The Czech Philharmonic will tour the United Kingdom in April 2013, appearing in various halls in England, Scotland and Wales. Chief Conductor Jiří Bělohlávekwill lead the orchestra, and pianists Freddy Kempf and Hélène Grimaud, as well as violinist Josef Špaček, will perform as soloists. The Czech Philharmonic will perform six different programs, each of which includes classic works by Czech masters Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák.
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.
Josef Špaček is fast emerging as one of the most accomplished violinists of his generation. He studied with Itzhak Perlman at The Juilliard School in New York, Ida Kavafian and Jaime Laredo at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and with Jaroslav Foltýn at the Prague Conservatory. He was laureate of the International Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, and won top prizes at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in New Zealand, the Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition in Denmark and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York.
Future highlights include return visits to the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI Torino and James Conlon and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Marc Albrecht, as well as debuts with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo and Tomáš Netopil, the Orchestre Philharmonique du Capitole de Toulouse and Thomas Søndergård, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and Christian Vasquez, the Sønderjylland Symphony Orchestra and Johannes Wildner and the Symfonieorkest Vlaanderen and Adrien Perruchon. Highlights in 2016 included subscription concerts with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Valery Gergiev, his debut with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek, his Berlin debut with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin and Thomas Sanderling, his Amsterdam Concertgebouw debut with the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Thomas Søndergård, his Tokyo debut with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and Jakub Hrůša and the Orchestra di Padova e del Veneto and Gerard Korsten, as well as recital debuts in among others Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and La Jolla, San Diego. He also was the soloist of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Jiří Bělohlávek during their Asia tour.
Josef Špaček has served as concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the youngest in its history. The orchestra has named him “Associate Artist” as of January 2016.
In addition to the aforementioned orchestras, Josef Špaček makes solo appearances with orchestras across Europe, the US and Asia, such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Essener Philharmoniker, Tonkünstlerorchester Niederösterreich, Orchestre National de Belgique, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Orquesta Filarmónica de Málaga, Kansas City Symphony and Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
He collaborates with conductors such as Christoph Eschenbach, Manfred Honeck, Asher Fisch, Roy Goodman, Eliahu Inbal, Jun Märkl, Giordano Bellincampi, Tomáš Netopil, Marco Angius and Rossen Milanov.
Josef Špaček gives numerous recitals in Europe (including at the Konzerthaus in Vienna and at Schloß Elmau), Asia and the USA.
April 2015 saw the Supraphon CD release of his highly praised recording of the violin concertos of Dvořák and Janáček, and of the Fantasy of Suk, with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek (among others “Recording of the week” of The Sunday Times, “Recording of the month and of the year” of MusicWeb International and 5* in Diapason). In 2013 Supraphon released his recording of works for violin and piano by Smetana, Janáček and Prokofiev with pianist Miroslav Sekera.
Josef Špaček plays a violin made in 1855 in the workshop of Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume.
She could be called a Renaissance woman for our times. Hélène Grimaud is a woman with multiple talents that extend far beyond the instrument she plays with such poetic expression and peerless technical control. The French artist has established herself as a committed wildlife conservationist, a compassionate human rights activist and as a writer.
Grimaud was born in 1969 in Aix-en-Provence where she began her piano studies at the conservatory with Jacqueline Courtin and subsequently under Pierre Barbizet in Marseille. She was accepted into the Paris Conservatoire at just 13 and won first prize in piano performance a mere three years later. She continued to study with György Sándor and Leon Fleisher until, in 1987, she gave her well-received debut recital in Tokyo. The same year the renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim invited her to perform with the Orchestre de Paris.
This marked the launch of Grimaud’s musical career; one highlighted by concerts with most of the world’s major orchestras and many celebrated conductors. Her recordings have been critically acclaimed and awarded numerous accolades, among them the Cannes Classical Recording of the Year, Choc du Monde de la musique, Diapason d’or, Grand Prix du disque, Record Academy Prize (Tokyo), Midem Classic Award and the Echo Award.
Despite her divided dedication to these multiple passions, it is through Grimaud’s thoughtful and tenderly expressive music-making that she most deeply touches the emotions of audiences. Fortunately, they have been able to enjoy her concerts due to her extensive touring programme with major orchestras around the world. Her 2013 calendar includes performances in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Russia, the USA, Brazil, China and Japan with, amongst others, the London Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic, Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo, St Petersburg Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Brahms features prominently in Grimaud’s programming repertoire throughout 2013. This past September Deutsche Grammophon released her album of the two Brahms piano concertos; the first concerto with Andris Nelsons conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the second recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic.
Grimaud is also an ardent and committed chamber musician who performs frequently at the most prestigious festivals and cultural events with a wide range of musical collaborators that has included Sol Gabetta, Thomas Quasthoff, Rolando Villazón, Jan Vogler, Truls Mørk, Clemens Hagen and the Capuçon brothers.
An exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since 2002, her album prior to the Brahms concertos was Duo, a collaboration with cellist Sol Gabetta, which won the 2013 Echo Award for “chamber recording of the year” and has been nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music / Small Ensemble Performance. The disc was released in October 2012 and that autumn the pair gave a series of concerts in Germany and France, performing the cello sonatas by Schumann, Brahms, Shostakovich and Debussy which are featured on the disc. Other DG recordings by Grimaud include Bach’s solo and concerto works in which she directed the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen from the piano bench, and a Beethoven disc with Staatskapelle Dresden and Vladimir Jurowski, Reflection and Credo (both of which feature a number of works linked thematically), a Chopin and Rachmaninov Sonatas disc, a Bartók CD with Grimaud playing the Third Piano Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez and a DVD release of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra under the direction of Claudio Abbado.
