Prague Spring closes the Year of Czech music with Czech classics and european premiere on 3th june

The final concert of the Prague Spring Festival, in a year when we commemorate the double anniversary of Bedřich Smetana and celebrate the Year of Czech Music, is dedicated to the works of Czech composers. However, the programme, which will feature works by classical composers Antonín Dvořák, Josef Suk and Leoš Janáček, does not only turn to the past. New chapters in the history of Czech music will be explored with the European premiere of Superorganisms, written by Miroslav Srnka, probably the most sought-after Czech composer today, and commissioned by five world orchestras. The soloist of the evening will be Josef Špaček with a dazzling solo career. The Czech Philharmonic will be led by conductor David Robertson, whose concerts always guarantee extraordinary experiences.

This concert closes a year in which we celebrated Czech music as an important part of our identity. Czech music, which is not just our local national affair, but has a truly global potential. Thus, between the opening concert with My Homeland performed by the Berlin Philharmonic and the closing concert, where the Czech Philharmonic with a Czech programme is conducted by an American conductor, there is an imaginary arc of a strong symbolic message. As an international music festival, we also want to contribute to Czech culture,” says Pavel Trojan, director of the Prague Spring Festival.

The organisers also incorporated the belonging to the Year of Czech Music into the ticket prices in the individual categories, which were sold in the amounts of CZK 2024, 1904, 1874 and 1854. “This highly symbolic concert thus concludes the 79th year of the festival, which aimed to pay tribute to famous composers from ancient chapters of Czech music, but also to bring new perspectives on these famous works, provoke discussions and reflections on the meaning of Czech musical identity and the position of Czech music in the world. It was equally important for us to give a representative space to the work of contemporary Czech composers. This is so that our descendants will have something to celebrate in the Year of Czech Music in the next hundred years,” says Kateřina Koutná, spokeswoman for the festival, explaining the organisers’ thoughts behind the concerts.

The organisers will announce the first taste of what Prague Spring has prepared to celebrate its 80th anniversary on the morning of the festival’s final concert, 3 June 2024.

Orchestra as a flock of birds

For a long time art has turned mainly inwards, towards individual feeling. Superorganism tries to aim at the layer above the individual,” says Miroslav Srnka. Since 2016, when Kirill Petrenko premiered his opera South Pole with Rolando Villazón and Thomas Hampson in the lead roles at the Bavarian State Opera, he has been one of the most closely watched composers of our time. “Bees or ants are communities of individuals of one species that survive only in synergy and self-organization. The orchestra may be a perfect example of similar human self-organization, with fascinating precision, discipline, and coordination,” Srnka says of the piece, which he wrote as a joint commission from the Berlin Philharmonic, NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, and Czech Philharmonic. “Superorganisms is composed almost entirely of virtuoso solo voices from a completely individually divided orchestra, yet there are no solos in the entire piece and the individual voices are hard to tell apart. The music in these pieces only emerges from the ripples of shared energy. Like a school of fish or birds, where we can’t follow one creature, yet we can watch the movement of the whole for hours. Superorganisms are four different species to auditory observation. They have arisen in an age that will not be able to solve its problems without the coming together of human superorganisms.

American conductor at home in classical and contemporary music

Czech audiences are already familiar with the American conductor David Robertson: they have already heard Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla in Prague and Bartók’s opera Bluebeard’s Castle at the Prague Spring Festival. The American artist is a true phenomenon. He has led the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as chief conductor, served as principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and, as a protégé of Pierre Boulez, became the first American music director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain. He is equally at home in the classical-romantic repertoire as he is in contemporary music. Since his debut in 1996, he has been one of the key conductors at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where he opened the 2019-20 season with a hugely successful production of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and subsequently won a Grammy Award for his recording of the opera. He has conducted some of the world’s finest orchestras, including the Concertgebouw Amsterdam and the New York Philharmonic, among others.

Tribute to Czech greats

Josef Špaček has established himself on the international scene as a top performer of Czech music. “Playing with aplomb, Špaček has combined a clear tone and bold-sounding lower register with impeccable technique and subtlety of expression,” wrote the UK Guardian in 2015 about his recording of Czech violin concertos with the Czech Philharmonic and Jiří Bělohlávek. The recording also includes Leoš Janáček’s Wandering Soul, which will be performed at the final concert. The native of Hukvaldy wrote them in the 1920s, but he never finished the work and used the material in his opera From a Dead House. The composers Leoš Faltus and Miloš Štědroň reconstructed the concert from the original sketches and returned the work to its original form. The next piece of the evening will be Mazurka for violin and orchestra, which is one of Antonín Dvořák‘s most popular compositions. The piece, based on an unmistakable melodic idea, was written at the request of the composer’s German publisher Simrock, who wished to build on the success of Slavonic Dances.

The gala evening and the entire festival will be closed by the symphonic poem Praga. In it, Josef Suk, a pupil and son-in-law of Antonín Dvořák, paid tribute to “royal Prague”, as he wrote in the score. The mysterious introduction invites us to imagine a mist over the Vltava River, a view of Vyšehrad, and in the sudden brightening we can see a panorama with Prague Castle. With Bedřich Smetana’s My Country, the emblematic work of the Prague Spring, Suk’s masterpiece is also linked by the Hussite chant Who Are God’s Warriors, which permeates the entire work. In the monumental conclusion, the chorale is heard by the full orchestra, joined by the organ of the Smetana Hall of the Municipal House.