Czech Philharmonic & David Robertson
Martinů / Bartók
Date of EventFriday, 1. 6. 2018 from 20.00
Expected end of the concert 22.10
Event placeMunicipal House – Smetana Hall
Price300 - 1 600 CZK Sold out
- Bohuslav Martinů: Symphony No. 4 H 305
- Béla Bartók: Bluebeard's Castle
- Czech Philharmonic
- David Robertson - conductor
- Petra Lang - mezzo-soprano
- Matthias Goerne - baritone
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The Fourth Symphony H 305by Bohuslav Martinů(1890-1959) is a joyous work welcoming the end of the Second World War with hope for the future, and it is unique in his entire symphonic output for its vigorous surge of youthful energy and the unambiguously positive message it communicates. There would be no repeat of a spontaneous expression of joy with such intensity in Martinů’s oeuvre.
The symphony grows out of a three-note figure, crystallising into joyous opening theme of the bipartite first movement and the broad two-part syncopated motif that constitutes the main initial melodic idea, rippling in minor thirds. The second movement is a dance-like scherzo, and its lyrical Trio presents an oboe melody that the composer regarded as his most beautiful. In the polyphonic Largomovement, we hear chromatic sequences in lovely chordal structures that anticipate the world of the composer’s Fantaisies symphoniques. The concluding Allegro, a exciting, large-scale dance finale in the manner of Dvořák, crowns the whole imaginative yet convincingly sturdy structure of this symphony. The festive sound of the string orchestra is heard in a secondary that paraphrases a motif reminiscent of the work that was dearest to Martinů, the opera Julietta.
Martinů composed his Fourth Symphony between 1 April and 14 June 1945. The symphony was a climax that brought to a close the first phase of the composer’s music from his American period, and it strongly solidified his position among the world’s elite composers. The premiere of the new work took place in Philadelphia on 30 November 1945, played by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the baton of Eugene Ormandy. Rafael Kubelík performed it with the Czech Philharmonic in Prague, and after Kubelík’s departure into exile, the young Václav Neumann conducted it for his first appearance as conductor of the Czech Philharmonic.
In 1911, Béla Bartók(1881-1945) composed his one-act opera Bluebeard’s Castle based on motifs of an old legend, which the librettist Béla Balázs adapted in the manner of gloomy Transylvanian ballads into a versed symbolist drama, the them of which is a man’s solitude and a women’s fateful inability to overcome it. In Bartók’s original, impressive musical drama, along side the two vocal soloists it is the orchestra that plays a decisive, even dominant role, especially in the lengthy musical tableaux inserted into the action. For this reason, Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castletends to be regarded as a symphonic poem with the addition of human voices, and it is played more frequently in the concert hall than on stage, like Bartok’s pantomime drama The Miraculous Mandarin.
The opera’s story is simple: Bluebeard brings his chosen bride Judith to his castle, which is a symbol of his desolate soul. In the dark hall of the castle, Judith sees seven doors and wants to know what is behind them. Bluebeard, however unwillingly, allows this, and Judith opens the doors one after another. The first door conceals a torture chamber, and the second an armoury, then behind the third door are treasures, and behind the fourth is a flowering garden. But everything is stained with blood. The more doors Judith opens, the more light penetrates into the dark castle. The opening of the fifth door reveals all of Bluebeard’s kingdom, and bright light floods everywhere. In vain, Bluebeard warns Judith not to open the other doors, and not to ask about the forbidden secret. When Judith reveals the secret, the past comes to life. She loses her beloved forever, and he again falls victim to his curse of solitude.
In the opera, Bartók employs the characteristics and symbolism of tonalities not only to express the feelings of the dramatic characters, but also to create a descending sequence of minor thirds, creating a closed circle that strikingly structures the dramatic action. It begins in a pentatonic F sharp mode, symbolising Bluebeard’s solitude, and as the doors are opened, the tonality changes to D sharp or E flat. The flood of light sounding as C major soon changes to a melancholy A minor, then finally the tonality returns to the initial pentatonic F sharp, the musical depiction of Bluebeard’s solitude.
