Antonín Dvořák: Love Songs, op. 83, B. 160 (arr. Jiří Teml)
Antonín Dvořák: Czech Suite, op. 39, B. 93
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, op. 18
You can watch a recording of our concluding concert on our YouTube channel HERE.
With this concert, we brought to a successful conclusion our 13th-annual festival, which took place almost in its entirety in spite of all of the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Although there was a change to the programme caused by the illness of some members of the Prague Philharmonic Choir, the concert left an unforgettable impression on the audience members in attendance. With Antonín Dvořák’s tender Love Songs orchestrated by Jiří Teml and sung with heartfelt emotion by Kateřina Kněžíková, the chamber music-like intimacy Dvořák’s Czech Suite, and the ecstatically symphonic approach to the performance of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto with the one and only Lukáš Vondráček at the piano, the public experienced a lovely evening.
We wish to thank the Czech Philharmonic and the evening’s soloists for enabling us to share this experience. We believe that the audience’s explosion of enthusiasm at the conclusion is an expression of the hope that a year from now, we will meet again at the festival under better conditions than those that accompanied this year’s festival.
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.
Petr Altrichter made his debut with the Czech Philharmonic in 1979, and has subsequently conducted the Orchestra on numerous occasions in Prague, on tour in China, Germany, in Japan and Taiwan.
He was raised in a musical family, and he played musical instruments from a young age. Having graduated from the conservatory in Ostrava as a French horn player and conductor, he continued his studies at the Janáček Academy of the Performing Arts in Brno in the fields of orchestral conducting under the guidance of Otakar Trhlík and František Jílek and choral conducting with the teachers Josef Veselka and Lubomír Mátl. After his studies in Brno, he worked as a choirmaster and conductor with the Brno Academic Choir, and he played a part in the earning of many prizes at foreign choral competitions and festivals (Middlesbrough, Debrecen…).
Altrichter attracted international attention in 1976, when he earned the title of laureate and a special prize from the jury at the renowned conducting competition in Besançon, France. On the basis of that prize, he became Václav Neumann’s assistant conductor with the Czech Philharmonic, and he started his own artistic career. Not long after that, he began to receive invitations to conduct orchestras abroad.
After a period of activity with the Brno Philharmonic, in 1988 he became a conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and in 1990 he became its principal conductor. With that orchestra, he made frequent foreign tours to Japan, the USA, Switzerland, Germany, France, and other countries. At the same time, he was engaged in long-term collaboration with the Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra in Pardubice, with which he often gave performances abroad introducing many gifted young soloists (such as Isabelle van Keulen and Radek Baborák) who are now firmly established on concert stages around the world.
From 1993, he was the music director of the Southwest German Philharmonic Orchestra of Constance, with which he gave concerts regularly at the Tonhalle in Zurich and at the KKL in Lucerne, and he also toured Switzerland and Italy.
Petr Altrichter made his debut in the United Kingdom with the Prague Symphony Orchestra at the Edinburgh Festival in 1993, and his London debut with the English Chamber Orchestra followed soon thereafter. In 1997 he was appointed as the principal conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic after having guest conducted the orchestra with great success during the previous season. He also made an appearance with that orchestra in 2000 at the BBC Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall, and he made a number of highly acclaimed recordings for the orchestra’s own label – RLPO Live.
In 2001 Altrichter was invited to take the helm of the Brno Philharmonic, and he remained there for seven years, returning to the orchestra with which he had been associated since his student days, and he still continues to guest conduct there regularly.
In 2015 he toured Germany with the Czech Philharmonic, and in late 2015 and early 2016, he toured China with the same orchestra. In the spring of 2017 he toured Japan with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and his 2018 calendar included a tour of the United Kingdom with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.
He has guest conducted major orchestras abroad, including Japan’s NHK Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, Bruckner Orchestra in Linz, Warsaw Philharmonic, Krakow Philharmonic, Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra in Baden-Baden, Latvian National Symphony Orchestra in Riga, Gran Canaria Philharmonic Orchestra, Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Netherlands Philharmonic, Stavanger Symphony Orchestra, Norrköping Symphony Orchestra, Royal Danish Orchestra in Copenhagen, and Odense Symphony Orchestra. In the United Kingdom he has collaborated with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
He has made guest appearances at major festivals in Salzburg, Edinburgh, Avignon, Athens, Cheltenham, Paris, Madrid, Chicago, Zurich, Lucerne, Vienne, Seville, Palermo, and elsewhere.
