Concert to mark the Anniversary of the Founding of the State of Israel – CHANGE
Schönberg / Mendelssohn / Bernstein
Date of EventMonday, 14.5. 2018 from 20.00
Event placeMunicipal House – Smetana Hall
Price250 - 1 400 CZK Sold out
- Arnold Schönberg: A Survivor from Warsaw Op. 46
- Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64
- Leonard Bernstein: Symphony No. 3 "Kaddish"
- Prague Symphony Orchestra
- Tomáš Brauner - conductor
- Julian Rachlin - violin
- Pavla Vykopalová - soprano
- Vladimír Polívka - narrator
- Pueri Gaudentes
- Zdena Součková - choirmaster
- Prague Philharmonic Choir
- Jaroslav Brych - choirmaster
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Tomáš Brauner Standing in for the Conductor Leonard Slatkin
The Prague Spring festival regrets to report that the American conductor Leonard Slatkin has undergone a major surgical procedure, forcing him to cancel his appearance at the concert on14 May at the Municipal House. The programme will remain unchanged, and standing in for Leonard Slatkin will be the conductor Tomáš Brauner(who has, incidentally, been involved with the project from the beginning, because Mr. Slatkin entrusted him with conducting preliminary rehearsals of the Bernstein symphony). The Prague Spring team wishes Mr. Slatkin a quick recovery and looks forward to future cooperation with him!
Prague-bornTomáš Braunerranks among the most sought-after conductors of his generation. He studied at the Prague Conservatoire (oboe and conducting) and the Academy of Music in Prague (conducting), subsequently furthering his education during a residency at Vienna‘s Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst. In 2010 he became laureate of the Dimitris Mitropoulos Conducting Competition in Athens. He is currently principal conductor of the Plzeň Philharmonic Orchestra and chief guest conductor of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. He works regularly with major symphony orchestras (Prague Symphony Orchestra, PKF – Prague Philharmonia, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, Ostrava Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra and others) and opera houses (J.K. Tyl Theatre in Plzeň, State Opera Prague, or Moravia-Silesia National Theatre in Ostrava). He has guest appeared at prestigious international festivals (Bad Kissingen, Richard Strauss Festival in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Prague Spring, Litomyšl Smetana Fest, Český Krumlov), and conducted Janáček’s Jenůfaat the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City.
New – Mastercard Lounge
Order refreshments at intermission and avoid standing in a queue! During concert intermissions at the Municipal House, the Mastercard Lounge with a special menu will be open to Mastercard holders. You will receive a voucher entitling you the enter the salon, which is otherwise restricted.
For more information please click here.
In 2018, the violinist, violist, and conductor Julian Rachlin will be the Artist-in-Residence of the Prague Spring festival. He will be presenting the entire breadth of his talents at four festival concerts. First, he will be the soloist in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto on 14 May. At his recital on 16 May, accompanied by the pianist Itamar Golan, he will be heard playing the famed Stradivarius “ex Liebig” violin built in 1704, and also a superbly crafted viola from the workshop of Lorenzo Storioni (1785). This promises to be an experience that (not only) lovers of chamber music should not miss. He will be playing chamber music at his third appearance on 21 May, and on 23 May he will conduct the PKF – Prague Philharmonia. To open the concert, he will be accompanying the winner of last year’s Prague Spring International Music Competition, the violinist Olga Šroubková. In the final round of the competition, she dazzled the jury with her performance of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. At her Prague Spring appearance, she will play Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5.
Returning to this concert – the Artist-in-Residence Julian Rachlin will perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64. The Prague Symphony Orchestra under the baton of the famed American conductor Leonard Slatkin will also present two quite extraordinary compositions – Schoenberg’s cantata A Survivor from Warsaw and Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3 “Kaddish”.
At this concert, there will be a symbolic intersection of a triple dedication: the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, who was closely associated with the first two annual Prague Spring festivals (the first annual festival witnessed his European debut), and commemoration of a figure behind the founding of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, Rudolf Pekárek. His confrontation with the communist regime (coincidentally in the year when the State of Israel was founded, not long after the Nazi persecution) forced him to choose emigration. All three of these dedications have one thing in common: resilience and stamina in the search for a path to the Promised Land.
