Academy of St Martin in the Fields Academy of St Martin in the Fields Academy of St Martin in the Fields
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Academy of St Martin in the Fields

Date of Event

Thursday, 21. 5. 2020 from 20.00
Expected end of the concert 22.00


650 - 4 000 CZK Sold out

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  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Coriolan, Overture Op. 62
  • Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 in D major Op. 36
  • Robert Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 54


  • Academy of St Martin in the Fields
  • Murray Perahia - piano, conductor
  • Tomo Keller - leader

Concert partner

The extensive discography of American pianist Murray Perahia clearly reflects his close affinity with Robert Schumann (1810-1856). Whether it’s his flawless performance of Kreisleriana Op. 16 or the fascinating recording of Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 54 with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic, it is through Schumann’s music that Perahia always gives the best of his exceptional mastery at the piano. A critic from the American daily The Seattle Times described Perahia succinctly and aptly: “The soul of a poet, the mind of a thinker, the hands of a virtuoso.” Characteristics which, in fact, could very well be applied to Schumann himself.

The composer’s only piano concerto is more an extended musical poem than a concerto in the true sense, where the orchestral parts and solo piano are resourcefully interwoven. The famous lyrical A minor theme occurring at the start of the first movement had been used by Schumann back in 1839 for his Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra; at the request of his wife, the excellent pianist Clara Schumann, he then added another two movements in the years 1841-1845. “I think the last movement is a wedding, but a Shakespearean wedding, with magic dust and the atmosphere of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Perahia stated in an interview shortly before his performance with the Berlin Philharmonic in 2012.

The spirit and joy

The concert will open with Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, whose dramatic temperament is fully consistent with the stage play by Heinrich Joseph von Collin that inspired it. The latter half of the concert will feature Beethoven’s Second Symphony.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) wrote his Symphony No. 2 in D major Op. 36 in 1802, when he retired to the seclusion of the small Austrian town of Heiligenstadt, just outside Vienna, in order to try to come to terms with his gradual loss of hearing. It was during this period that he wrote his Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter to his brothers which records his thoughts of suicide and describes how he found the inner strength to ward off his dark thoughts and the resolve to continue composing. The spirit and joy radiating from this symphony are a reflection of Beethoven’s indomitable will. The slow introduction carries with it a certain sense of destiny, yet the mood of the music soon transforms into one of elation. The close of the symphony brings an enchanting measure of hyperbole, where the dramatic motif is exchanged for playful lightheartedness, and the audience finds itself trying to suppress a smile. The fierce and utterly surprising invention which Beethoven invested in this opus augurs the revolution he brought about through his subsequent symphonies. In this respect the Second Symphony might seem more docile to us today, but an article printed in the Vienna-based Zeitung für die elegante Welt [Newspaper for the Elegant World] in 1804, namely a year after its premiere, suggested otherwise: “Beethoven’s Second Symphony is a crass monster, a hideously writhing wounded dragon that refuses to expire and, though bleeding in the Finale, furiously beats about with its tail erect. On the other hand, only a few years later, composer Hector Berlioz declared that “this symphony is smiling throughout”.

Perahia – pianist & conductor

American pianist and conductor Murray Perahia began playing the piano from a very young age. A close friend of the legendary Vladimir Horowitz, in 1972 he was the first American to win the Leeds International Piano Competition. At the Aldeburgh music festival a year later he became acquainted with composer Benjamin Britten and singer Peter Pears, with whom he collaborated in subsequent years. During his long career Perahia has performed in concert halls all over the world, and his recordings have earned two Grammys and several awards from the prestigious music magazine Gramophone. In recognition of his musical endeavours, he received an honorary KBE from Her Majesty the Queen in March 2004. He also holds master classes for young pianists. As he has stated in numerous interviews, he hopes to be able to inspire them towards a thorough understanding of the music; only then can each player grow as individuals. He also produced and edited recordings of master classes given by the legendary pianist Alfred Cortot.

Perahia was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in 2000. He didn’t accept the offer in order to move away from the piano. On the contrary, Perahia perceives conducting as an extension of his commitment to chamber music and as another opportunity to make sense of the perfection of musical structures. We have seen this for ourselves at the Prague Spring on various occasions – this is his seventh appearance at the festival since 2004.

The first concert given by the internationally acclaimed chamber orchestra Academy of St Martin in the Fields was held in 1959, conducted by its founder, a specialist in the period interpretation of early music, Sir Neville Marriner. This season thus marks their sixtieth anniversary. The Academy, who built up a sturdy repertoire over the years dominated by music from the Baroque and Classical eras, takes pride in its remarkable discography numbering over 500 recordings, which include the soundtrack for Miloš Forman’s Oscar-winning film, Amadeus. Generally performing without a conductor, this unique ensemble appears in Europe, the United States, South America and Asia. Its Music Director since 2011 is distinguished American violinist Joshua Bell, while a key role is also played by Director/Leader violinist Tomo Keller. Like Murray Perahia, the orchestra focuses on the education of young musicians, and also devises social outreach programmes aimed at senior citizens and homeless people.