Renewed Potential

The Concertino Praga Competition for Young Musicians is getting a second wind by joining forces with the Academy of Classical Music. Its name has been lengthened to “Concertino Praga – Dvořák Radio Competition for Young Musicians”, but most importantly, it is being made more attractive for the competitors and the public. The Dvořák Prague Festival’s artistic director Jan Simon has given a breakdown of the new form of the competition.

The Concertino Praga International Radio Competition for Young Musicians was founded in 1966 at the initiative of Czechoslovak Radio with the backing of figures including the harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková, the composer Viktor Kalabis, and the musical editor Helena Karásková. The competition was intended for young musicians who were dedicating their lives to a professional performing career.


I remember how as a little boy, my jaw dropped when I was watching concerts of the competition laureates from the Rudolfinum in Prague on television. My peers were giving performances there that seemed to be unattainable. And it’s no wonder –in the history of Concertina Praga, the winners have included such great artists as the violinists Václav Hudeček and Isabelle Faust, the pianists Zoltán Kocsis, Igor Ardašev, and Ivo Kahánek, the French horn player Radek Baborák, and the trumpet player Giuliano Sommerhalder. Over more than half a century of the competition’s history, the list of winners has become very long. All of the artists mentioned above – and many other Concertina laureates – are now enjoying success on stages around the world, and they can look back on the competition that helped them gain access to the great world of music.

When I arrived at the Academy of Classical Music with some educational projects, it seemed logical to me that we would not create a brand new competition. Instead, we are joining forces with Czech Radio to build on the foundation of a project that embodies great potential, a wealth of history, and the wonderful idea of cooperation with public radio networks. As institutions, Czech Radio and the Academy of Classical Music share the goals of disseminating cultural heritage and enriching our cultural environment. This led me to discussions with Czech Radio about co-presenting the event, and in recent days, the successful result was the announcement of the 55th annual Concertino Praga Competition for 2020.


We see Dvořák’s legacy as not only his music, but also his support for young, talented artists. He often gave them financial aid in the form of stipends. Beneficiaries included Dvořák’s pupils at the conservatoires in Prague and New York in the days when he was already an established master with an artistic career and a secure living. This example inspired us to attempt to support the successful competitors at Concertino Praga with scholarships or contributions towards their purchases of musical instruments. This approach to the competition has been made possible thanks to the support of the Karel Komárek Family Foundation (KKFF).

We want to draw the attention of musical experts and the public to extraordinarily talented and dedicated young people and to present them to their peers as role models. For this reason, steps have been taken to make the competition more attractive.


In the past, competitors were evaluated only on the basis of recordings. The new model for the competition includes a live final round on stage at the Rudolfinum, accompanied by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. The final round will be a regular part of the Dvořák Prague Festival programme. The concert will present four competitors selected during the previous two rounds on the basis of submitted recordings made by institutions capable of producing audio of a technical quality suitable for radio broadcasting. No less important are the jury members. For every young musician, it is important that they will be presenting their artistry and skill on the stage of the Rudolfinum accompanied by a superb orchestra at the prestigious Dvořák Prague Festival in the presence of figures like the violinist Maxim Vengerov or the cellist David Geringas, who have promised to take part in 2020. The competitors are then rewarded by the applause of the audience at the Dvořák Hall. The young musicians are also aware that they are appearing at the same festival as Zubin Mehta. Other attractions include prestigious jury members, scholarships, the subsequent South Bohemian Concertino Praga Festival, a studio recording made by Czech Radio, and many more prizes and opportunities. This includes the audience prize during the finals, for which audience members vote right at the concert.


All of this awaits the competitors at the Concertina Praga – Dvořák Radio Competition for Young Musicians at a time when the rules allow contestants to be no more than 15 or 16 years old. Thirty-five years ago, if I had been in their shoes, it probably would have taken my breath away.