In August 2012 the Czech Philharmonic performed after more than 20 years inAustralia. With two sold-out concerts it took a part in the celebrations of the reopening of the Hamer Hall venue in Melbourne after its renovation. The first Czech orchestra was led by the current principal conductor of Prague Chamber Orchestra - Jakub Hrůša. The Australian audience enjoyed predominantly Czech repertoir and the performance of the leading Czech soloists - violinist Josef Špaček and bass singer Jan Martiník.
"With nearly all the music from the performers' homeland, the all-but-full houses were exposed to readings that could hardly be bettered (...) Josef Spacek, the orchestra's recently appointed young concertmaster, played an ardent solo in Suk's Fantasy in G minor, finding more than superficial virtuosity in its substance and making every note count in its episodic progress."
Clive O'Connell, The Age, 29 August 2012
Young czech Bass Jan Martiník was born in 1983 in Ostrava where he studied on Janáček Conservatory and on the University of Ostrava with Eliška Pappová. 2003 he won the International Singing Competition Antonín Dvořák in Karlovy Vary in the category Junior and was also rewarded with the second prize in the category "Lied". Jan Martiník is laureate of the International Competition Jelena Obraztsova, where he won the special prize for the best Tchajkovsky romance. 2007 he was finalist in Placido Domingo´s Competition "Operalia" and in 2009 in Cardiff Singer of the World, where he won the category "Song".
While studying at the university he appeared in roles at the NDM Ostrava, including Pistola (Falstaff), Leporello (Don Giovanni) and Truffaldino (Ariadne auf Naxos). At the National Theatre Prague he sung roles including Masetto (Don Giovanni), Larkens and José Castro (La fanciulla del West), Leporello (Don Giovanni) in the new production in Estates theatre.
From 2008 to 2011 Jan Martiník was a member of Komische Oper Berlin, where he sung roles including Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Colline (La bohème), Surin (Pique Dame) and Nachtwächter (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg). In Volksoper Vienna he sung Betto (Gianni Schicchi), 1.Nazarener (Salome) as well as Zuniga in Carmen. Since 2012/13 Jan Martiník is a member of Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin, where he performes roles including Colline (La Bohéme), Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Eremit (Der Freischütz), as well as Father Trulove (The Rake´s Progress).
In concerts the young Bass was working with well known orchestras such as Czech Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Brimingham Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, as well as the King´s Consort and the Collegium 1704. Amongst other pieces of the concert repertoire he has performed Jesus in St. Matthews Passion, as well as the Aria Part, the Bass Parts in Mozart, Dvořák and Verdiʼs Requiem, Dvořák Te Deum, Beethovens 9. Symphony and Haydns Schöpfung. Jan Martiník is already known for his sincere interpretations of Schubertʼs Winterreise and Dvořák Biblical Songs.
The beauty of his voice matches with a splendid technique and a comical talent, which makes him one of the leading singers of the young generation.
“The Czech Philharmonic is very close to my heart artistically and personally. With the leading orchestra of our country, I have repeatedly experienced moments of beauty and deep feeling on the podium. I regard it as an honor that I may continue to be a part of the innermost musical family of the Czech Philharmonic, now alongside the new Chief Conductor, Semyon Bychkov, and together with my wonderful colleague Tomáš Netopil. I am looking forward to our joint projects, whether they will involve performing the classics from this country and around the world or excursions into the realm of lesser-known repertoire and contemporary music. It is my wish that together, our whole institution might continue successfully and harmoniously along the artistic path begun by Jiří Bělohlávek.“
Jakub Hrůša made his debut with the Czech Philharmonic in 2004 when he stepped in at short notice to conduct a programme of Janáček, Martinů and Dvořák. He had just graduated from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague where Jiří Bělohlávek was amongst his teachers. Hrůša has subsequently conducted the Orchestra in forty concerts at home and on tour and, at the start of the 2015/16 season was appointed Permanent Guest Conductor. This season he conducts the opening concerts of the Czech Philharmonic season and has been named Principal Guest Conductor with effect from the 2018/19 season.
A regular guest with leading orchestras in both Europe and the USA, Jakub Hrůša is also Chief Conductor of Bamberg Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (TMSO), and Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra. He served as Music Director and Chief Conductor of PKF – Prague Philharmonia from 2009 to 2015. Recent orchestral highlights include debuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale dei Santa Cecilia, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, as well as return engagements with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Cleveland Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic. This season he will make his debuts with the San Francisco Symphony and Munich Philharmonic Orchestras.
Equally at home in operatic repertoire, Hrůša is a regular guest of the National Theatre in Prague and Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and between 2010 and 2012 he was Music Director of Glyndebourne on Tour. For Glyndebourne Festival, he has conducted Janáček‘s The Cunning Little Vixen, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Turn of the Screw, Bizet’s Carmen, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Puccini’s La bohème. Elsewhere he has conducted Janáček’s The Makropulos Affair (Wiener Staatsoper), Jenůfa (Finnish National Opera), and Dvořák’s Rusalka (Opéra national de Paris), alongside works by Puccini (Il trittico for Oper Frankfurt) and Mussorgsky (Boris Godunov for Royal Danish Opera). During the 2017/18 season, he returns to Opéra national de Paris for Lehár’s The Merry Widow, makes his debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden with Bizet’s Carmen, and conducts a new production of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa for Glyndebourne Festival.
