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.
As a performer of unusual emotional power and depth, Ivo Kahánek has earned a reputation as one of the most impressive artists of his generation. He takes ample advantage of his talent to establish instant emotional ties with the public in works ranging from the Baroque to the modern eras, with the Romantic era representing the bulk of his repertoire. Abroad, he is also regarded as a specialist in the interpretation of Czech music.
In 2004, he was the overall winner of the Prague Spring International Music Competition, and before that he had already won many important competition prizes at both home and abroad (the Maria Canals Piano Competition in Barcelona, the Vendome Prize in Vienna, the Stiftung Tomassoni Wettbewerb in Cologne, the Fryderyk Chopin International Competition in Mariánské Lázně, Concertino Praga etc.).
Following successful debuts at the Beethovenfest in Bonn and at the Prague Spring Festival, he received an invitation from the BBC Symphony Orchestra to appear at London’s BBC Proms in Royal Albert Hall, where in August 2007 he played Bohuslav Martinů’s Fourth Piano Concerto (“Incantation”) under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek, which was broadcast live by BBC television and radio and by Czech Radio Vltava. That critically acclaimed debut is available from the German label Deutsche Grammophon as a digital download. It is no wonder that Sir Simon Rattle chose Ivo Kahánek for two appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic in November 2014, which were enthusiastically received by music critics and the general public. The young pianist became just the second Czech pianist (after Rudolf Firkušný) to appear with that world-famous orchestra in its history. Ivo Kahánek also performs regularly with the Czech Philharmonic, and he has made successful appearances with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow, the Essener Philharmoniker, the WDR Orchestra in Cologne, the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Prague Philharmonia, the Brno Philharmonic, and many other orchestras. Just a few of the other artists with whom he has collaborated include conductors Semyon Bychkov, John Eliot Gardiner, Jakub Hrůša, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Rafael Payare, Pinchas Steinberg, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Tomáš Netopil, Andrey Boreyko, Libor Pešek, and Zdeněk Mácal, violinist Daniel Hope, cellist Alissu Weilerstein, violist Paul Neubauer, the Pavel Haas Quartet, the Tetzlaff Quartet, soprano Martina Janková, and tenor Pavel Černoch. In 2018, he won the Classic Prague Award for solo performance of the year.
In 2007, Ivo Kahánek signed an exclusive contract with the label Supraphon Music, and since then he has recorded 15 CDs of music by such composers as Frédéric Chopin, Antonín Dvořák, Leoš Janáček, Bohuslav Martinů, Gideon Klein, Miloslav Kabeláč, Jean Francaix, and Jacques Ibert. For his recording of piano concertos by Antonín Dvořák and Bohuslav Martinů accompanied by the Bamberg Symphony under the baton of Jakub Hrůša, he earned the prestigious BBC Music Magazine Award. That CD also won other important honours: recording of the month of the BBC Music Magazine, Choix de Classique HD, recording of the week on BBC Radio 3, an Angel Award in the Classical category, and a nomination from the International Classical Music Awards. For his album of songs by Bohuslav Martinů with Martina Janková and Tomáš Král, Ivo Kahánek also won a coveted Diapason d’Or from the French music journal Diapason and was named the choice of the month by the journals Opernwelt and Opera News. His latest important recording is the complete piano works of Antonín Dvořák on 4 CDs, which also received an International Classical Music Awards nomination in late 2021, earned the highest rating in the journals Gramophone and Diapason, and like his previous CD, won an Angel Award in the Classical category. He also makes recordings for Czech Radio, Czech Television, and the television station Mezzo.
Ivo Kahánek is a graduate of the Janáček Conservatoire in Ostrava and of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. He also made a study visit to London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama and has taken part in masterclasses led by Karl-Heinze Kämmerling, Christian Zacharias, Alicia de Larrocha, Imogen Cooper, Peter Frankl, and other instructors. At present he is teaching at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and is leading piano masterclasses at the Summer Music Academy in Kroměříž and at the Prague Conservatoire Piano Courses.
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.