Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra & Marko Ivanović
Wagner / Kabeláč / Ivanović / Tchaikovsky
Date of EventSaturday, 19. 5. 2018 from 20.00
Expected end of the concert 22.00
Event placeMunicipal House – Smetana Hall
Price150 - 700 CZK Sold out
- Richard Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder
- Miloslav Kabeláč: Symphony No. 6 Op. 44
- Marko Ivanović: Little Words (world premiere)
- Petr Iljič Čajkovskij: Romeo a Julie
- Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
- Marko Ivanović - conductor
- Katarina Karnéus - mezzo-soprano
- Karel Dohnal - clarinet
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This concert presents an original dialogue between two modern Czech composers and two greats of the Romantic era. It will witness the world premiere of a song cycle by Marko Ivanović, which will be sung by a star of the world’s operatic stages, the Swedish mezzo-soprano Katarina Karnéus. She will also be presenting herself in repertoire of which her interpretations have won over the hearts of opera lovers all around the world – songs by Richard Wagner. The premiere of Marko Ivanović’s lyrical song cycle is the perfect counterpart to Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder, and we find an equally perfect dramatic curve in the dramatic quality of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic poem Romeo and Juliet paired with Kabeláč’s Symphony No. 6, which will give the superb Czech clarinettist Karel Dohnal a chance to shine.
Besides Dvořák and Martinů, Miloslav Kabeláč (1908–1979) is the most important Czech symphonist. His percussion compositions (Eight Inventions, Eight Ricercari) earned him an international reputation. His artistic career began at the end of the 1930s, and his life and music were strongly influenced by the events of the Second World War and the subsequent era of totalitarianism.
As a humanist with democratic ideals, he was out of favour with both the Nazis and the communists, and the performing of his music was limited to a few works that were of marginal interest to officialdom. Later, during the period of “normalisation” (after the Soviet occupation), he was openly silenced in part because of his uncompromising political stance. The officially favoured tendency towards programmatic music was utter foreign to Kabeláč, as was spontaneous composing; Kabeláč always strove for unity and perfection of musical form, with a balancing of the intuitive and rational aspects of composing.
He quickly created an unmistakably personal style characterised by refined, usually modal melodies, terse polyphony, harsh dissonance, and grandiose architecture of vast compositional units. These qualities first appear in the cantata Do Not Retreat! (1938-39), and they are then developed in his eight symphonies (1941-1971), each of which calls for different orchestral forces. At the same time, we find the same qualities in his intellectually serious orchestral works dealing with the musical interpretation of general philosophical questions, such as The Mystery of Time, Hamlet Improvisations, or Mirroring.
His later works were enriched by the new possibilities for articulation of time and movement and by striking sonorities (Symphonies Nos. 6, 7, 8, Eufemias Mysterion and other works, such as the cycle of electronic compositions E fontibus Bohemicis). Of course, it was not necessary for him to change any of his former compositional methods and musical thinking because he was merely developing in a new way the elements that had always been present in his music.
For this reason, he withstood the censures of official criticism with an awareness that his music would speak for itself to convince the unbiased listener through the power of its ideas, the perfection of its artistic utterance in structure and expression, and the refined purity of its artistic character.
The romantically stormy life led by Richard Wagner (1813–1883) went through a number of dramatic twists and turns as well as some powerful eruptions of passion, such as his relationship with Mathilde Wesendonck, a beautiful woman with literary ambitions, whose husband was Wagner’s patron during his exile in Switzerland. His lasting monuments to a great love overcoming the barriers of social conventions are the Five Songs on Poems by Mathilde Wesendonck and the opera Tristan und Isolde. He composed the two works almost simultaneously in 1857-58, and they are closely related musically. The composer regarded two of the five songs, Im Treibhaus and Träume, as studies for the opera, but we sense the tension and mental anguish of the opera’s final act in the other songs as well.
