During September tour, the Czech Philharmonic orchestra with Chief conductor Jiří Bělohlávek will perform four concerts in northern Italy. Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov will appear as a solo guest in Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1.
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.
Described by The Times as the “master of all he surveys” and with The Washington Post noting to “keep your ear on this one”, Behzod’s captivating performances continue to receive international praise.
Recent seasons have seen Behzod work with leading orchestras worldwide, such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, NHK Symphony and prestigious conductors including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Valery Gergiev, Manfred Honeck, Vasily Petrenko, James Gaffigan, Osmo Vänskä, Thomas Dausgaard and Vladimir Jurowski. He also toured China with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and performed at the Festival Piano aux Jacobins in recital and in concert with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse under Tugan Sokhiev.
Continuing his collaboration with The Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev, last season Behzod performed in their Prokofiev Piano Concerto cycle at concerts in Stockholm, Vienna and Dortmund. This was followed by a major tour of the US with them, which included his impressive concerto debut at Carnegie Hall. Shortly afterwards he gave his recital debut in the Weill Hall as part of the “Distinctive Debuts” series which resulted in an immediate reinvitation to the Stern Auditorium.
Behzod’s upcoming European highlights include concert debuts with the Münchner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Gothenburg Symphony. In recital Behzod is one of the featured artists for the Junge Wilde series at the Konzerthaus Dortmund for the next three years, and also gives recitals at Wigmore Hall, London; Salle Gaveau, Paris; MünchenMusik and AMG Konzerte Basel.
In the US, Behzod will make his debut with Seattle and Dallas Symphony orchestras and returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In recital he will appear as part of the People’s Symphony Concerts, New York; Tuesday Evening Concert Series, Virginia; Shriver Hall Concert Series, Baltimore; Spivey Hall, Atlanta and the Washington Performing Arts Series.
An award-winning recording artist – his debut recital CD won both the Choc de Classica and the Diapason Découverte – Behzod released his first concerto disc in 2014 on Decca Classics which features Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 with the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai under Juraj Valčuha.
Born in Tashkent in 1990 Behzod began to play the piano at the age of five. He was a pupil of Tamara Popovich at the Uspensky State Central Lyceum in Tashkent, and studied with Stanislav Ioudenitch at the International Center for Music at Park University, Kansas City, where he is now Artist in Residence.
In June 1924 Leoš Janáček heard a military band concert at a colonnade in Písek, South Bohemia, where among other compositions the band played fanfares. They made a considerable impression on him and remained in his memory until early 1926, when he was commissioned to compose a musical salute to the 8th Sokol Gymnastic Festival in Prague. At first Janáček intended to write a fanfare only, but the piece soon grew into an original symphonic work in five movements. The Czech Sokol Organization accepted the composition and put it on the cultural program of the festival, deciding that the fanfare is to be trumpeted from the tower of the Týn Church during the closing march of the Sokols through Prague.
In retrospective Janáček gave the Sinfonietta the content related to Brno. Under this concept, the second movement after the fanfares represents Špilberk Castle, the third, the monastery in Old Brno, the fourth, Brno’s bustling street life, and the final fifth refers to its town hall.
Sinfonietta has a closed circular form and as regards the tectonics, combines elements of suite and symphony. It opens with a pentatonic fanfare intrada played by nine C trumpets, two bass trumpets and two tenor tubas in the Allegretto tempo. The second movement, Andante, has the elements of sonata form. It features impressive motifs, fresh rhythms and a large number of orchestral colors. The third movement, Moderato, begins quietly with a lyrical theme in the strings, followed by a motif passed on successively to English horn, oboe and violin. The dark syncopated motif of trombones is joined in a high pitch by flutes and piccolos. Then a trombone plays a picturesque dance-like tune and the movement closes with a syncopated theme in the trombones. The fourth movement, Allegretto, has a character of scherzo. Its introductory (and really only) theme is constantly repeated in the woodwind instruments with contrasting interventions of the orchestra. The melancholy music in the flutes at the beginning of the final movement, Andante con moto, is punctuated by dramatic chords of the strings. After another exciting passage in the higher strings, the trumpets play verbatim in unison the opening intrada (actually a retirada now) from the first movement.
At the concert tonight, Sinfonietta will be performed for the first time from a new critical edition, prepared for Universal Edition by the musicologist Jiří Zahrádka from Brno.
In 1892 Dvořák accepted an invitation to the United States for three years and became the director of the National Conservatory in New York. After a short stay overseas, in the winter of 1893 he started working on his new Symphony No. 9 in E minor ‘From the New World’. This composition was conceived in order to prove Dvořák’s theory regarding the use of the characteristic elements of African-American and Native-American music for the emergence of the ‘American national school’, which did not exist at the time of Dvořák’s sojourn in the United States. Experts have debated for more than one hundred years about whether Dvořák used in his symphony specific tunes of Negro songs or not. Dvořák himself gave an ambiguous answer to this question. Once he said, “I’m just finishing a new Sinfonia in E minor. Well, everyone who has instincts must feel the influence of America.” At another time he made a seemingly contradictory statement: “It has been and always will be Czech music.” Another question is to what extent Dvořák could really get to know American music during such a short period of his stay in America, and how much he actually wished to create something for America, which in the beginning treated him so generously and which was certainly very fascinating for him. Structurally, the Ninth Symphony has a very precise, almost textbook form of individual movements. Subconsciously, however, Dvořák must have “quoted” at least one of the familiar tunes since the theme of the first movement is noticeably reminiscent of the Negro spiritual Swing Low Sweet Chariot. The second movement, Largo, might have been inspired by The Song of Hiawatha, while the third movement of the symphony has, according to Dvořák, “something of the Indian character”. In the final fourth movement Dvořák has combined all the themes of the symphony. This perfect management of form in connection with imaginative melodies, harmonies and instrumentation mastery form together a truly unique work of genius. Finally, let us quote from The New York Times in 1893: “We Americans should thank and honor the Bohemian master who has shown us how to build our national school of music.”
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky wrote his first concertante work, the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in B flat minor Op. 23 in 1874, when he was teaching at the Moscow Conservatory. He intended to dedicate the work to a pianist much admired at the time, Nikolay Rubinstein, who was not only Tchaikovsky’s senior colleague, but also a close friend. Rubinstein, however, did not fully appreciate this act: when on 5 January 1875, just before the Orthodox Christmas, the composer played the solo piano part of his recently completed concerto for him, Rubinstein responded with severe criticism and refused to perform the work publicly. He described it as weakly composed, unplayable and vulgar. Following this embarrassment, Tchaikovsky offered his first piano concerto to the German virtuoso pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow, who concertized in Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre the previous year and much impressed the composer.
The first performance of the Piano Concerto in B flat minor took place on 25 October 1875 in America, in Boston Music Hall, where the soloist von Bülow, to whom the work was ultimately dedicated, appeared alongside the American conductor Benjamin Johnson Lang. Before long most of the leading pianists of the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had added the concerto to their repertories. Even Nikolay Rubinstein, who originally spurned the work, conducted its Moscow premiere and often performed the solo part on his European tours.
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