The appearance of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra headed by Daniel Harding promises to be one of the highlights of the 78th edition of the Prague Spring. This, one of the world’s finest orchestras and its top-flight conductor will perform Gustav Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 7, whose premiere was held in Prague in 1908. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra first performed at the Prague Spring in 1987 under conductor Sir Colin Davis. In 2005 they were led by Mariss Jansons as they closed the jubilee 60th edition of the festival to huge acclaim. We should also mention their guest appearance in 2010, when they captured the audience’s imagination with their performance of Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder. Known for its supreme interpretations, the ensemble was shaped in the years 1961–1979 by Czech conductor in exile Rafael Kubelík, who recorded the complete Mahler symphonies with the orchestra, an achievement celebrated to this day. After Kubelík’s departure Sir Colin Davis stood at the helm for almost ten years, and in the period 1993–2002 they were led by Lorin Maazel. From 2003 until his death in December 2019 the orchestra was headed by Mariss Jansons. From the 2022/23 season onwards the post of Chief Conductor will be assumed by Sir Simon Rattle, who is already working closely with the orchestra at this time.
British conductor Daniel Harding has a close artistic affiliation with the orchestra. Born in Oxford, he began his career as a phenomenally talented young man. At a mere seventeen years of age he assisted Simon Rattle at the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. After his first year of study at Cambridge University, Claudio Abbado appointed him his assistant with the Berlin Philharmonic. He conducted this, one of the best orchestras in the world, for the first time at the age of twenty-one, and when he gave his BBC Proms debut in 1996 he was the youngest conductor in the history of the festival to do so. Today Harding is one of the most respected conductors in his field. He has been Music Director of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra for the past fifteen years, he holds the title Conductor Laureate of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and in the past he has held the posts of Principal Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Orchestre de Paris. It is interesting to note that Harding is also a qualified airline pilot. Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 was premiered in 1908 at Prague’s Exhibition Grounds on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of Emperor Franz Joseph I; the Czech Philharmonic was conducted by the composer himself. Of all Mahler’s symphonies, the Seventh is the most enigmatic and, according to many, the most visionary as well. Arnold Schönberg saw in it the end of Romanticism; Mahler spoke about the “predominantly cheerful, humorous content” of his symphony. The evening-length work is scored for a large orchestra, and we will also hear unconventional instruments, including cowbells, mandolin and guitar.