Notwithstanding its inimitable originality, the opera is rightly regarded as one of the masterpieces of its genre in the music of the twentieth century, and its premiere took place in Budapest a hundred years ago, on 24 May 1918.
Soon after its founding in 1896, the Czech Philharmonic became the most important Czech orchestra, and even before the First World War, it had established itself great renown in the concert halls of Europe. There is a long list of great conductors who have been at the orchestra’s helm (Václav Talich, Rafael Kubelík, Václav Neumann, Jiří Bělohlávek), and its chief conductor and music director designate is Semyon Bychkov. Besides the orchestra’s intensive recording activity at home and abroad, the orchestra also makes recordings on a regular basis. One recent project of note was recording the symphonies and concertos of Antonín Dvořák (2014, Decca).
David Robertsonis the music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and the chief conductor and artistic director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. As a guest conductor, he regularly leads top orchestras in Europe and the USA (Staatskapelle Dresden, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra). He maintains close ties with a number of leading performers and composers; his recording of the music of John Adams City Noir(Nonesuch Records) won a prestigious Grammy (2014). He is also actively dedicated to supporting young artists, and holds a number of honorary doctorates.
“Matthias Goerneje is one of the most interesting singers of our times.” (Die Presse)
Matthias Goerneis among today’s most sought-after artists. Besides collaborations with the world’s leading conductors and artists, he has made guest appearances at all of the world’s great opera houses (Metropolitan Opera in New York, Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, Teatro Real Madrid etc.). Among the roles for which he is famous are Wolfram, Wotan, Jochanaan. His recordings have earned him several prizes (Gramophone Award, ECHO Klassik), including a Grammy nomination. Among his teachers was the legendary Dietrich-Fischer Dieskau.
“Petra Lang is a consummate artist who sings from her soul” (Jim Pritchard)
A native of Frankfurt, Petra Langstudied with Gertie Charlent and Ingrid Bjoner. As a member of the opera studio of the Bavarian State Opera, she soon became a sought-after singer at a number of prestigious opera houses, and since the beginning of her operatic career, she has been successful singing difficult roles from the operas of Richard Wagner. In addition, she has a busy concert schedule, appearing regularly around the world (Amsterdam, Munich, New York). In 2002, she won two Grammy Awards for her performance of the role of Cassandre (Berlioz, Les Troyens) on a live recording with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Colin Davis.
A personal statement by David Robertson
This is my first time visiting, as well as performing in the Prague Spring and I couldn’t be more excited! I have known and loved the city of Prague since I first visited it in 1980, arriving by bicycle. The beauty, history and culture of it has brought me back many times as a tourist. Prague is a city that I can walk around in for hours, intoxicated by the combination of imagined and lived history of stones that practically speak when you look at them. Having the opportunity to make music with the Czech Philharmonic again is a dream come true.
Our program is a combination of masterpieces from two of my favorite musical landscapes, that of Bohemia and Hungary.
Martinů’s music was something I was able to absorb as a student in London during the 1970’s where many of his scores were published by Boosey and Hawkes and the BBC would broadcast works that otherwise were neglected in the concert halls. I blush to admit that as a 19 year old, I shamelessly borrowed the start of one of his symphonies in my early days as a composer, but I have always agreed that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This will be my first time conducting the 4thSymphony, but the resonance of playing it in the Prague Spring is wonderful.
Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castleis a work of incredible mystery and depth, delving into the very contradictions that exist at the heart of humanity, what Isaiah Berlin referred to as “the dark mass of factors” that make up a human being. The score requires many different colours and shades from an orchestra. In a sense, Bartok was trying to create a score that was both very modern and yet very old, a timeless testament. It requires an orchestra of the highest calibre to provide the aural, psychological background upon which the two vocal protagonists explore the deepest reaches of our identity.
In association with the Bohuslav Martinů Foundation