Zdeněk Fibich: The Tempest – Overture, Op. 46
Josef Suk: Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra in G Minor, Op. 24
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 27
“I need not give an account of myself to anyone. Only to my own conscience and to our noble lady music,” the composer Josef Suk once said. His Fantasy in G minor for violin and orchestra will be on the first programme of the Czech Philharmonic at this year’s event. The Dvořák Prague Festival is presenting the music of Dvořák’s son-in-law with growing frequency, and this work for violin and orchestra shows Suk as a dramatic composer of music full of surprising turns and inner turmoil.
A very rarely played work by Suk’s and Dvořák’s contemporary Zdeněk Fibich has not appeared previously on our festival programmes, so we are repaying this debt with a performance of the overture to his opera The Tempest. This adds yet another piece to the mosaic of Czech music of the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth. The performance of the Symphony No. 2 in E minor by Suk’s contemporary Sergei Rachmaninoff on the second half of the concert highlights the fact that the two Czech composers deserve to rank as equals to the greatest of history’s musicians. The concert has been entrusted to Tomáš Netopil, a regular guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic who is also a welcome guest at the Dvořák Prague Festival. The violinist Christian Tetzlaff, the soloist in Suk’s Fantasy, returns to the Dvořák Prague Festival after having appeared with the pianist Ivo Kahánek in 2015. He is also a laureate of the competition Concertino Praga, which he won at the beginning of his successful career.
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.
Tomáš Netopil is one of the most internationally successful Czech conductors. After studying violin at the P.J. Vejvanovský Conservatory in Kroměříž and orchestral and choral conducting at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, he pursued further studies at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. His victory at the Sir Georg Solti International Conductor’s Competition in Frankfurt am Main in 2002 launched his career’s meteoric rise. From 2009 to 2012 he was the musical director of the National Theatre Orchestra in Prague, and since 2013 he has held the position of music director of the Aalto Theatre and Philharmonie Essen, in Germany. He collaborates with many renowned orchestras, including the Staatskapelle Dresden, Orchestre Santa Cecilia Roma, and the London Philharmonic Orchestra; he guest conducts at the famed Semperoper in Dresden, and he has appeared repeatedly at the Salzburg Festival. He successfully introduced himself at the Vienna State Opera with Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen, Dvořák’s Rusalka, Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and a new production of the first version of Beethoven’s Leonora. During the 2019/20 concert season, he guest conducted in Paris at the invitation of the Orchestre National de France, where he returned last season as well as to the Wiener Symphoniker. Also last season he debuted at the Grand Théâtre de Gèneve and in concerts with the Mozarteum Salzburg Orchestra.
The outstanding German violinist Christian Tetzlaff comes from a musical family; he himself began playing violin at the age of six. He first attracted significant attention as a soloist in 1988, with a superb performance of Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra. The very next year he made his New York debut in a solo recital. Tetzlaff’s approach to interpretation is characterised by his dedication to the musical score while also striving to maximise his communication of the composer’s message to listeners. Furthermore, he often turns his attention to forgotten works, such as the Violin Concerto in D minor by Joseph Joachim, a leading virtuoso of the 19th century. He has more than 40 CDs to his credit, a number of which have earned prestigious awards, including the Diapason d’Or and the MIDEM Classical Award. He founded the Tetzlaff Quartet in 1994 with his sister, cellist Tanja Tetzlaff, violinist Elisabeth Kufferath, and violist Hanna Weinmeister. In its quarter century of existence, the ensemble has earned great international renown with both critics and the public.
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.