Ludwig van Beethoven: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61
Josef Suk: Asrael, Symphony in C minor, Op. 27
Josef Suk began composing his funeral symphony Asrael while grieving over the death of his father-in-law Antonín Dvořák, then as he was working on the piece, Suk’s wife, Dvořák’s daughter Otilka, died as well. To this great work full of immense human suffering he gave the name of the Islamic and Hebrew angel of death. Gustav Mahler is, as it were, the unspoken godfather of Asrael. Suk’s symphonic masterpiece is both intoxicating and philosophical; it does not drive listeners to despair, but instead exhorts them to contemplate the inexorable nature of fate and to meditate on the eternal. Asrael is a symphony in which Suk recasts great personal sorrow into a masterpiece, a true milestone of Czech symphonic music, and a work worthy of standing alongside the world’s greatest compositions of the early twentieth century. The conductor Jakub Hrůša and the Czech Philharmonic will perform Asrael using the critical edition published in 2018 by Bärenreiter, which is based on not only Suk’s manuscript, but also corrections made later at the initiative of Václav Talich. On the first part of the programme will be the Violin Concerto in D Major by Ludwig van Beethoven with the outstanding violinist Jan Mráček playing the solo part.
The Czech Philharmonic is the foremost Czech orchestra and has long held a place among the most esteemed representatives of Czech culture on the international scene. The beginning of its rich history is linked to the name of Antonín Dvořák, who on 4 January 1896 conducted the ensemble’s inaugural concert. Although the orchestra performs a broad range of the core international repertoire, it is sought out most often for its superb interpretations of the classics by the great Czech composers in a tradition built up by great conductors (Talich, Kubelík, Ančerl, Neumann, and Bělohlávek). In 2008 the prestigious magazine Gramophone ranked it among the twenty best orchestras of the world. One of the orchestra’s most important recent projects has recording Tchaikovsky’s complete orchestral works for the Decca Label with Semyon Bychkov conducting. Since the inception of the Dvořák Prague Festival, the Czech Philharmonic has been its resident orchestra, and since 2018 it has been a holder of the Antonín Dvořák Prize for promoting and popularising Czech classical music abroad and in the Czech Republic.
Jakub Hrůša is one of the most active and influential representatives of Czech music 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 Orchestra 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 his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestre de Paris, and he has received repeated invitations to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic. Maestro Hrůša has an equal affinity for the concert repertoire and for opera. Besides conducting at the National Theatre in Prague, he also guest conducts regularly at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Vienna State Opera, London’s Royal Opera, the Finnish National Opera, the Opéra national de Paris, and the Frankfurt Opera. 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 Award. His active interest in the composer Josef Suk, Antonín Dvořák’s son-in-law, is reflected in his activity at this year’s Dvořák Prague Festival and in the season of the Czech Philharmonic. Currently, his priority recording project is Suk’s complete orchestral works.
In 2010, the violinist Jan Mráček became the youngest laureate of the Prague Spring International Competition, and in 2011 he earned the title of Soloist of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. “Jan is a worthy winner. He fascinated us from the first round. Not only with his technical ability, but also with his charisma on stage”, said the jury chairman at the Fritz Kreisler International Violin Competition in Vienna, where Jan Mráček won first prize in 2014. He gives concerts all around the world and has appeared with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Symphonia Boca Raton Florida, the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra at the Tonhalle in Zurich, the Asian Youth Orchestra in Tokyo, and in Dubai with the Wiener Concert-Verein, the Daejeon Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Kalisz Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. He has had the honour of collaborating with such conductors as Maxim Vengerov, Han-Na Chang, James Judd, Manuel López-Gómez, Petr Altrichter, Tomáš Brauner, Ondrej Lenárd, Jac van Steen, and Vladimir Fedoseyev. Jiří Bělohlávek invited him to serve in the position of concertmaster of the Czech Philharmonic. He plays a violin made by the Italian master luthier Carlo Fernando Landolfi (Milan, 1758), generously lent to him by Peter Biddulph.
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.