There is also love behind Tchaikovsky’s symphonic poem based on Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. “All of your objections give way to the enthusiasm burning within me over this subject matter,” wrote Tchaikovsky in a letter to his brother Modest. “I find it laughable that I was not able to see before how predestined I am to set this drama to music. There is nothing more suited to my musical character. There are no tsars, no marches, nothing that would constitute the routine apparatus of a grand opera. There is love, love, and more love.” The symphonic poem is not a musical illustration of individual scenes. Instead, it concentrates on contrasting the themes of the feuding families, with sharp, aggressive harmonies, and the lyrical love theme of the youthful couple and their happiness.
The conductor for the concluding concert is Marko Ivanović, who recently recorded the complete Kabeláč symphonies with Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra for the Supraphon label. He is also well known as a composer, mainly thanks to the great success of his opera Enchantia, which has been performed by the National Theatre companies of Prague and Brno. We therefore eagerly await this world premiere of Ivanović’s song cycle Slovíčka (Little Words), which he composed especially for Katarina Karnéus.
One of the many gifts of the American poet and author Dorothy Parker was the ability to use short, simple verses to capture the relationship between a man and a woman in various forms and situations, always with a certain detachment and sarcasm. “This is also why I chose a crossover genre to set her poems to music. The music flirts with chanson and blues as well as the modern classical song tradition,” says Ivanović. “These are five views of a love affair through the eyes of a woman, and although the views vary, the predominant mood of the whole cycle is melancholy, although it never slides into hopelessness,” he says, characterising the work, finally adding: “I’m overjoyed that the superb Swedish mezzo-soprano Katarina Karnéus is singing the premiere of this little work. I’ve always been enchanted by her musicality and stagecraft, and I greatly value our friendship.”
“Katarina Karnéus in the role of Norma has a diction and phrasing beyond the ordinary. When Norma picks up the knife and points it to her children a lady in the audience cries out “NO!”
The Swedish mezzo-soprano Katarina Karnéus is well known to the Czech public – her Prague Spring debut in 2011 comes to mind, when she sang a solo part with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”). Two years later, she was invited to sing with the Czech Philharmonic by Jiří Bělohlávek. In 2016 she shined in Schoenberg’s Erwartung in the highly successful production directed by David Radok at the National Theatre in Brno, where Ms. Karnéus met Marko Ivanović. Her international career began with her triumph at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 1995. There followed a rapid succession of debuts at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, London’s Royal Opera in Covent Garden, the Bavarian State Opera, the Glyndebourne Festival, the BBC Proms, the Salzburg Festspiele, and many more. “I like to reminisce about my first Prague Spring appearance. From the moment the plane landed in Prague, I was treated truly cordially. I got to know the refined manners of the local concert organisers and public. I am therefore greatly honoured to be giving the world premiere of Marko Ivanović’s song cycle!”
The clarinettist Karel Dohnal is a laureate of a number of international competitions (Prague Spring, Seville, London etc.) A graduate of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, he made study visits at universities in London, Berlin, Saint Petersburg, and Hilversum. He has given concerts in many countries of Europe, Asia, the USA, and South America. He is an inexhaustible, sought-after performer of contemporary music, a member of the PhilHarmonia Octet, the Amadeus Trio, and the orchestra of the Prague State Opera. He teaches regularly at courses here and abroad, and he is an instructor at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ostrava.
Marko Ivanović graduated from the Prague Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague in the fields of conducting and composition. As a conductor, he has led many Czech and foreign orchestras (Czech Philharmonic, Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic, Toyama Academy Orchestra), and since January 2015 he has held the post of chief conductor of opera at the National Theatre in Brno. One of his greatest successes was the production of Janáček’s Jenůfa in Mälmo, Sweden in 2011. Besides conducting, he also composes, including music for the stage. He is a sought-after arranger and music populariser.
The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra is a frequent guest at concert halls in this country and abroad. Besides collaborating with leading Czech and foreign conductors (Petr Altrichter, Steven Asbury, Jakub Hrůša), the orchestra has also accompanied a number of outstanding soloists, including Renée Fleming, Plácido Domingo, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Its varied recording activities include a number of interesting projects. Besides the world premiere recording of Dvořák’s opera Alfred, there is a complete edition of the eight symphonies by Miloslav Kabeláč (Supraphon).