Prague Spring on-line
Eleven concerts will form the basis of the alternative programme for the Prague Spring 2020, which will be broadcast live from five concert halls in Prague and one in Brno. “A solo recital will be given by Canadian violinist James Ehnes, performed exclusively for Prague Spring audiences from the United States. Listeners can also look forward to recordings of legendary festival concerts from previous years, and we’ll be continuously updating and adding to the programme as we go along,” says festival director Roman Bělor. All the concerts can be viewed free of charge on our website www.festival.cz; selected concerts will be brought to you by Czech Television and Czech Radio. These festival evenings will be hosted by Ondřej Havelka.
The festival’s pivotal work, Smetana’s My Country, cannot be performed live, nevertheless, on 11 May Czech Television will broadcast a compilation of significant Prague Spring opening concerts from previous years.
Viewers can look forward to five orchestral concerts featuring original programming. “We have come to an arrangement with four Prague orchestras regarding alternative programmes for smaller ensembles. These concerts will be broadcast from the homes of the individual orchestras,” the festival’s programme director Josef Třeštík tells us.
Thus the concert given by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra on 27 May will be streamed directly from Czech Radio’s Studio 1, where the orchestra rehearses and records. Led by conductor Robert Kružík, whose festival debut will therefore go ahead as originally planned, the orchestra will perform a programme which includes Adagio by the recently deceased classic of Polish music Krzysztof Penderecki. The Polish maestro closed the festival three years ago appearing in his roles as both conductor and composer.
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.
The Prague Symphony Orchestra will perform in the Smetana Hall at Municipal House on 1 June, headed by Tomáš Brauner, who will take up the post of the orchestra’s Chief Conductor in the forthcoming season. “We offer listeners music by Josef Suk and Verklärte Nacht by Arnold Schönberg, whose performance might conceivably symbolise long-awaited social revitalisation,” says Třeštík.
“We are planning two concerts with the Czech Philharmonic, headed by their principal guest conductors. The evening programme featuring Tomáš Netopil is currently being put together,” Třeštík informs us. The Closing Concert was originally to have comprised Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, marking the special anniversaries of both the composer and the festival, with whose history the work is closely associated. Thanks to conductor Jakub Hrůša we will still have Beethoven’s music even during the pandemic. Hrůša and the Czech Philharmonic are preparing for a performance of two late Beethoven quartets arranged for string orchestra. “It’s an extraordinary initiative, sparked by an extraordinary situation within society as a whole; nevertheless, even this has a precedent in musical history. I am convinced that the metaphysical music of late Beethoven will make for a compelling conclusion to a festival held at an exceptionally complex time,” reflects Třeštík.
“During this difficult period of ʽcoronacrisisʼ we are all thinking of the possibility of returning to normal as soon as possible. Of course, health is the most important consideration, and it’s our greatest wish that everyone remains healthy and safe. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we should also be thinking of culture and we should never stop fostering cultural endeavour,” stresses conductor Jakub Hrůša, a member of the Prague Spring’s Artistic Board. “I miss meeting up with other musicians and with the public: The spiritual fulfilment of others and of oneself through music. And so I’m delighted that our major Czech celebration of music – the Prague Spring festival – is going ahead, even at a time like this. It may be a celebration under abnormal conditions, but what’s important is that the Prague Spring is going to happen,” Hrůša concludes.
A programme put together specially for this occasion will also be presented by the ensembles Collegium 1704and Collegium Vocale 1704, led by Václav Luks. The concert scheduled for 18 May at the Prague Crossroads venue will feature 14 instrumentalists and 12 singers; the solo part will be sung by soprano Hana Blažíková. “The confrontation between the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Jan Dismas Zelenka always makes for an unusually exciting adventure,” states conductor Václav Luks. “Bach’s counterpoint firmly anchored in the German Lutheran tradition represents a completely different musical language juxtaposed with Zelenka’s music influenced by Italian melodiousness and emotionality, composed for the Catholic court in Dresden. As a Lutheran and cosmopolitan, and inspired by both the Italian style and the English tradition, Georg Friedrich Händel draws a connecting line between the music of Bach and Zelenka.”
Adam Plachetka’s Winter Journey
It is fifteen years since Adam Plachetka gave his debut at the National Theatre in Prague. His achievements since that time are remarkable indeed. The breadth of Plachetka’s talents are also reflected in his performances at the Prague Spring – this year marks his tenth appearance, an unparalleled event also given its programme: Adam Plachetka will be performing Franz Schubert’s Winterreise, which he recorded last autumn in the studio with British pianist Gary Matthewman accompanying. For this concert that will take place on 25 May he will be joined by pianist David Švec, a conductor at the National Theatre Opera who has had a long-standing collaboration with Plachetka – he also accompanied the singer for the latter’s Prague Spring recital ten years ago. It is interesting to note that this will be only the second complete performance of Winterreise at the Prague Spring; the song cycle was first performed here in 1986 by tenor Peter Schreier accompanied by pianist Sviatoslav Richter.
