Gustav Mahler: Adagietto from Symphony No. 5
Richard Strauss: Four Last Songs, Op. posth.
Josef Bohuslav Foerster: Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Op. 54, ‘Easter Eve’
In a letter to Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler wrote that they were like two workers digging a tunnel under the same mountain, each beginning on the opposite side but sure to meet in the middle. A musical encounter of these composers at the festival will be accompanied by a rare and unjustly neglected guest – Josef Bohuslav Foerster, a Czech composer and a creative colleague of the two musical giants. This Austro-German-Czech encounter is being presented by the Bamberg Symphony with its chief conductor, Jakub Hrůša. It is truly symbolic that works by great musicians of Central Europe are being performed by an orchestra founded in the wake of the upheavals of post-war Europe. The players of the Bamberg Symphony were largely musicians who had been deported from Prague to Germany, and to this day, the orchestra takes pride in its “Czech sound”. Their guest appearance at the Dvořák Prague Festival is a kind of homecoming for them, and in addition they will be sharing the title of orchestra-in-residence with the Czech Philharmonic.
The graceful motion of the captivating Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 will be followed by the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss. The pensive character of those two works opens the door to Josef Bohuslav Foerster’s Symphony No. 4, a musical depiction of Easter as experienced by a person of deep religious faith. The work is rightly regarded as Foerster’s masterpiece.
The Bamberg Symphony is an extraordinary orchestra in an extraordinary city. Since 1946, it has been delighting audiences worldwide with its characteristically dark, rounded, radiant sound. In that time it has given well over 7,300 concerts in more than 500 cities and 63 countries, and as the Bavarian State Philharmonic it regularly criss-crosses the globe as cultural ambassador to the world for Bavaria and all of Germany. The circumstances surrounding its birth make the Bamberg Symphony a mirror of German history. In 1946, ex-members of Prague’s German Philharmonic Orchestra met fellow musicians who had likewise been forced to flee their homes by the war and its aftermath. Together they founded the »Bamberg Musicians’ Orchestra«, soon after renamed the Bamberg Symphony. Its lineage can be traced back through the Prague Orchestra to the 19th and 18th centuries, so that the Bamberg Symphony’s roots reach back to Mahler and Mozart. Now, more than seventy years after it was founded, and with Czech-born Jakub Hrůša, the Orchestra’s fifth Chief Conductor, at the helm since September 2016, once again there is a living link from the Bamberg Symphony’s historic roots to its present.
Born in the Czech Republic, Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, Music Director Designate of The Royal Opera, Covent Garden (Music Director from 2025), Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. He was also formerly Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra.
He is a frequent guest with many of the world’s greatest orchestras, enjoying close relationships and performing regularly with the Vienna Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Staatskapelle Dresden, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, NHK Symphony and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra – and in the US with The Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Boston Symphony Orchestra.
As a conductor of opera, he has led productions for the Salzburg Festival (Kát’a Kabanová with the Vienna Philharmonic), Vienna State Opera (The Makropulos Case), Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Carmen and Lohengrin), Opéra National de Paris (Rusalka), and Zurich Opera (The Makropulos Case). He has also been a regular guest with Glyndebourne Festival, conducting Vanessa, The Cunning Little Vixen, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Carmen, The Turn of the Screw, Don Giovanni and La bohème, and served as Music Director of Glyndebourne On Tour for three years.
His relationships with leading vocal and instrumental soloists have included collaborations in recent seasons with Behzod Abduraimov, Piotr Anderszewski, Leif Ove Andsnes, Emanuel Ax, Lisa Batiashvili, Joshua Bell, Yefim Bronfman, Rudolf Buchbinder, Renaud Capuçon, Gautier Capuçon, Isabelle Faust, Bernarda Fink, Julia Fischer, Sol Gabetta, Véronique Gens, Christian Gerhaher, Kirill Gerstein, Karen Gomyo, Hélène Grimaud, Augustin Hadelich, Hilary Hahn, Barbara Hannigan, Alina Ibragimova, Janine Jansen, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Karita Mattila, Leonidas Kavakos, Lang Lang, Igor Levit, Albrecht Mayer, Anne Sofie Mutter, Stephanie d’Oustrac, Emmanuel Pahud, Kian Soltani, Josef Špaček, Nikolaj Szeps-Znaider, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Daniil Trifonov, Mitsuko Uchida, Klaus Florian Vogt, Lukáš Vondráček, Yuja Wang, Alisa Weilerstein, and Frank Peter Zimmermann.
As a recording artist, Jakub Hrusa has received numerous awards and nominations for his discography.Most recently, he received the Opus Klassik Conductor of the Year nomination and the ICMA prize for Symphonic Music for his recording of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4, and the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik for his recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4, both with Bamberg Symphony. In 2021, his disc of Martinů and Bartók violin concertos with Bamberg Symphony and Frank Peter Zimmermann (BIS) was nominated for BBC Music Magazine and Gramophone awards, and his recording of the Dvořák Violin Concerto with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Augustin Hadelich was nominated for a Grammy ® Award. His recordings of Dvořák and Martinů Piano Concertos with Ivo Kahánek and the Bamberg Symphony (Supraphon), and Vanessa from Glyndebourne (Opus Arte) both won BBC Music Magazine Awards in 2020. Other recent releases include Dvořák and Brahms Symphonies with Bamberg Symphony (Tudor), Suk’s Asrael Symphony with the Bavarian Radio Symphony (BR Klassik), and Dvořák’s Requiem and Te Deum with the Czech Philharmonic (Decca).
Jakub Hrůša studied conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where his teachers included Jiří Bělohlávek. He is currently President of the International Martinů Circle and The Dvořák Society. He was the inaugural recipient of the Sir Charles Mackerras Prize, and in 2020 was awarded both the Antonín Dvořák Prize by the Czech Republic’s Academy of Classical Music, and – together with Bamberg Symphony – the Bavarian State Prize for Music.
Soprano Kateřina Kněžíková is one of the most prominent Czech singers of both the opera and concert repertoires. In 2018 she won the 2018 Classic Prague Award for the best chamber music performance and the 2019 Thalia Award for extraordinary performing on stage. Since 2006 she has been a member of the opera company of the National Theatre, where she has appeared in productions of Carmen, The Jacobin, The Magic Flute, and The Marriage of Figaro. She also makes guest appearances on other Czech and foreign opera stages (National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava, Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, Theatre de Caen, Opéra Royal de Versailles, Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie in Brussels, Opéra de Dijon). She has worked with important conductors (P. Domingo, M. Honeck, J. Hrůša, T. Netopil, R. Ticciati, E. Villaume) and ensembles (BBC Symphony Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Collegium 1704, Czech Philharmonic, DSO Berlin). She has taken part in the making of several recordings for the Harmonia Mundi, Decca, Supraphon, Radioservis, and Mezzo labels.
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.