Czech Philharmonic & Cornelius Meister
Date of EventWednesday, 3. 6. 2020 from 20.00
Expected end of the concert 22.10
Event placeMunicipal House – Smetana Hall
Price700 - 2 400 CZK
- Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor Op. 125
- Wolfgang Rihm: Verwandlung 6
- Lukáš Vasilek - master
- Prague Philharmonic Choir
- Lucie Hilscherová - mezzo-soprano
- Cornelius Meister - conductor
- Miah Persson - soprano
- Norbert Ernst - tenor
- Franz-Josef Selig - bass
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This year’s Prague Spring is playing a significant role in the celebrations to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827). For its closing concert the festival returns to its traditional programme culminating in a performance of Beethoven’s monumental Symphony No. 9 and the “Ode to Joy”. The vocal parts have been entrusted to international opera stars. The symphony will be preceded by the piece Verwandlung 6 by Wolfgang Rihm, arguably the most important German composer of our times.
The Czech Philharmonic will be conducted by Cornelius Meister, the illustrious German conducting talent who has had a remarkable career thus far. He gave his debut with the Hamburg Staatsoper at a mere twenty-one years of age, with subsequent engagements taking him to Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper (from 2004) and the Vienna State Opera (from 2012); he has worked at the famous La Scala opera house in Milan since 2015. In 2018 he was appointed General Music Director of the Stuttgart State Opera and Stuttgart State Orchestra. He has also conducted the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris and the celebrated Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. In the 2019/2020 season he will also be returning to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he will conduct Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
“I have a close affinity with Czech music, Czech musicianship and culture,” Cornelius Meister tells us. “I regularly perform not only works by Antonín Dvořák, but also all the symphonies of Bohuslav Martinů and several contemporary works by Miroslav Srnka. Although this will be my first time heading the Czech Philharmonic, and my Prague Spring debut as well, I feel a close bond with their traditions.” The concert programme will give the audience an opportunity to make intriguing comparisons and to note what these two extraordinary composers have in common and what sets them apart, despite being separated by more than two centuries. “Beethoven’s music is very much a part of me at the moment – this season I will be giving performances with the Berlin Philharmonic, in France, and now in Prague. Fortunately, music knows no bounds,” Meister concludes.
Symphony No. 9 in D minor Op. 125 with its “Ode to Joy” is a vast four-movement opus in which, for the first time in symphonic history, the composer incorporated solo and choral parts. This masterpiece continues to overwhelm audiences with its splendour, its nobility and with the eloquence of its message, which appeals for friendship between people and nations. Its triumphant premiere, held in May 1824, was indeed a ceremonious occasion where the stage of the Imperial and Royal Court Theatre of Vienna had to accommodate two orchestras, moreover assisted by competent amateur musicians. And all this in an attempt to meet the composer’s considerable requirements for an ensemble comprising a much greater number of musicians than was customary for the day. After a somewhat vague introduction, the extensive fourth-movement Finale continues with the baritone solo delivering words written by the composer himself (“Oh friends, not these sounds! Let us instead strike up more pleasing and more joyful ones!”), followed by the first stanza of Schiller’s poem, which is echoed by the choir. This was simply unprecedented for the time. It’s no surprise that Beethoven’s Ninth became an inspiration and example for all the great composers who came after him although, until the early 20th century, none of them wrote more than nine symphonies during their lifetime. It was as if the imaginary bar had been set too high. The famous “Ode to Joy”, which was adopted in 1985 as the anthem of what would become the European Union (then the EEC), earned its independence with the passing of time and is now one of the best known melodies in existence.
The gala closing concert will begin with Verwandlung 6 by composer Wolfgang Rihm (*1952), a leading representative of the current German music scene. Written in 2014, this is the latest in the composer’s Verwandlung series, which he began with number one in 2002.
During the course of her varied career Swedish soprano Miah Persson has appeared in some of the world’s finest opera houses, including the Met in New York, the Royal Opera House in London, the Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and Gran Teatre del Liceu. She is also a sought-after concert artist. Her colourful discography contains Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with conductor Iván Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra, and a recital featuring works by Schubert, Sibelius and Grieg, recorded live at London’s Wigmore Hall. In addition to singing she also studied the piano, conducting and musicology.
Lucie Hilscherová is a laureate of various singing competitions, such as Cantilena Bayreuth and Musica Sacra in Rome, among others. She continued her vocal tuition with Ursula Schönhals at the university in Chemnitz, and she also participated in master classes headed by Helen Donath, Gabriela Beňačková and Dagmar Pecková. She makes guest appearances at the National Theatre in Prague, the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava, the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Plzeň and the Nationaltheater Mannheim. As a concert artist she has sung with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, Collegium 1704 and the Janáček Philharmonic in Ostrava. At the Prague Spring 2019 she delighted audience and critics alike with her dazzling solo performance in Prokofiev’s cantata Alexander Nevsky.
A native of Vienna, Norbert Ernst is an internationally acclaimed performer of Wagner’s oeuvre. In addition to the roles of David (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg), Erik (The Flying Dutchman) and Lohengrin, he has become celebrated for his interpretation of Loge (Das Rheingold), a character he performed at the Met in New York, the Vienna State Opera, Deutsche Oper am Rhein and the famous Opéra national de Paris. He gave his Covent Garden debut in 2015 (Ariadne auf Naxos). His vocal skills have led to invitations to a number of prestigious music festivals, in particular, the Bayreuth opera festival, and also the events in Cincinnati, Ohio and Salzburg. As a concert artist he has appeared in Vienna’s Musikverein and the Concertgebouw Amsterdam under such distinguished names as Kirill Petrenko, Ingo Metzmacher, Adam Fischer and many others.
The German bass Franz-Josef Selig is one of the finest performers in his vocal discipline. “Selig’s King Mark was outstanding. His shattering performance of the long monologue was the emotional highlight of the evening,” wrote a critic for the British daily The Guardian. He also gave stunning performances of Sarastro (The Magic Flute), Rocco (Fidelio), Osmin (The Abduction from the Seraglio), Daland (The Flying Dutchman) and Fiesco (Simon Boccanegra) in some of the world’s greatest opera houses (Vienna State Opera, Bavarian State Opera, Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Paris Opera). His commitments for the 2019/2020 season include his participation in a new production of Wagner’s Flying Dutchman at the New York Met under conductor Valery Gergiev.