Opening Words by Pavel Trojan, director of the Prague Spring
Dear music lovers and friends, It is with determination and optimism that we take the liberty of presenting to you the programme of the 78th Prague Spring International Music Festival.
It is an immense pleasure to watch Tomáš Hanus conducting. However, it has taken some time since we could see him last in Prague. Since 2016, he has been at the helm of the Welsh National Opera Orchestra and he has been reaping one success after another. Already back then we thought it would be wonderful to hear them at the opening concert. Now the dream has come true. The Czech-Welsh My country will certainly be festive but also fresh and unbridled by musical conventions. The island country of dragons, witches and giants is indeed remote geographically but it is very close due to a long tradition of Czech music performances – not only thanks to Tomáš Hanus but also thanks to conductor Charles Mackerras who played a crucial role in acquainting the world with Czech music, and in particular with the music by Janáček.
If you liked how Jakub Hrůša introduced his Bamberg Symphony Orchestra three years ago, you cannot help but wonder what the footprint left by Tomáš Netopil with the Essen Philharmonic is. There is no doubt that this conductor also acts as an ambassador of Czech music abroad and the concert at the Prague Spring Festival with works by Elgar and Dvořák will be one of the last concerts to conclude his engagement after eleven years at the helm of the orchestra. On this special occasion, we invited a top and, at the same time, unpretentious violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann.
At this year’s festival, we will proudly go for an instrument having a hard time in the world of music! The phenomenal violist Antoine Tamestit, the festival’s artist-in-residence, a personality of stunning musicality and a rich repertoire, will demonstrate his virtuosity on his Stradivarius viola at three concerts. For two evenings, he will perform at the Rudolfinum: first with his long-time artistic partner, the pianist Cédric Tiberghien and, during the second evening, with the outstanding violinist Isabelle Faust. The peak of Tamestit’s residence will be a concert with the Czech Philharmonic and Finnish conductor Klaus Mäkelä who, at the age of twenty-six, is one of the most sought-after conductors of our times! He left a clear mark in Oslo, took over the lead of the Orchestre de Paris and, from the 2027/28 season, he will serve as the chief conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam which ranks among the top world’s orchestras. We are delighted that his Czech debut will take place at this concert. Tamestit will perform the impressive Concerto for Viola and Orchestra by Alfred Schnittke and, in the second half of the concert, the Symphony No. 1 “The Titan” by Gustav Mahler will be performed.
For the first time in history, the Prague Spring International Music Competition will include viola. Of course, Antoine Tamestit will chair the competition jury; the rest of the jury also features world-class names. We are all the more pleased that we have managed to include a concert in the programme where all the jurors of the viola competition will perform together on one stage. The jurors of the trombone competition, the second fi eld of the upcoming competition, also agreed with the same idea. It looks like we have something to look forward to!
The Czech Philharmonic will be given a great deal of opportunity at the festival. Together, we will present artists and a program that will let our first orchestra shine in world class splendour. For the first time ever, the living legend of American classical music, John Adams, will conduct in the Czech Republic. Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson will be the soloist of the evening and will return to Prague after a sensational success in the previous subscription season. The Final Concert with Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is the event that many of you are waiting for; the Czech Philharmonic will be conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. Since the Municipal House cannot accommodate all those interested in this spectacular final event, we will present this work by Beethoven that is full of symbols for two days in a row.
In May 2023, the league of top orchestras will be represented by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra whose guest appearance and also the presence of conductor Daniel Harding we have been striving for several years. The concert will feature the Seventh Symphony by Gustav Mahler which had its world premiere in Prague and also refers to the deep trace of performing Mahler’s works left with the Munich Orchestra by its long-time chief conductor Rafael Kubelík.
A concert by the French orchestra of period instruments Les Talens Lyriques with its founder Christophe Rousset will also be a dream that comes true. As part of their first Czech performance, they will perform two operas from the time of the reign of Louis XIV. The opera Almasis by the almost forgotten composer Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer will even be performed in Prague as a modern day premiere and then will be brought to other parts of Europe in the form of a concert tour. This evening will also certainly be one of the highlights of this Prague Spring Festival.
We have prepared true festival programmes for guest appearances by Prague orchestras: The PKF – Prague Philharmonia will perform with an Ukrainian conductor, Oksana Lyniv who has earned respect for her first-class musicality, talent and courage to freely present her civic stance. A concert to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of regular broadcasting by the Czech Radio will be a special event. The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra will perform under the leadership of the excellent German conductor Cornelius Meister and Dvořák’s Violin Concerto will be performed by Jan Mráček.
The Prague Symphony Orchestra will have a unique opportunity to witness the start of the artistic career of the Czech conductor Alena Jelínková – the Debut of the Prague Spring will be hers. Exactly after ten years, we will welcome mezzosoprano Magdalena Kožená and pianist Mitsuko Uchida to the festival as they will perform a programme of French songs. The personalities performing at the festival will also include the remarkable pianist Igor Levit, the acclaimed harpsichordist Jean Rondeau and the star countertenor Andreas Scholl.
After the fantastic success of last year’s weekend of contemporary music, the Prague Offspring, it is our honour and pleasure to invite one of the most outstanding contemporary composers, Georg Friedrich Haas, to Prague, with the participation of whom Klangforum Wien will perform two of his works: Concerto for Percussion and the composition in vain. This top Viennese ensemble with conductor Peter Rundel will also perform world premieres by Czech authors. In addition to concerts, you can look forward to a rich complementary programme: a masterclass, a public rehearsal or a discussion with Georg Friedrich Haas. I am already looking forward to the lively creative atmosphere that accompanies the Prague Offspring event at the inspiring milieu of the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art.
The visual style that will guide us through the upcoming year was provided by the Colmo studio. Their concept is based on a graphic representation of the relationships between composers and their muses – their life partners. It is no coincidence that the visuality of the 2023 Prague Spring Festival differs from much of what we are exposed to today in the media and in the public space and that small graphic relationship puzzles will reveal their meanings gradually as the festival opening will approach.
I believe that the rich program of the 2023 Prague Spring Festival will bring you a host of unforgettable experiences!
Director of the Prague Spring Festival