Vítězslav Novák: Lady Godiva, Op. 41
Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
Antonín Dvořák: Slavonic Dances, Series II, Op. 72, B. 147
The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra has always taken pride in its Czech origins and sound. With its present chief conductor Jakub Hrůša, it is as if the orchestra were increasingly on a return journey to Prague, the city from which its founding members had to depart after the Second World War. As the principal guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Hrůša is an embodiment of the historical ties between the Czech and German peoples and their musical life. This connection, including the orchestra’s significant orientation of repertoire towards Czech music, led naturally to the idea of a joint orchestral residency of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra with the Czech Philharmonic at the 2021 festival. The violinist Jan Mráček, concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic, will be the evening’s soloist.
The concert programme also emphasises the cosmopolitan aspect in a Czech environment. The overture Lady Godiva by Vítězslav Novák takes its dramatic inspiration from the medieval legend of a woman who rode naked through the streets of Coventry so her husband would lower the taxes on the local population. The composer of the Violin Concerto in D Major, the Brno native Erich Wolfgang Korngold, became famous for his film music, and he shaped the musical style of old Hollywood. Antonín Dvořák’s second set of Slavonic Dances is an increasingly popular item in the worldwide repertoire, and its pensive character seems to speak to the public more than the immediacy of the first set.
The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra was founded 1946 under circumstances that are closely tied to the post-war history of Czechoslovakia and its cultural traditions. Among the orchestra’s founding members were former players from the German Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague, which was shut down after the Second World War. The ensemble has long been an important cultural ambassador of Bavaria and of Germany as a whole – in the course of its existence, the orchestra has given nearly 7,500 concerts in more than five hundred cities in 63 countries. Since the 1950s, the orchestra has been known all around the world thanks to its countless radio broadcasts and recordings made in cooperation with Bavarian Radio. At present, the orchestra has yet another connection to its Czech roots in the person of Jakub Hrůša, its chief conductor since September 2016. The importance of its contribution with its strong focus on the programming of its concerts is shown by, among other things, the award from the German Music Publishers’ Association for the “Best Concert Programme” of the 2017/18 season and by the Bavarian State Music Prize for 2020.
Jakub Hrůša is one of the most active and influential representatives of Czech musical culture and of the Czech school of conducting around the world. He regularly conducts top orchestras in Europe and the USA. He is currently the chief conductor of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra and the principal guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. From 2009 to 2015 he served as the music director and chief conductor of the Prague Philharmonia. Among his most important engagements have been repeated invitations from the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Orchestre de Paris, the Leipzig Gewandhaus, and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. He guest conducts regularly at the BBC Proms, and awaiting him in the coming season is his Salzburg Festival debut. Maestro Hrůša has an equal affinity for the concert repertoire and opera. He appears regularly as a guest at the opera festival in Glyndebourne and with the Vienna State Opera, London’s Royal Opera, the Opéra national de Paris, and the Frankfurt Opera, while appearing occasionally at Czech opera houses as well. For his recording of compositions by Dvořák and Martinů and for a DVD recording of the opera Vanessa at the festival in Glyndebourne, he recently won a BBC Music Magazine Award. His active interest in the composer Josef Suk, Antonín Dvořák’s son-in-law, has been reflected in his activity with this year’s Dvořák Prague Festival and the subsequent season of the Czech Philharmonic. Suk’s complete orchestral music is now his priority recording project. A common denominator of his activity abroad has been his steadfast promotion of the music of Czech composers in particular. For this activity, the Academy of Classical Music has awarded him the 2020 Antonín Dvořák Prize.
Since his childhood, the violinist Jan Mráček has been one of the most prominent performers of his generation. He began playing violin at the age of five, and he studied at the School of Music of the City of Prague and the Prague Conservatoire. One of his first important successes was his victory at the 2009 Beethoven’s Hradec International Competition. A year later, at the age of 19, he became the youngest laureate in the history of the Prague Spring Competition, and in 2014 he won first prize at the Fritz Kreisler International Violin Competition in Vienna. In 2011 he became the youngest soloist in the history of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, and since September 2016 he has been serving as concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic. He appears as a soloist on important stages around the world alongside such figures as Maxim Vengerov, Semyon Bychkov, Jac van Steen, and Vladimir Fedoseyev. Since January 2008 he has been a member of the Lobkowicz Trio, with which he won first prize and the audience prize at the Johannes Brahms International Music Competition in Pörtschach, Austria.
The Rudolfinum is one of the most important Neo-Renaissance edifices in the Czech Republic. In its conception as a multi-purpose cultural centre it was quite unique in Europe at the time of its construction. Based on a joint design by two outstanding Czech architects, Josef Zítek and Josef Schultz, a magnificent building was erected serving for concerts, as a gallery, and as a museum. The grand opening on 7 February 1885 was attended by Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, in whose honour the structure was named. In 1896 the very first concert of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra took place in the Rudolfinum's main concert hall, under the baton of the composer Antonín Dvořák whose name was later bestowed on the hall.