Prague Spring International Music Festival
- 12. 5. 2017 – 2. 6. 2017
The programme for the 72nd edition of the Prague Spring International Music Festival will be offering around 45 concerts with a broad, colourful range of events that will captivate both fans of the full orchestral sound and those who love chamber music, followers of contemporary music and those who monitor the latest trends in the historically informed interpretation of music from past eras.
The Prague Spring’s line-up of prominent foreign orchestras, and the festival itself, will be headed up by an ensemble which many place at the top of a notional list of the world’s finest orchestras – the Vienna Philharmonic led by conductor Daniel Barenboim. This is the orchestra’s seventh outing to the Prague Spring, while it is the very first time that the ensemble has the honour of opening the festival. Daniel Barenboim approached the preparations for the opening concert extremely thoroughly and in grand style. He is including Smetana’s My Country in the programme for the Staatskapelle Berlin’s subscription concerts in Berlin on 12 and 13 December 2016 (the 12th coincidentally being the day Prague Spring tickets go on sale). Only a few days after that he will be performing the work with the Vienna Philharmonic at concerts in Vienna, Paris and Cologne (16-21 December 2016). He will also be conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in a performance of My Country on the eve of the festival, on 11 May 2017, this time in Munich – a symbolic occasion in a city associated for many years with conductor Rafael Kubelík, who performed Smetana’s cycle there to great acclaim.
After the Prague Spring opening concerts Daniel Barenboim will present the work in Linz and again in Vienna. It is interesting to note that Barenboim requested a video recording in advance of Kubelík’s celebrated interpretation from the Prague Spring in 1990. In association with Czech Television the festival is putting together a documentary film which charts Barenboim’s journey towards My Country. The theme of “country” or “homeland” is just as relevant today as it was in Smetana’s time. The film also focuses on Daniel Barenboim himself, a figure known for his cosmopolitanism and his active commitment to the quest for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question.
Closing the festival with a legend
The Prague Spring’s closing concert is also something quite exceptional. The festival will culminate in a programme conducted by one of the greatest composers of the latter half of the 20th century and the present day, Krzysztof Penderecki. The audience will hear his famous symphony Seven Gates of Jerusalem, conducted by the composer himself, a work written to commemorate the third millennium of the city of Jerusalem. Providing a contrasting prelude to Penderecki’s monumental symphony, the programme will also feature the jubilant, optimistic and playful Serenade for Orchestra by Czech Neo-Classical composer Iša Krejčí.
Foreign symphony orchestras
Two concerts given by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and its Music Director, conductor Peter Oundjian, promise to be major highlights of the festival. Oundjian convinced listeners of his exceptional qualities at the opening concert of the Prague Spring in 2013 and, this time, we will note an interesting historical connection with Karel Ančerl, who headed the Toronto orchestra in the years 1969 – 1973 after his emigration from Czechoslovakia. Their first concert will begin with Carnival Overture by Canadian composer of Czech origin Oskar Moravec (*1917 – 2007). Moravec’s talent was recognised by George Szell, who recommended him for the post of assistant conductor at the Neues deutsches Theater in Prague when he was still only 19 years of age. However, the family had to flee the Nazis and ended up in Canada. Moravec settled in Toronto and completed his music studies at the University of Toronto; he also taught here from 1951.
In addition to this intriguing programming initiative, both concerts boast excellent soloists: the now legendary violinist Maxim Vengerov returns to the Prague Spring after a period of eighteen years and, for the second concert, the festival welcomes a star of the upcoming generation of performers – 21-year-old Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki.
The festival’s cast of foreign symphony orchestras will be rounded out by the celebrated Orchestre de Paris with German conductor Thomas Hengelbrock, who captured the imagination of the Czech public – as did Oundjian – with a distinctive performance of My Country at the opening concert in 2015.
Authentic interpretation of early music
The festival will be marking the 450th anniversary of the birth of composer Claudio Monteverdi with a concert performed by a leading Italian ensemble specialising in the period interpretation of early vocal music based on authentic historical sources – La Compagnia del Madrigale.
After an absence of twenty-two years the Prague Spring welcomes back one of the founding figures of the movement promoting the historically informed interpretation of early music, William Christie, who will conduct the British Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in a programme of works by Bach and his French contemporaries.
The programme for the 2017 edition once again places thematic emphasis on music from the Hispanic region. The ensemble Forma Antiqva will introduce festivalgoers to a truly extraordinary genre of Spanish musical-dramatic art from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, known as tonadilla escénica. The three Zapico brotherswill perform as a trio presenting gems of 18th century Spanish instrumental music for harpsichord, theorbo and Baroque guitar. Star of the Spanish flamenco, the singer Rocío Márquez, will be offering songs written to texts by Federico García Lorca.
Chamber Music Weekend
The year 2017 also sees the continuation of the festival’s Chamber Music Weekend, this time held under the subtitle “Prejudice, hindrance, persecution” (this theme, in fact, resonates in other festival concerts which are not part of the Weekend itself). Programmes include works by persecuted composers (e.g. Dmitri Shostakovich), female composers fighting prejudice to ensure the rightful place of women in art (Mel Bonis, Ethel Smyth), and composers who chose emigration in their bid to find artistic freedom (Sergei Rachmaninoff, Karel Janovický, Oskar Moravec, Tomáš Svoboda, among others).
Over the course of a single weekend of ten concerts, audiences will hear the likes of violinist Vilde Frang, cellist Nicolas Altstaedt, and pianist Alexander Lonquich, the festival’s Artist in Residence: the latter will be appearing in a solo recital, also in a chamber ensemble and, as soloist and conductor, he will be performing with Camerata Salzburg, who are visiting the festival for the very first time. The festival’s Chamber Music Weekend will also host some of the world’s finest string quartets – Sacconi, Wihan, Martinů and the David Oistrach Quartets.
The subject of “Prejudice, hindrance, persecution” will also be the focus of a one-day conference, whose specialist guarantor will be musicologist Jan Špaček.
Young listeners and world premieres
A concert aimed at young people is being organised in association with the Berg Orchestra, whose programme will include the world premiere of a work by Petr Wajsar commissioned by the Prague Spring, which seeks to pick up the thread of Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra through the perspective of young listeners today and music of the early 21st century. The piece, going by the provocative title The Rest is Song, will be given its world premiere on June 1st.
Prague Spring festivalgoers can look forward to a truly unique experience at a concert held in association with the Institute of Intermedia at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Czech Technical University [ČVUT], which will take place in the transport hall of the National Technical Museum. The audience will hear the world premiere of Jan Trojan’s Circulation, a piece commissioned by the Prague Spring. In his work the composer uses a combination of live musicians, electroacoustic music and “robotic” speakers which will move among the audience.
The festival program and tickets here.