Concert

At the concert Spring Stars of the Czech Philharmonic III, which took place on Wednesday, 14 April 2021 at the Rudolfinum, the Antonín Dvořák Prize was presented to the laureates for the years 2019 and 2020. The soprano Gabriela Beňačková and the conductor Jakub Hrůša received the prize for their many years of promotion of Czech music in this country and abroad.

Jakub Hrůša

Jakub Hrůša is one of the most active and influential representatives of Czech music culture and the Czech school of conducting around the world. He regularly guest conducts leading orchestras in Europe and the USA. At present, he is the chief conductor of the Bamberg Symphony and chief guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra. From 2009 to 2015 he served as the music director and chief conductor of the Prague Philharmonia. His most important recent engagements include repeated invitations to conduct the the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Opéra national de Paris, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.He regularly performs at the BBC Proms and he debutes at Salzburg festival.  Maestro Hrůša has an equal affinity for the concert repertoire and for opera. He guest conducts regularly at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Vienna State Opera, London’s Royal Opera, and the Frankfurt Opera and the special projects at the Czech opera houses. For his recording of compositions by Dvořák and Martinů and for his DVD recording of the opera Vanessa from the festival at Glyndebourne, he recently won a BBC Music Magazine Awards. His active interest in the composer Josef Suk, Antonín Dvořák’s son-in-law, was reflected in his activity at last year’s Dvořák Prague Festival and in the season of the Czech Philharmonic. Currently, his priority recording project is Suk’s complete orchestral works. Common feature of all his activies abroad is the persistent promotion of the Czech classsical music in particular. He was awarded the Antonín Dvořák Prize by the Academy of Classical Music for these achievements in 2020.

Gabriela Beňačková

A bright, lyrical soprano voice with a tinge of Slavonic sadness that rises to the heights with incredible lightness – that is how one might typically describe the voice and singing of Gabriela Beňačková, whose vocal career is one of the most brilliant to have emerged from Slovakia when it was still part of a country shared with the Czech people. Around the world, Ms. Beňačková is the definitive performer of the role of Mařenka in The Bartered Bride, of major female roles in the operas of Leoš Janáček, and of the title role in Dvořák’s Rusalka.

Her recording of The Bartered Bride under the baton of Zdeněk Košler is regarded as the key to the modern interpretation of Bedřich Smetana’s most popular opera. Besides Beňačková and the Slovak tenor Peter Dvorský singing the role of Jeník, the recording also features the bass Richard Novák and the Czech Philharmonic, two subsequent winners of the Antonín Dvořák Prize in 2016 and 2018.

Gabriela Beňačková was born on 25 March 1947 in Bratislava, and she devoted herself to music from her childhood. She sang in the Czechoslovak Radio Children’s Choir in Bratislava, and later she studied singing at the conservatoires in Bratislava and Žilina and at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. She became a member of the opera ensemble at the National Theatre in Prague in 1975.

She soon worked her way upwards and became a leading member of the ensemble, but in parallel to her successes at home, she was also on the fact track to a big career abroad. Ms. Beňačková became an ensemble member at the Bavarian State Opera and the Vienna State Opera, where one of her major roles was Maddalena in the opera Andrea Chénier. Plácido Domingo sang the title role, and Ms. Beňačková made an outstanding vocal pairing with him. Together, they also created the roles of Otello and Desdemona in Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, which they performed many times at the Metropolitan Opera, where Ms. Beňačková also gave remarkable performances of ťa Kabanová. She later recorded this Janáček opera under the baton of Charles Mackerras.

At the Metropolitan Opera, the Vienna State Opera, and other important theatres, Ms. Beňačková has made her mark as a moving performer of the title part in Dvořák’s Rusalka. She has been recorded twice in the role, once with the Czech Philharmonic and once in Vienna. Václav Neumann conducted on both recordings, and on the first of them, Beňačková again joined forces with Richard Novák in the role of the Water Goblin. Ms. Beňačková also appeared in Neumann’s complete set of recordings of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler. She has sung the soprano parts in Dvořák’s Requiem and Stabat Mater and has made recordings under the baton of Wolfgang Sawalisch.