The bulk of Petr Altrichter’s repertoire consists of Czech music – Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček, and Bohuslav Martinů, Russian music – especially Dmitri Shostakovich, and the works of Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner. Important soloists and performers from around the world (Garrick Ohlsson, John Lill, Tabea Zimmermann…) value his flexibility in leading orchestral accompaniments, and they seek out collaboration with him.
Source: Petr Altrichter
Following recent debuts with the Chicago, Pittsburgh and London symphony orchestras, Lukáš Vondráček has a season packed with highlights ahead of him. In 2021/22 he will debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at Hollywood Bowl and return to renowned orchestras such as Baltimore and Chicago symphony orchestras, both under the baton of Marin Alsop. Elsewhere Lukáš Vondráček will appear with Orchestre National de Lille conducted by Lionel Bringuier, Warsaw Philharmonic as well as the Turku and Malmö symphony orchestras. Recital projects will take him to the Rudolf Firkusny Piano Festival at Prague’s Rudolfinum and the Kissinger Summer Festival. He will take his residency with the Janáček Philharmonic into the next season and continue his recording cycle of all Rachmaninov Piano concertos with Prague Symphony Orchestra.
Over the last decade Lukáš Vondráček has travelled the world working with orchestras such as the Philadelphia, Tasmanian and Sydney Symphony orchestras, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, Frankfurt Symphony Radio Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic and Netherlands Philharmonic orchestras under conductors such as Paavo Järvi, Gianandrea Noseda, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Marin Alsop, Christoph Eschenbach, Pietari Inkinen, Vasily Petrenko, Jakub Hrůša, Anu Tali, Xian Zhang, Krzysztof Urbański, Stéphane Denève and Elim Chan, among many others. Recitals have led him to Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, the Flagey in Brussels, Leipzig’s Gewandhaus, Wiener Konzerthaus, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and to renowned festivals such as Menuhin Festival Gstaad, PianoEspoo in Finland, Prague Spring Festival and Lille Piano Festival.
At the age of four Lukáš Vondráček made his first public appearance. As a fifteen-year-old in 2002 he made his debut with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Vladimir Ashkenazy which was followed by a major US tour in 2003. His natural and assured musicality and remarkable technique have long marked him out as a gifted and mature musician. He has achieved worldwide recognition by receiving many international awards, foremost the Grand Prix at the 2016 Concours Reine Elisabeth in Brussels alongside first prizes at the Hilton Head and San Marino International Piano Competitions and Unisa International Piano Competition in Pretoria, South Africa, as well as the Raymond E. Buck Jury Discretionary Award at the 2009 International Van Cliburn Piano Competition.
After finishing his studies at the Academy of Music in Katowice and the Vienna Conservatoire, Lukáš Vondráček obtained an Artist Diploma from Boston's New England Conservatory under the tutelage of Hung-Kuan Chen, graduating with honours in 2012.
Source: Harrison Parrott
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 Czech baritone Svatopluk Sem is a graduate of the České Budějovice Conservatoire. He is a regular guest on the most important Czech opera stages including the National Theatre in Prague, the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen, the National Theatre in Brno, and the National Moravian – Silesian Theatre in Ostrava. He also devotes himself to the concert repertoire, appearing not only in the Czech Republic, but also on many concert stages abroad (Japan, Denmark, South Korea, Austria, Spain, Germany, Russia, England), where he has collaborated with renowned conductors including Jiří Bělohlávek, Heiko Mathias Förster, and Tomáš Netopil. He took part in recording Smetana’s opera The Bartered Bride with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek for the Harmonia Mundi label, and he performed in the BBC documentary Rolando meets Don Giovanni, where he appeared together with Rolando Villazón in the title role of Don Giovanni. He is a frequent guest at such prestigious festivals as the BBC Proms, the Dvořák Prague Festival, the Open-Air Gars am Kamp Festival in Austria, the Prague Spring Festival, and Smetana’s Litomyšl.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir (PPC) is a leading European vocal ensemble, and as one of the Czech Republic’s foremost artistic institutions operates under the trusteeship of the Czech Ministry of Culture. During the choir’s long history since its foundation in 1935, it was directed by a succession of some of the most distinguished Czech choirmasters (including Jan Kühn, Josef Veselka and Lubomír Mátl). Since 2007 its principal conductor has been Lukáš Vasilek.