An unusual precedent
This year’s edition of the Prague Spring also sets an unusual precedent – one of the festival concerts will be held in Brno for the very first time. On 20 May the foyer of the Janáček Theatre will provide the setting for a concert given by the Brno Contemporary Orchestra, whose programme will incorporate works from the international repertoire (Pascal Dusapin, Olga Neuwirth, Erkki-Sven Tüür) and the world premiere of the piece Wild at Heart (Zběsilost v srdci), which the Prague Spring commissioned from Czech composer Jan Ryant Dřízal. “The title of the work came to me following an immensely vivid dream, in which I found myself with feelings of animal obsession, even rapture,” the composer informs us. “Yet the whole experience was steeped in positive energy, which provided me with the primary charge that allowed me to think the entire composition through to the end. The ecstatic character and conception of the piece as a magic ritual represent my two main compositional designs. I borrowed the title from the famous film by David Lynch, whose expression and tempo subliminally resonate with my compositional strategy.”
Joy and positive energy
Joy and an optimistic perspective on the future are the chief attributes of two concerts involving young musicians. The first, presented on 15 May, will be Salon ZUŠ, whose protagonists are talented pupils of primary art and music schools, MenART Academy scholarship holders who worked for a year under the supervision of mentors soprano Kateřina Kněžíková, concert master Jan Fišer and pianist Ivo Kahánek. The second concert will be held on 22 May and will bring together four striking talents from the upcoming generation of Czech musicians – 17-year-old pianist Jan Čmejla, 17-year-old violinist Eduard Kollert, 26-year-old percussionist Ladislav Bilan Jr. and 27-year-old clarinetist Anna Paulová, laureate of the Prague Spring International Music Competition 2015.
Inspired by instruments
Multi-genre composer, guitar player, arranger and improviser Lukáš Sommer is a highly prominent figure on the Czech music scene. His composition work is rooted in the traditions of the European compositional school, which he complements with his own unconventional approaches. He enjoys pushing the borders of classical music and endeavours to incorporate elements of ethnic and jazz music as well. “The idea for my programme centres on guitars, on my love for them, and on the impossibility of sticking with one instrument alone. It’s a handmade instrument, whose distinctive sound inspires me in my work,” stated Sommer. The choice of concert venue also reflects these thoughts – Sommer’s recital as composer and guitarist will take place on 31 May in the captivating setting of the National Technical Museum, with its unique collection of exhibits mapping the history of transportation. The concert also features a guest performer, countertenor Jan Mikušek.
Prague Spring on Czech Television
“It certainly never occurred to anyone several weeks ago that an internationally renowned festival with an outstanding historical tradition would be faced with the kind of issues it is dealing with now. So it’s extremely gratifying to know that the festival is endeavouring to secure at least a portion of its programme, and I am delighted that Czech Television, as every year, is playing its part,” says executive director of ČT art channel Tomáš Motl. “Instead of the traditional broadcast of My Country we are this time offering a unique stroll through the history of the festival’s Opening Concerts via a recording compiled from six historical performances of the work; however, primarily thanks to two live broadcasts, including the Closing Concert, we are making our own contribution to ensure that this year’s Prague Spring finds its way to our viewers as well.”
Interviews with artists and a look behind the scenes during preparations for this unconventional festival edition will be brought to you by ČT art in its Prague Spring Echo series, broadcast every Sunday at 8pm between 10 May and 7 June.
A special edition of the magazine programme ArtZóna is scheduled for 12 May and will focus on this year’s Prague Spring.
Prague Spring on Czech Radio
“Vltava is a traditional partner of the Prague Spring and, in this year’s exceptional festival edition, we view our role with even greater responsibility. We will be bringing live broadcasts of the majority of planned festival concerts, among them, of course, the concert given by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, which is scheduled for 27 May and should be taking place in Czech Radio’s Studio 1. Regrettably, this year’s Prague Spring won’t begin as it usually does, with the traditional performance of Smetana’s My Country, nevertheless, Vltava radio will be keeping to tradition and, on the evening of 12 May, we’ll be broadcasting a recording of My Country for our listeners,” says editor-in-chief of Czech Radio Vltava, Jaroslava Haladová.
Exhaustive preparations underway at the Prague Spring
“Given this wholly atypical situation, the long-term and systematic preparation of the festival had to be replaced with various operating procedures. It has become ʽPrague Spring on-lineʼ because it’s evolving on-line,” festival director Roman Bělor informs us. The programme compiled to date thus forms a foundation which will be extensively updated and supplemented in the days and weeks to come. “Regarding further items on the programme, we are in discussions with Czech and foreign artists, music institutions, professional associations, state bodies and supranational organisations,” Bělor explains.
We will provide detailed information regarding the results of our endeavours in our next press release in a week’s time, when we will bring you news of a further substantial addition to the current festival programme. We hope that you, too, will be closely following the evolution of Prague Spring on-line.
So please check our website www.festival.cz regularly.
“We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude primarily to our traditional supporters and partners who have shown their loyalty to the Prague Spring in this novel situation. We would also like to thank you, our viewers and listeners, for your many expressions of solidarity, for your cooperative spirit, and for your inspiring interest. We firmly believe that, despite the various obstacles, we will succeed in entering your hearts and your homes, and in conveying hope to you all,” states festival director Roman Bělor.