Ms. Beňačková has been appreciated not only in the Czech and Slovak repertoire; she has been simply outstanding singing lyric roles. She has sung Mimi in Puccini’s La bohème and Margeurite in Gounod’s Faust and Boito’s Mefistofele. Her partners were the world’s top singers of the 1970s through the ’90s. In about 1997 she began to withdraw from her life as a performer, and it seemed that her career as a singer had definitively ended, but in 2012 she appeared at the Salzburg Festival as the Countess de la Roche in Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s opera Die Soldaten. In 2018 she surprisingly played the role of Kabanicha in Janáček’s Káťa Kabanová – the public at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples saw Ms. Beňačková as Káťa’s tyrannical mother-in-law.

The album of songs by Dvořák, Janáček, and Martinů, which she recorded in 1994 with the pianist Rudolf Firkušný, was nominated for a Grammy. At present, she is the president of the Gabriela Beňačková International Vocal Competition. She has earned the title of Kammersängerin with the Bavarian State Opera and Vienna State Opera, and she has been awarded the Medal of Merit and the Order of the White Double Cross. She has won the Antonín Dvořák Prize as an outstanding artist who is still active.

 

 

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“Naturally, I was very flattered that Gabriela Beňačková wanted to record Káťa Kabanová only with me – in many respects, she is the ideal performer of the role. Some people say she is a bit cool, but I think that hidden behind that seeming coolness is real passion that is exceptionally suited to Káťa."

Charles Mackerras, 1998

 

Antonín Dvořák Prize

The Antonín Dvořák Prize is a prestigious award in the field of classical music. It is intended to highlight people, artistic collectives, or institutions for exceptional artistic achievements or significant merit in promoting and popularising Czech classical music in the Czech Republic and abroad. Winners have been announced by the Academy of Classical Music since 2009.

The first laureate of the prize was the great-grandson of the composer Antonín Dvořák, the violinist, violist, and conductor Josef Suk. Following him were such figures as the pianist Ivan Moravec, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and the world-famous choreographer and dancer Jiří Kylián. In the past, the importance of the prize has been underscored by the special places and occasions of its presentation. The soprano Ludmila Dvořáková received the Antonín Dvořák Prize in the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle during a recital by the pianist Lang Lang, the conductor Jiří Bělohlávek was given the prize in 2014 at Carnegie Hall in New York, and the Czech Philharmonic received it at its concert celebrating 100 years of Czech statehood at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Laureates of the Antonín Dvořák Prize receive a glass sculpture of a cello designed by the architect Jiří Pelcl and produced by the glassmakers from the company Moser.

Charter and Schedule

The awarding of the Antonín Dvořák Prize is governed by a charter. You can download the charter in its full wording here.

Academic Council

Since 2012, the Academic Council has made the decisions on awarding the Antonín Dvořák Prize. The Academic Council consists of important figures of Czech cultural life and classical music, and it decides on nominations and the actual selection of winners of the Antonín Dvořák Prize.

  • Petr Altrichter, conductor
  • David Beveridge, musicologist
  • Jakub Čížek, director of Prague Radio Symphony
  • Věra Drápelová, music publicist
  • Jakub Hrůša, Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony and Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic
  • Ivo Kahánek, pianist, educator HAMU
  • Ivan Klánský, pianist, Dean of the Music Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (HAMU), holder of the Antonín Dvořák Prize 2017
  • Jiří Kylián, choreograph, holder of the Antonín Dvořák Prize 2013
  • David Mareček, general director of the Ctech Philharmonic, pianist
  • Tomáš Motl, executive director of the ČT art channel
  • Jan Simon, intendant of the Academy of Classical Music, pianist
  • Luboš Stehlík, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Harmonie, music publicist
  • Jiří Vejvoda, music publicist, Deputy Chairman and Spokesman of the Czech Radio Council

Laureates