Symphony No. 7 in D minor, Op. 70,one of Antonín Dvořák’s masterworks, was written at the invitation of the Royal Philharmonic Society in London, which made the composer an honorary member in 1884. At that time Dvořák already enjoyed in England the unshakeable position as one of the greatest living composers. In late November 1884, he completed the score of his cantata, The Spectre’s Bride, and since the Philharmonic Society planned to present the world premiere of Dvořák’s new symphony – to be conducted by the composer – as early as the spring of the next year, he quickly started work on it. He completed the opus within three months and on 22 April 1885 he could introduce it at a Philharmonic Society concert in St James’s Hall, London.
The dramatic, sombre atmosphere of the Seventh Symphony, rich in ideas and a masterpiece of form, is often put into the context of the Czech nation’s struggle for identity within the multinational Habsburg Empire. Even if we abstract from the possible connections with the social, cultural and political situations of the Czechs at the time, we see that the symphony’s message is readily intelligible as a general statement about human existence.
The opening movement – Allegro maestoso – unusually starts in pianissimo with a plaintive, gloomy main theme in violas and cellos. The auxiliary theme, in B flat major, brings a sudden change of atmosphere, but its clarity is soon disrupted: the internal struggle continues and the doubts are far from being dispelled. Despite an airy melody presented by the clarinet, the lyrical second movement gradually develops an increasingly urgent and agitated aspect. The third movement that follows – Scherzo – is perhaps the work’s best-known. It is distinguished by a strong rhythm in its main theme, but its carefree dance character is dampened both by the D minor tonality and a contrasting countermelody, adding a certain melancholy to its liveliness. Like the opening Allegro maestoso, the final movement is in sonata form. After a dramatic surge, the gloomy atmosphere lightens up – it is as if the conclusion, in D major, symbolised a firm determination and a convincing victory of the will.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) created five piano concertos, leaving unfinished the sixth one which he began in 1815. He built on Mozart’s legacy and developed it further in the presentation of the solo part; he strived for the unity of thought within movements as well as in their mutual relationship, and expanded the harmonic means. The introduction of Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 5 in E flat major Op. 73 confirms the main key; then comes the orchestral exposition which is repeated in modified harmonies. The whole first movement oscillates between the major and minor keys; the change of moods is supported by a contrast of the thematic material. The second movement anticipates the Romantic period by its meditative lyricism. Its conclusion features the theme of the final movement, which moves from the second movement into the third one without interruption. Formally, it is a sonata rondo with an extensive coda.
Piano Concerto in E flat major was composed in 1809 and completed in February 1810; Beethoven dedicated it to his pupil and patron Archduke Rudolf of Habsburg. That same year the concert was published in London; the epithet Emperor was coined by its English publisher. In 1811 the score was also published by Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig, where on 28 November 1811 the concerto had its world premiere at the Gewandhaus with the soloist Johann Christian Friedrich Schneider. The Vienna premiere the following year, on 11 February 1812, was performed by another pupil of Beethoven, Carl Czerny. Within a very short time Piano Concerto in E flat major became the most popular of all five piano concertos by Beethoven.
In 1875, at the age of thirty-four, Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) composed his breakthrough work – Symphony No. 5 in F major, Op. 76 – within a mere seven weeks. At the time, his financial situation had finally begun to take a turn for the better, and as a result of being granted a scholarship his standard of living markedly improved.
Dvořák’s Fifthbecame a seminal piece owing to the forcible formal treatment of its movements, in which the composer was able to apply the essence of his bountiful creative inventiveness and masterfully “put it together”. The compositional language became crystal clear and Dvořák could thus manifest his singular style as a mature symphonist. In expressive terms, the first three movements and the finale come across as contrastive. The music vaults from the pastoral tones of the introductory movement through the lyrical and melancholic slow movement to the lightened dance scherzo. The fourth movement ushers in a totally different type of music – a torrential drama that is one of the most virtuosic accomplishments within Dvořák’s orchestral creation.
When, thirteen years after completing his Symphony No. 5, Dvořák was about to deliver it to Simrock, he had revised the work. And when carrying out the modifications, he decided to dedicate the composition to the world-renowned German conductor Hans von Bülow. In a letter dated 25 November 1887, Bülow replied: “Most honoured Master! A dedication from you – alongside Brahms, the most gifted composer of the present day – is a decoration higher than a Grand Cross from a prince. With the most heartfelt thanks, I accept this honour. Your devoted admirer Hans von Bülow.”
Symphony No. 5 in F major, Op. 76, was premiered in March 1879 in Prague under the baton of Adolf Čech. Nine years passed before its first performance abroad, on 7 April 1888 at the Crystal Palace in London, conducted by August Manns. The English composer and music critic Charles Barry wrote in a letter to Dvořák: “Dear friend! I take pleasure in being perhaps the first to inform you that yesterday your symphony Op. 76 was wonderfully performed and really warmly received. Without doing injustice to the others, I am compelled to say that the final movement is truly inspired and written in a masterful form.”
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