The cantata A Survivor from Warsaw Op. 46 for narrator, men’s chorus, and orchestra, is one of the works in which Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) openly declared his adherence to the Jewish faith. This evocative work cannot fail to fill the listener with a sense of horror. Schoenberg had originally written the work on commission for the Russian dancer Corinne Chochem, but she withdrew from collaboration with the composer for financial reasons. Schoenberg offered the work in a modified form to the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, which had approached him with a commission for a new work. This musical depiction of one of the most horrifying events of the Second World War, the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, works very effectively with contrasts. The agitated voice of the narrator presents a monologue with interjections of commands in German. The almost fragmentary music of the beginning becomes more integrated in the second half of the work, as the instrumentation becomes denser. Finally, the prayer Shema Yisrael, the creed of the Jewish faith, is sung by men’s choir at the very conclusion of the work with the accompaniment of the full orchestra. All of this makes the brief but effective work one of Schoenberg’s most fascinating compositions.
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (1809-1847) composed his Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64 for his long-time friend, the outstanding violinist Ferdinand David, to whom he wrote: “I would like to compose a concerto for you for next winter; the introduction in E minor keeps running through my head. The melody doesn’t give me any peace.” Mendelssohn spent a long time composing the concerto, which he conceived from the beginning as a grandiose work, over which “the angels in heaven will rejoice.” Although the score was officially finished in September 1844, it continued to undergo constant revisions almost up to the premiere on 13 March 1845 in Leipzig. Because of illness, Mendelssohn was unable to conduct the premiere. Ferdinand David played the solo part. An instant success, the concerto was regarded from the very beginning as one of the most beautiful works of its genre thanks to Mendelssohn’s harmonic inventiveness and also thanks the virtuosic solo part, of course. As the famed violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim stated in 1906: “The Germans have four violin concertos. The greatest, most uncompromising is Beethoven’s. The one by Brahms vies with it in seriousness. The richest, the most seductive, was written by Max Bruch. But the most inward, the heart’s jewel, is Mendelssohn’s..”
The concert will end with the Symphony No. 3 “Kaddish” for orchestra, mixed choir, boy’s choir, narrator, and mezzo-soprano by the American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). This multigenre musical image crosses over deeply into philosophy. The Kaddish, a Jewish hymn of praise, appears in the title of each of the composition’s three movements. Like Schoenberg, Bernstein wrote both the music and the text.
“The concert was throughout a triumph of musical execution and often expression. Slatkin’s engagement revealed that 70 could be the new 50 if music flows strongly in your veins.”
This season, after a remarkable ten years, the American conductor Leonard Slatkin will be retiring from his role of music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and at the same time, he is becoming the conductor emeritus of the Orchestre Nationale Lyon. During the many years of his career, he has appeared in a long list of concert halls in Europe, the USA, and Asia. His discography encompasses more than a hundred recordings, seven of which have earned prestigious Grammy awards, while more than sixty have been nominated for that prize. He is also the author of two books in which he reveals to his listeners the environment of the contemporary world of classical music.
“Julian feels music from the depth of his heart.”
The violinist, violist, and conductor Julian Rachlin is a graduate of the Vienna Conservatory (Boris Kushnir), and he was also a private student of Pinchas Zukerman. Winning the title of Eurovision Young Musician of the Year in 1988 was a major achievement for him, and it was followed by his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic under the baton of Riccardo Muti. His busy concert schedule includes collaborations with the Munich Philharmonic, the La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra. He plays the Stradivarius “ex Liebig” built in 1704.
About the choir
The Prague Philharmonic Choir is one of Europe’s leading vocal ensembles. Its domain is primarily the cantata and oratorio repertoire, which it performs regularly in collaboration with the world’s leading orchestras (Berlin Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic) and conductors (Daniel Barenboim, Manfred Honeck, Jakub Hrůša). In addition to a large number of projects to its credit, the choir has an extensive discography. In recent years, it has made recordings for the Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Sony Classical, and Supraphon labels. Lukáš Vasilek has been its chief choirmaster since 2007.
