Antonín Dvořák: Poetic Tone Pictures, Op. 85, B. 161
Antonín Dvořák: Suite in A major, Op. 98, B. 184
Anontonín Dvořák: Silhouettes, Op. 8, B. 98
Antonín Dvořák’s piano music is as firmly a part of the Dvořák Prague Festival as the composer’s symphonic, vocal-instrumental, or chamber works. This year’s programme will present performances of Dvořák’s complete works for piano solo and piano four-hands. And today there is perhaps no more capable interpreter of Dvořák’s piano music than Ivo Kahánek, who recently won a BBC Music Magazine Award for his recording of Dvořák’s Piano Concerto. His recital will open the Dvořák Collection series as the main programming current of the festival. The programme features three major works that represent important items among Dvořák’s piano compositions. The thirteen-movement cycle Poetic Moods (1889) reveals Dvořák’s creative thought on a large scale – a complete performance takes about fifty-five minutes. The work captivates listeners with its constant alternation of lyrical passages and energetic climaxes. Each of the pieces can be played alone, but when played together they reveal the composer’s masterful ability to combine them into a unified whole. A less conspicuous counterpart to Poetic Moods is titled Silhouettes, and it will be heard at the evening’s conclusion. The twelve pieces are more like miniatures than little composition, with unifying musical themes that run through them. Between the two cycles is the Suite in A Major, which is also familiar from its orchestral version. With its five contrasting movements that create a remarkably unified whole, the Suite serves as the linchpin of the programme.
The pianist Ivo Kahánek is one of today’s most successful Czech performers. After graduating from the Janáček Conservatoire in Ostrava and the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, he furthered his education at London’s famed Guildhall School and at a number of masterclasses. At the age of 25, he became the overall winner of the Prague Spring International Music Competition. Besides giving solo recitals, he appears with renowned orchestras (Czech Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, WDR Symphony Orchestra in Cologne) and conductors (Vladimir Ashkenazy, Pinchas Steinberg, Jiří Bělohlávek). In 2007 at London’s famed BBC Proms, he performed the Piano Concerto No. 4 (“Incantation”) by Bohuslav Martinů. In November 2014 he became just the second Czech pianist in history (after Rudolf Firkušný) to appear with the Berlin Philharmonic. Sir Simon Rattle conducted the performance. He has a number of acclaimed recordings to his credit with the music of Frédéric Chopin and Leoš Janáček among other composers. His CD from last year with piano concertos by Dvořák and Martinů was honoured by the prestigious British music journal BBC Music Magazine as the Recording of the Month.
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.