The PPC’s repertoire is centred primarily around oratorios and cantatas. The choir has worked with eminent international orchestras (the Czech Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden or Wiener Symphoniker, among others), and conductors (including Daniel Barenboim, Semyon Bychkov, Christoph Eschenbach, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Manfred Honeck, Jakub Hrůša, Philippe Jordan, Fabio Luisi, Zubin Mehta, Tomáš Netopil, Gianandrea Noseda, Sir Simon Rattle). As the choir in residence at the opera festival in Bregenz, Austria, the PPC is likewise active in the domain of opera.
Apart from these commitments, the PPC engages in several own projects. Since 2011 it has organised its own concert series in Prague, with a programme focused on technically demanding and/or lesser-known choral works, either a cappella or with chamber-scale instrumental accompaniment. The PPC has taken some of these choral projects abroad (including within its tours in the USA and Mexico – 2014, in Russia – 2018). The choir regards as an inseparable part of its activity educational endeavours targeting the young. In this context, it has been involved in organising a Choral Academy for voice students, a project aimed at enabling young artists to acquire practical skills through work with a professional vocal ensemble; and with focus on young children, running a series of educational concerts and a programme of voice workshops in schools.
The PPC has to its credit an extensive discography, with many titles released by major international labels (e. g. Decca Classics, Deutsche Grammophon, Sony Classical and Supraphon). In recent years the choir has taken part in several unique recording projects, two of them in association with the Czech Philharmonic. The first of these, a recording of Antonín Dvořák’s Stabat Mater (Decca, 2017), with Jiří Bělohlávek conducting, received the coveted Diapason d’Or de l’Annèe award for the year’s best album in the sacred music category. The second, a recording of Bohuslav Martinů’s The Epic of Gilgamesh (Supraphon, 2017), under the baton of Manfred Honeck, won several awards in the United Kingdom in 2017, plus another Diapason d’Or. Its album featuring chamber cantatas of Bohuslav Martinů (Supraphon, 2016), received top accolades of the prestigious British magazines Gramophone (Editor’s Choice) and BBC Music Magazine (Choral and Song Choice). In the latter, it was also nominated for its annual award in the choral music category. In 2020, Decca Classic released an album of Antonín Dvořák’s music (Te Deum, Requiem), in which the Prague Philharmonic Choir participated.
In the 2022/2023 season, the Prague Philharmonic Choir’s activities in the Czech Republic include concerts at several festivals such as the Dvořák Prague, Smetana’s Litomyšl, and the Prague Spring. The choir will also appear in performances together with the Czech Philharmonic, Prague Symphony Orchestra, or Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and will perform under renowned conductors such as Semyon Bychkov or Daniel Harding. The international activities include a performance at Bruckner National Festival in Linz and the choir will also return to the opera festivals in St. Gallen and Bregenz.
The Prague Philharmonic Choir is the recipient of the 2018 Classic Prague Award for Best Vocal Concert, and Czech Television’s Classical Music of the Year Award. In 2022, the choir was awarded the Antonín Dvořák Prize.
Lukáš Kozubík vystudoval operní zpěv a sbormistrovství. Již během studií spolupracoval s celou řadou koncertních sborů, mj. s Brněnským akademickým sborem či Pěveckým sborem Lumír Brno. Aktivně se podílel také na činnosti Komorní opery JAMU na pozicích asistenta dirigenta, sbormistra a korepetitora. Je stálým hostujícím sbormistrem a dirigentem sborových dílen ve Frýdku-Místku, kde se zaměřuje na interpretaci duchovní hudby. Od sezóny 2012/2013 je sbormistrem opery Státního divadla v Košicích. Je zároveň zakladatelem a uměleckým vedoucím Dětského operního studia SD Košice a do letošního roku působil jako pedagog na tamější konzervatoři. Od roku 2013 je členem komorního ansámblu Cassovia baroque trio, se kterým se zaměřuje na interpretaci staré komorní hudby. V sezóně 2020/2021 jej čeká koncert s Ivánem Fischerem v Budapešti se sborem opery Státního divadla Košice a orchestrem Budapest Festival Orchestra při provedení Beethovenovy 9. symfonie, stejně jako projekty s Českou filharmonií a Symfonickým orchestrem hl. m. Prahy FOK.
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.