Jaroslav Brych first completed studies in the French horn performance at the Pardubice Conservatory in O. Tvrdý’s class and then conducting in the Prague Academy of Performing Arts at V. Neumann, J. Veselka and R. Eliška. Since 1994 he had been second choirmaster of the Prague Philharmonic Choir, in the years of 1996–2005 his principal choirmaster. In the years of 2006–2012, he was the choirmaster of the Prague Chamber Choir. Currently, he is the choirmaster of the Foerster Chamber Choir, he occasionally cooperates with the Prague Philharmonic Choir, Kühn Choir of Prague, Prague Symphony Orchestra FOK, the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice and other Czech orchestras. Apart from conductor and choirmaster activities, he teaches at the Music and Dance Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, Jaroslav Ježek Conservatory in Prague and at the Pardubice Conservatory.
About the orchestra
The Prague Symphony Orchestra is an ensemble with many years of tradition. Its artistic renown has been shaped by collaborations with a number of famed conductors (Seiji Ozawa, Zubin Mehta, Sir Charles Mackerras) and soloists (Pinchas Zukerman, Murray Perahia, Garrick Ohlsson, Renée Fleming). It has made guest appearances in most of the countries of Europe, the USA, South America, Japan, Korea, Israel, and recently Oman and China. The Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen has been at the orchestra’s helm since the 2015/2016 season.
Tribute to Rudolf Pekárek
In addition to its dedication to Bernstein and to the founding of the State of Israel, this concert is also a tribute to the founder of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, Rudolf Pekárek (1900-1974). If Pekárek is known to the musical or the general public at all, it is exclusively as the founder and architect of the Prague Symphony Orchestra; he was fully engaged with the orchestra as an organiser and conductor from 1934 until October 1941.
One might not realise how risky and ambitious it was to found an orchestra at a time when the effects of the Great Depression were still being felt, when for every success there were many failures. Rudolf Pekárek, however, had the will and the diplomatic skills to carry it off. He wagered successfully on collaboration with radio broadcasters and the film industry, and he also surrounded himself – showing his generosity – with an outstanding team. For example, he brought in the conductor Václav Smetáček to work with him from the beginning. Smetáček later took the orchestra’s helm when Pekárek was deported to Auschwitz in October 1941 because of his Jewish origins.
Pekárek’s misfortune was mitigated by his assignment for labour in Silesian coal mines, from which he escaped in September 1944, and he later joined the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps. He began to perform in that unit’s Army Artistic Ensemble, and he took over its leadership in January 1945 after the premature demise of its founder, Vít Nejedlý.
After the war, he returned to Prague and gradually renewed his cooperation with the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Nonetheless, at the very end of 1948, because of his opposition to the new communist regime, Pekárek and his wife immigrated to Australia, where his brother had already settled.
The totalitarian press of the 1950s reported that Pekárek had died in a German concentration camp, and his name was simply erased from the annals of the prominent orchestra, but nothing could have been farther from the truth: first he settled in Sydney, and he soon began to make a name for himself as a conductor who would take on the challenge of even the most difficult orchestral repertoire. And in spite of starting with almost nothing and lacking knowledge of English, he was so successful that by 1950 he was appointed as the chief conductor of the Perth Symphony Orchestra, later renamed the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. He lived in Perth until October 1954, when he took the helm of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra based in Brisbane, and he remained in that position until 1967.
The many things that Pekárek was able to achieve in Australia are documented not only by his concert programmes preserved by the National Library of Australia, but also his vast correspondence, a very important segment of which is his exchange of letters with Václav Smetáček. All of the documentation shows that while living “down under”, he went about promoting Czech music systematically – he performed mostly works by Dvořák, Smetana, Janáček, Suk, Ostrčil, V. Novák, and Martinů, but he also gave Australian premieres of the music of Kabeláč, K. Slavický, Jirák, Feld, Pauer, Sommer, and Jaroch. Smetáček sent him many new scores and consulted with him about programming. Pekárek even got his Czech Music Hour heard on regular radio broadcasts all over Australia. This extraordinarily active conductor also collaborated with the greatest musicians of his day, such as the pianists Claudio Arrau, Géza Anda, Daniel Barenboim, Paul Badura-Skoda, Philippe Entremont, Julius Katchen, and John Ogdon, and the violinists David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern, Ruggiero Ricci, Yehudi Menuhin, Ida Haendel, and Ricardo Odnoposoff. Among the guest conductors who expressed their satisfaction with Pekárek’s orchestra when guest conducting were John Barbirolli, Lorin Maazel, Charles Mackerras, and Otto Klemperer along with the great Czech conductors Rafael Kubelík and Karel Ančerl.