Krejčí / Penderecki
Tickets cannot be reserved for the opening concert on 12 May and closing concert on 2 June; only direct ticket sales on-line and at sales points will be possible for these concerts.
One of the greatest composers of the latter half of the twentieth century, Krzysztof Penderecki, will bring this year’s Prague Spring festival to a close with his monumental work Seven Gates of Jerusalem (Symphony No. 7). A key representative of the Polish school of composition, his style is best described by his own comment: “Absorb everything that has ever happened in music.” In his works, he has experimented with sound, tonality, non-traditional means of expression, and new techniques, but in the end he went over to a post-Romantic symphonic style, and he has been composing in that spirit since the mid-1970s.
Penderecki composed Seven Gates of Jerusalem in 1996 on the occasion of the magnificent celebrations of the 3,000th anniversary of the existence of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. The oratorio, which was first performed in Jerusalem in January of 1997, was renamed by the composer as his Symphony No. 7 after the Polish premiere that March. The reason for this rather peculiar step – at the time, the composer had not written a Symphony No. 6, and none exists to this day – was probably the symbolism of the number seven, which permeates the entire work at many levels: from the actual title of the composition, which refers to the seven gates allowing entry into Old Jerusalem, to the complex system of seven-note phrases or the seven concluding fortissimo chords thundering in the final, seventh movement of the composition. The Latin texts are from the Book of Psalms except in the seventh movement, where the composer chose texts from the Book of Ezekiel. That movement is additionally intended for a capella choir, and it is one of the most powerful moments of the entire work.
The very fact that the eighty-three-year-old composer is conducting the work himself with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Slovak Philharmonic Choir gives the concluding concert of the 72nd annual Prague Spring festival the hallmark of an extraordinary, nearly historic event.
The jubilant, optimistic, and playful Serenade for Orchestra by the Czech neoclassical composer Iša Krejčí will serve as a contrasting curtain raiser before Penderecki’s monumental work.
The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra is one of the oldest Czech orchestras, and among the conductors at its helm have been Karel Ančerl, Jaroslav Krombholc, and František Vajnar. From 1985 to 2011, the orchestra was led by its current principal conductor emeritus Vladimír Válek, whose role was taken over for the 2011/2012 season by Ondrej Lenárd. The orchestra has collaborations with many renowned soloists to its credit (Reneé Fleming, Mischa Maisky, Ramón Vargas), and it makes regular guest appearances at important Czech music festivals (Prague Spring, Smetana’s Litomyšl). Its recording activities are also very substantial (complete sets of the symphonies of Dvořák, Tchaikovsky, and Martinů).
The Slovak Philharmonic Choir is Slovakia’s leading representative of the art of professional choral singing. Since its founding in 1946, the ensemble has earned a place among Europe’s elite choruses, as is confirmed by its collaborations with important conductors (Claudio Abbado, Fabio Luisi, Lorin Maazel) and its regular guest appearances with orchestras abroad (Berlin Philharmonic, Vienna Philharmonic, Israel Philharmonic etc.). The choir appears at important international music festivals (Athens, Berlin, Edinburgh, Madrid). It last appeared at Prague Spring in 2012 with an a capella programme, which received reviews in which critics did not hold back in their use of superlatives. For this and other reasons, it was chosen for the performance of Penderecki’s monumental symphony, in which the difficult choral part plays a key role. Since the 2013/2014 season, the ensemble’s choirmaster has been Jozef Chabroň.
The Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki is one of the most prominent representatives of the musical avant-garde of the latter half of the twentieth century. He came to the attention of the general public thanks to his composition Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima (1959), which won the UNESCO prize in 1961. He has composed a large number of symphonic, choral, and operatic works, many at the initiative of important institutions (UN) or cities (Moscow, Jerusalem). In addition to composing, he is also active as a conductor. He has won a number of prizes, including several prestigious Grammy Awards.
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