Monday, May 2, 2011: Prague (music) Marathon

The 66th Annual Prague Spring international music festival begins a week from Thursday (May 12) and packs in almost more music than a person could appreciate in a lifetime, but it all finishes in about 3 short weeks (Saturday, June 4).

More than 40 top-notch performances are scheduled in 15 venues across Prague. With that much music, you can imagine that the Festival will boast an incredible number of facts, firsts, and just plain outstanding presentations.

Guest Artists
Just some of the headliners: the Berlin Philharmonic with principal conductor Sir Simon Rattle; the New York Philharmonic with violinist Lisa Batiashvili; and regular guests, the San Francisco Symphony (2 nights), with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting.

Mahler's tiny 'composing hut'

Probably the largest ‘guest’ is the cast required to perform Mahler’s Symphony No 8 in E-flat — informally known as The Symphony of 1,000.

And no wonder: this performance May 18 includes the Czech Philharmonic, the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra, Hamburg; vocal soloists from around the world; the Prague Philharmonic Choir, choirs from Germany, and the Czech Boys Choir. Christoph Eschenbach conducts.

... and the space it took for the US premiere of his 'Symphony of 1,000,' with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1910

The performance is so grand, for the first time Prague Spring performers must move away from the traditional concert halls and churches — to the massive O2 sports arena.

Other interesting and unusual venues include the Mercedes Forum Praha, hosting the Ondřej Pivec Organic Quartet (jazz); the Evald movie theatre (discussion with composer Pavel Blatný); and the Kampa Museum (for Mahler’s Clarinet Quartet and other ‘new’ music).

Music, Plus …
The National Theatre and Theatre of the Estates will host related programs, from ballet to opera. And 58 finalists up to age 30 from more than two dozen countries will perform in the Prague Spring Competition finals in piano and in trombone.

Even as you read this, the Conservatory Symphony is rehearsing for the Opening Concert

As is the custom, the festival will open with Smetana’s My Country.

This year the honor of performance goes to students of the Prague Conservatory Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek. The concert also marks the Conservatory’s 200th anniversary.

Opus Osm will attend several of the concerts and events. We look forward to seeing you there, or to piquing your interest for next year’s festival which, of course, is already being planned for your enjoyment. — oo

–Mary Matz

History in a Nutshell
The Prague Spring international music festival was founded immediately after World War II, with only Czech musicians and orchestras performing. But it soon opened the stage to both established and new, young musicians, singers, and conductors from around the world. Right from the beginning, the festival has helped musicians establish or solidify their reputations on the international stage.

Photo Credits: Mahler's composing hut, Austria, OboeCrack; Philadelphia Orchestra at the US premiere of Symphony No 8, Otto E Albrecht Museum Library, University of Pennsylvania; Prague Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, Miroslav Setnička

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