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 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.