The innate musicality of the Czech people could not fail but to give birth to a vast legacy of musical creations that, in turn, need interpreters to bring them to life.
Whatever the complexities of the world, there will always be a place for music that speaks directly to human heart, regardless of where it comes from. And, today this is even more true than ever.
This is precisely what the best Czech music has to offer: the capacity to ennoble with beauty and reveal existential drama that transcends borders. It shows human creativity to be an essential gift that we can admire. Deeply rooted in its own folk culture, what makes Czech musical culture universally powerful is its ever-present connection to the life and history of its country, its national identity, its aspiration for freedom and independence. It is at the same time both authentic and universal.
As festivals, orchestras and presenters across the Czech Republic gear up to 2024 and the Year of Czech Music, the Czech Philharmonic opens its 128th season with nine concerts dedicated to the music of Antonin Dvořák, who conducted the Orchestra’s inaugural concert in 1896. The three Dvořák programmes that Chief Conductor and Music Director Semyon Bychkov opens the season with three Dvořák programmes that will each receive three performances: Symphony No. 7 is paired with the Cello Concerto in B minor with soloist Pablo Ferrández; Symphony No.8 is programmed with Dvořák’s only Violin Concerto performed by Augustin Hadelich; and Symphony No. 9 is balanced with Dvořák’s sole Piano Concerto performed by Sir András Schiff, the Czech Philharmonic’s 2023-24 Artist-in-Residence. Following the concerts in Prague, Semyon Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic will take Dvořák on tour to South Korea and Japan. A second tour also devoted to the music of Dvořák takes Bychkov and the Orchestra to Spain, Austria, Germany, Belgium, and France in spring 2024.
2024’s Year of Czech Music is a 100-year-old tradition, celebrated across the Czech Republic every 10 years. Initiated in 1924, six years after Czech independence following the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was significant that the first Year of Czech Music marked Bedřich Smetana’s centenary. Smetana’s Má vlast (My Homeland) has long been a potent symbol for the country’s turbulent political history and has been a significant part of the Czech Philharmonic’s repertoire since they gave it its first full performance in 1901. In March 2024, the Orchestra will mark Smetana’s 200th birthday with a new recording of the full cycle conducted by Semyon Bychkov and released by PENTATONE. Later in the year, Principal Guest Conductor Jakub Hrůša and the Czech Philharmonic will perform Smetana’s Libuše in collaboration with the Prague Spring International Music Festival and Smetana’s Litomyšl Festival. The closing concert of Smetana’s Litomyšl will feature Má vlast conducted by Tomáš Netopil, the Orchestra’s joint Principal Guest Conductor.
In addition to the music of Dvořák and Smetana, the Czech Philharmonic follows this season’s concert performances of Dvořák’s Rusalka conducted by Semyon Bychkov at the 2022 Dvořák Prague International Festival, with performances of Martinů’s Ariadne conducted by Tomáš Netopil; and Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen conducted by Jakub Hrůša.
The 128th season marks the start of Semyon Bychkov’s second 5-year term as Chief Conductor and Music Director of the Czech Philharmonic. The focus at the beginning of Bychkov’s tenure was on Tchaikovsky, culminating in The
Tchaikovsky Project – a series of concerts, residencies, and recordings of the complete symphonies for Decca Classics. More recently, the Orchestra has turned the spotlight on the music of Mahler, who was born in Bohemia and in 1908 conducted the Czech Philharmonic in the world première of his Seventh Symphony. A new complete cycle of Mahler symphonies conducted by Semyon Bychkov for PENTATONE features recently released recordings of Mahler’s Symphony Nos. 4, 5 and 2. The 2023/24 season features performances and recordings of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with Christa Mayer in Prague and Baden Baden.
Launched in 2020, the Czech Philharmonic’s now annual concert honouring the Velvet Revolution of 17 November 1989 has been conducted by Bychkov, Hrůša and Rattle. This November, it is the turn of Sir Antonio Pappano who will make his Czech Philharmonic debut conducting Brahms’s Nänie, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto with soloist Janine Jansen and Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances Op. 72. Former Artists-in-Residence Yuja Wang (2021-22 season) and Sir Simon Rattle (2022-23 season) also return to the Orchestra programming music by Rachmaninov and Bruckner.
As in previous seasons, the Czech Philharmonic’s concerts with its Chief Conductor and Principal Guest Conductors are complemented by performances from the cream of international soloists. During the 128th season, guest conductors include Alain Altinoglu, Giovanni Antonini, Manfred Honeck, Nicholas Kraemer, Sakari Oramo, Tugan Sokhiev and Franz Welser-Möst; with soloists Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Emmanuel Ax, Boris Giltburg, Bertrand Chamayou, Mao Fujita, Christian Gerhaher, Steven Osborne and Gil Shaham.
The Czech Chamber Music Society’s extensive diary of concerts continues to highlight the Czech Philharmonic’s commitment to chamber music; while the Orchestra’s education department, with its new centre at the Rudolfinum, leads a packed programme of initiatives that include projects with the Czech Philharmonic Youth Orchestra; Čhavorenge Children’s Choir mentored by the inspirational Ida Kelarová; an ongoing relationship with the Royal Academy of Music in London; and masterclasses and lectures for young musicians presented by the Ivan Moravec Academy.
“Continuing their cycle of Mahler symphonies, the Czech Philharmonic achieve a fine balance in this visionary work [Fifth Symphony], a musical universe of dreams and prophecies in which Bychkov matches intelligent pacing with great-hearted warmth, and sonic opulence with textural clarity.”