W. A. Mozart: Don Giovanni, Overture, K. 527
W. A. Mozart: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466
Antonín Dvořák: Slavonic Dances, series I, Op. 46, B. 83
The closing of this year’s Dvořák Prague Festival will be a true grand finale. Joining forces will be the festival’s orchestra-in-residence the Czech Philharmonic, and the Dvořák Prague Festival artist-in-residence Sir András Schiff, who will be presenting himself not only as a pianist, but also, perhaps a bit surprisingly for some, as a conductor. No one, however, who is familiar with his work at the helm of the orchestra Capella Andrea Barca (a cryptogram of Schiff’s name) should be surprised; they will know that this is truly something to look forward to. Popular masterpieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonín Dvořák will shine when given first-class performances by masterful interpreters.
The gates to Mozart’s music will be thrown open twice by dramatic chords in D minor; first with the overture to the opera Don Giovanni, which was given its world premiere at Prague’s Estates Theatre, which remains a fantastic venue for Mozart’s music to this day. The ominous sound of the orchestra in D minor also opens a beautiful piano concerto that reminds us perhaps even more that Mozart’s music never lacks exciting energy even at moments of seriousness.
The festival’s final moments will be devoted to the first series of Slavonic Dances, which make the impression as if Dvořák had simply jotted them down during a moment of great joy. Concealed beneath the spontaneous surface of these wonderfully composed pieces is the touch of a master who can do almost whatever he wishes with music. Surprisingly, this performance, together with the 2nd series of Slavonic Dances played by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra with Jakub Hrůša, will be the first hearing of the orchestral versions of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances in the festival’s history. This fact is further highlighted by the role of both orchestras and of Sir András Schiff as artists-in-residence at the 2021 Dvořák Prague Festival.
András Schiff has long been one of the most brilliantly shining stars among pianists. A native of Hungary, he lives mainly in Basel and Florence, and he is widely regarded as one of the great interpreters of the music of the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, although his vast repertoire extends into the music of the 20th century as well. He is a great lover of Czech music: his recordings for the ECM label include most of Leoš Janáček’s piano music, he frequently performs the chamber works of Antonín Dvořák, and he also instigated and financially supported the publication of a facsimile edition of Dvořák’s Piano Concerto in G minor. Schiff appears regularly on all of the world’s important stages, and he has an enormous discography to his credit including complete sets of the Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert piano sonatas. He teaches masterclasses at prestigious music schools, and he has also enjoyed success as a conductor. For his artistic activities, he has won countless awards, including a Grammy, a Gramophone Award, and the Order of the British Empire.
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.