless reviews and analyzes of this composition are clearly dominated by the opinion that this is an essentially intrinsically Czech work of a healthy and earthy character, very pleasant and typical of Dvořák. It is undoubtedly also thanks to the fiery dance furiant, suggesting an affinity with Slavonic Dances. The Symphony in D major has a classical formal structure and its sections are well balanced. Its symphonic expression is enriched by a strong national accent. The sonata allegro of the first movement overflows with jubilant joy; Dvořák here primarily works with the main idea. In doing so he lavishly presents a number of other great musical ideas. Adagio of the second movement in the form of song is deeply meditative as well as lyrical. Scherzo of the third movement is a stylization of furiant with two vivid themes and, which has a gentle charm of a trio. The finale is a culmination of previous sections with dazzling joy and celebration of life.
Franz Schubert (1797–1828) began writing his Symphony in B minor “Unfinished”,in the autumn of 1822. The autograph contains two full movements and one incomplete. Numerous theories have been posited as to why Schubert set the work aside. One such has it that the symphony was intended for the Music Society in Graz, where, much later, after Schubert’s death, the two complete movements were found. After their discovery, it was assumed that the composer had interrupted his work so as to study counterpoint, and never returned to it.
The “Unfinished” symphony (the two extant movements) was first performed in public, conducted by Johann Herbeck, on 17 December 1865 at Vienna’s Reduta, with the critics lauding it as a “pearl of rare beauty”. The first movement is opened by cellos and double-basses, which are joined by other strings, with the theme appearing in the thirteenth bar, as delivered by oboes and clarinets. The secondary theme is a stylised derivation of an Austrian country dance, the Ländler. Following a dramatic development, the repetition brings back the mood of the exposition. The second movement, akin to the first in terms of atmosphere, is made up of two thematic areas, variations of two-bar motifs. Comparison between the completed movements and the sketch of the Scherzo reveals a discrepancy that was not possible (nor necessary) to arch over, as Schubert himself evidently realised. That which he expressed in the two movements comes across as a self-contained whole.
Symphony No. 7 in A major Op. 92, completed in 1812, represents atonement and a levelling of the different poles reflected in the dramatic Symphony No. 5 and the joyous Symphony No. 6. Beethoven’s contemporaries sought a “programme” back in the Third, Fifth and Sixth,and the Seventh too was subject to additional interpretations. Wagner branded it an “apotheosis of dance”, Beethoven’s biographer Herriot saw in it the composer’s retreat to intoxicating pleasure, while the philosopher Nietzsche sought in the music the secret of the origin of art.
The first sketches of Op. 92 date from 1806, yet Beethoven only began intensively dedicating to its composition in October 1811. In April of the next year, he drew up the definitive version of the score. Even though this period was a far from easy one, Beethoven imbued Symphony No. 7 with music teeming with joy and vital energy. The Allegretto of the second movement, however, seems to be from a different world, with the three-part form of the theme with variations in marching rhythm comprising something grievous and thus within the context of the other movements becoming the ideational centre of the entire piece. In its time, the gradated finale came across as the greatest surprise. The Symphony in A major was first performed in public on 8 December 1813.
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