In the studio, Jakub Hrůša has recorded the Tchaikovsky and Bruch Violin Concertos with the Czech Philharmonic and Nicola Benedetti for Universal; live recordings for Octavia Records of works by Berlioz, Strauss and Suk with the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra; three discs for Pentatone with PKF-Prague Philharmonia; and six discs of Czech music for Supraphon. Marking the start of his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, Hrůša and the Orchestra recorded Smetana’s Má vlast, the first disc in a new partnership with Tudor.
In recognition of his championing of Janáček’s music abroad, Jakub Hrůša was awarded the inaugural Sir Charles Mackerras Prize. He is also President of the International Martinů Circle.
The first years of the nineteenth century represented a critical period in Ludwig van Beethoven’s artistic development. The creative energy that allowed Beethoven to overcome depression caused by incipient deafness was reflected in his Symphony No. 3 in E flat major Op. 55 “Eroica”, whose originality and artistic ambition surpassed everything that he composed before.
The inspiration for the work was provided by the figure of Napoleon Bonaparte, who embodied for Beethoven his own democratic and anti-monarchist ideals. When, however, Bonaparte had himself elected Emperor in November 1803, the disappointed Beethoven crossed out the dedication. The new dedicatee of the work was his patron, Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian von Lobkowicz, at whose chateau in Jezeří (Eisenberg) the work, which continued to carry the title Buonaparte, was first performed in summer 1804. When published in 1806, it was entitled Heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man. The first public performance was on 7 April 1805 at the Theater an der Wien.
Beethoven employed in Eroica a number of techniques and elements previously unusual in the symphonic genre, by the means of which he sought a tighter form for his symphony and a continuous gradation from the beginning to the end. These compositional devices later became the hallmarks of his style; most distinctive are the motivic interrelations among the various musical themes used in the individual movements and the elevation of the coda to a veritable climax of the movement in terms of its musical content. Indeed, in the Third Symphony the coda becomes the second development thanks to the richness of its thematic work and unexpected length. Beethoven also introduces development into movements that are not composed in sonata form: in the Funeral March, which replaces what is usually a slow movement, and in the Finale, a set of variations that also employs elements of the rondo form.
The second composition from Dvořák’s legacy to be heard tonight is Biblical Songs Op. 99, which came into being during his second year on the American continent. Dvořák was homesick, and so he sought solace in the Holy Scripture. In the beginning of March 1894 it got reflected in his work when in just three weeks he set to music David’s Book of Psalms in the Czech translation of the Bible of Kralice. Dvořák apparently worked with its edition of 1863, published on the occasion of “the millennial celebrations of the conversion of the Slavs to the Christian faith,” as stated in its subtitle. Dvořák mentioned “Ten songs after David’s Psalms from the Holy Bible” to Simrock for the first time in his letter from April 1894, followed by another letter in the same month in which Dvořák described Biblical Songs as the best thing he had hitherto created in this area. And he was right. In addition to Dvořák’s typical music, they consist of a number of elements occurring in his other compositions of his “American period”, including pentatonic scales or other interesting features characteristic of African-American music. In Biblical Songs Dvořák also masterfully coped with the problem of a song based on free, almost prosaic verse of the Psalms. The seemingly simple structure of individual songs surprises by original harmonies and remarkable vocal lines ranging from ascetically simple declamation of the text to a broad lyrical cantilena.
Although Bohuslav Martinůlived outside his homeland for most of his life, he was far from indifferent to the fate of Czechoslovakia, and was particularly concerned when the country was under threat during WWII. The Nazi extermination of the village of Lidice in June 1942 was a strong blow to the composer. The Czechoslovak government-in-exile suggested he write a work commemorating the tragedy, which Martinů began to sketch that summer. Thus a particularly distinctive piece of music for symphony orchestra started to come into being, entitled Memorial to Lidice H.296.
The composer completed the work on 3 August 1943 in Darien, Connecticut. He conceived it as a lament in one movement for the victims of the occupation. Its quiet, meditative tones, flowing in a broad melodic current, are an intense eight-minute remembrance of the Lidice event. Soft and subdued music transitions into a harshly painful cry in the french horns, leading to a quotation of the ‘fate motif’ from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – a motif imbued with extraordinary symbolic meaning during the war. Martinů wrote in his diary: “I do not want to excite the nerves, but to speak to the soul.” The first performance was on 28 October 1943 in Carnegie Hall at the occasion of the Czechoslovak Republic’s 25th anniversary, with Arthur Rodziński conducting the New York Philharmonic. A work much respected by the audience and critics alike, Memorial to Lidice was subsequently performed in other cities of the United States.
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