Anton Bruckner: Symphony No. 7 in E major
“Music never tires me”, declared Herbert Blomstedt in the 1980s, just as he turned sixty. It seems that his words are still true – the conductor, who turns 93 this year, is seemingly at the height of his powers, and orchestras and audiences around the world continue to exhibit extraordinary interest in him. The programmes of his concerts continue to feature such lengthy, major works as Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 in E Major. Blomstedt will conduct it the Dvořák Prague Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic, for which Bruckner is today a part of the core repertoire. Gone are the days when Bruckner was the music world’s whipping boy and the target of many crude jokes, especially in Vienna. In his magnificently conceived works, it is as if he is revolving around the divine existence with Bach and Wagner at his heels, and perhaps it was his faith that gave him such perseverance and tenacity as a composer. The Seventh Symphony is one of Bruckner’s most frequently played works, and with it he experienced the greatest success during his lifetime. The flights of poetic fancy and lyrical atmosphere of Bruckner’s Seventh have won it a secure place among the greatest symphonies of all time, and Herbert Blomstedt and the Vienna Philharmonic are among its ideal interpreters.
The Vienna Philharmonic has long been one of the world’s top orchestras. Its remarkable tradition reaches back to 1842 and is associated with such names as Arturo Toscanini, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Bruno Walter, Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, and Leonard Bernstein. Still today, the world’s best conductors appear with the orchestra, including Daniel Barenboim, Riccardo Muti, and Christian Thielemann. Each year, the orchestra gives forty concerts on its home stage (including the famed New Year’s concert) and about fifty concerts on tours abroad, and it makes its regular appearance at the Salzburg Festival. It has been making recordings since 1905, with hundreds to its credit including complete sets of Beethoven’s, Brahms’s, and Mahler’s symphonies. The orchestra first appeared in Prague in 1934 at the Smetana Hall in the Municipal House under the baton of Arturo Toscanini.
The legendary Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt first came to wider attention of the musical public back in 1953 when he won the Koussevitzky Prize, and just two years later he won the conducting competition in Salzburg. A year before that, he had made his debut with the Stockholm Philharmonic. During his career, he has been at the helm of several of the world’s leading orchestras, including the Oslo Philharmonic, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the San Francisco Symphony, and the Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig. Maestro Blomstedt has won several international awards, honorary doctorates, and honorary conducting posts. His scope as a performer is enormously broad, but he is most noted for his unparalleled Bruckner performances characterised by analytically precise interpretation of the musical notation and depth and soulfulness of expression. Remarkably, even at over 90, he continues his tireless cooperation with several leading orchestras with tremendous artistic commitment.
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.