PKF-Prague Philharmonia & Jiří Rožeň Live from Rudolfinum
Two distinctive artists will combine forces for a concert on 29 May – the internationally acclaimed harpsichordist resident in Prague Mahan Esfahani and conductor Jiří Rožeň, who will conduct the PKF – Prague Philharmonia. Viewers will be able to hear the Czech premiere of Michael Nyman’s Harpsichord Concerto among other works.
Date of EventFriday, 29. 5. 2020 from 20.00
- Bohuslav Martinů: Serenade for Strings no. 2
- Johann Christian Bach: Harpsichord Concerto No.6 in F minor W.C73
- Benjamin Britten: Simple Symphony op. 4
- Michael Nyman: Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings
- PKF – Prague Philharmonia
- Jiří Rožeň - conductor
- Mahan Esfahani - harpsichord
- Ondřej Havelka - host
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“Jiří Rožeň is one of the most talented Czech conductors of his generation for whom an extremely promising international career began before he reached the age of thirty,” states Josef Třeštík. Festivalgoers will remember his performance at his Prague Spring Debut concert in 2016. This concert brings together works by British and Central European composers.
“Iranian-American harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani is a phenomenal musician who, on an international level, succeeded in bringing the solo harpsichord right back into the midst of events,” says festival dramaturge Josef Třeštík. His words are supported by the almost implausible fact that Esfahani’s appearance at the BBC Proms in 2011 was the first ever harpsichord recital in the long history of this famous London festival.
Esfahani has a close affinity with Czech culture – his mentor for four years was Zuzana Růžičková. “Like Růžičková, Mahan has a fondness for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and the English virginalists. On the other hand, he also feels quite at home performing the most challenging of contemporary music, which many composers write expressly for him,” states Třeštík. Outside the country he is often involved in performances of works by Czech composers, such as Jiří Antonín Benda, Bohuslav Martinů, Viktor Kalabis and, most recently, Miroslav Srnka, who wrote a piece especially for Esfahani at the latter’s request.
Currently residing in Prague, he was born in Tehran, spent his childhood in the United States and lived for a time in Milan and London. He is the type of artist who takes an interest in a given work in all its aspects, as his studies testify: apart from the harpsichord he also read musicology and music theory.
Esfahani’s recent successes include his debut in Vienna’s Musikverein and a tour with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. “The word ʽtoccataʼ, as Esfahani points out, derives from the Italian ʽtoccareʼ, meaning ʽto touchʼ, and it’s the physicality of his music-making that seems so right, both for his instrument and the music of a composer clearly delighting in muscle-flexing of his own,” comments Geoff Brown in The Times in his review of Esfahani’s recording of the Bach Toccatas. His colourful discography of around six titles for Hyperion and Deutsche Grammophon has won a series of important awards from the likes of Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine, along with a Diapason d’Or.
Despite his age, Czech conductor Jiří Rožeň (1991) is already a distinctive figure in professional conducting circles. He worked with the PKF – Prague Philharmonia most recently in June 2019, when together they presented works by Mozart, Martinů and Beethoven. The 2019/2020 season sees Rožeň appearing with ensembles such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. The young conductor enjoys performing contemporary music and works by 20th century Czech composers. He has already met Mahan professionally – they got together for Viktor Kalabis’s Concerto for Harpsichord and String Orchestra Op. 42 in 2018. The two artists became acquainted in Great Britain, which was home for Esfahani for several years, while Rožeň was over there studying and also gaining valuable experience conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings is one of three works featured on the album Concertos by British composerMichael Nyman (1944). This release from 1997, Nyman’s 31st at that point, also contains Double Concerto for Saxophone and Cello and Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra. Nyman’s music passed through an extended period of development and Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings reflects above all the composer’s many years’ experience with film music. Nyman moreover works with a specific type of rhythmical mechanical structure and, in places, treats the harpsichord like a percussion instrument. Interestingly, in terms of the piece’s harmonic aspects, we will hear certain parallels with Martinů’s Concerto for Harpsichord and Small Orchestra, which come out primarily in the repeated chromatic progressions.
Simple Symphony for string orchestra or string quartet is one of Britten’s early and, at the same time, most popular works. He completed the piece over the space of only a few weeks in late 1933 and early 1934, and incorporated motifs from his childhood compositions.