Tuesday, April 10, 2012: Spring Blue
The color blue has taken over the streets of Prague.
Leaping from billboards, jumping from the sides of trams, enveloping bus stops, the blue is announcing to pedestrians and passersby that Prague Spring is bound to arrive soon — at least the musical spring. Since 1946 the blue and the elegant violin f-hole logo designed by the painter and typographer František Muzika have symbolized the most significant and longest-running music event in the Czech lands,The Prague Spring International Music Festival (this year May 12-June 3).
For music lovers this festival caps the season, offering concerts of foremost Czech as well as international musicians. The first time, the event was held one year after the end of the war to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Czech Philharmonic. Traditionally, it opens on May 12th, the anniversary of Bedřich Smetana’s death, with a performance of his opus My Country, and then rushes into multiple venues and even musical styles. This year the honour of the first concert goes after some time to the Czech Philharmonic led by the Russian conductor Vasilij Petrenko, only the eighth foreign conductor to commence the festival.
Interestingly, though classical at heart, the festival is not confined only to big ensemble performances. The program branches into chamber music, brass band, and even jazz. And beside the standard concert halls, listeners will find themselves in less usual venues, such as this year at the Emauzy Abbey and also the Technical Museum in Letná, where the homage concert to the centenarian anniversary of the unconventional John Cage will take place. (Unfortunately, tickets to this event have already disappeared.)
Opus Osum asked Pavel Trojan, Jr., in charge of the festival’s marketing, about this year’s highlights. As every year, he notes, the festival brings in huge names to Prague: “Among many international music stars the Vienna and St. Petersburg Philharmonics, and recitals by Magdalena Kožená and Edita Gruberová, will draw crowds.” Compared to last year when a lot of the concerts centered on Gustav Mahler’s music, this year’s program is rather diverse, “but if one unifying theme could be observed, it might be the works of Ludwig van Beethoven,” he says. “That’s why the Prague Philharmonia and guests is putting on a dramatization of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio”(May 30).
As for the Czech scene, Mr. Trojan recommends two events by Czech composers. On May 16 at St. Agnes’ convent, the “Evening with [New Wave composer] Marek Kopelent” is likely to grab attention because of the music and its performers, like the famaQ string quartet and the oboist Vilém Veverka.
The second tip doesn’t fit the Czech category entirely, since it is the concert of the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jiří Bělohlávek, May 21 in Obecní Dům. But according to Mr. Trojan “it proves the reach of Czech music on the international stage through the conductor, the featured violinist Ivan Ženatý, and the composition on the program by Jiří Kadeřábek, which the orchestra premiered last autumn in London.”
And finally, Mr. Trojan’s personal favourite is the concert of the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra Pardubice in The Rudolfinum May 28. It will present a composition of Lukáš Sommer, Letter to my Father, commissioned by the Festival. The expectations are high thanks to the orchestra’s talented conductor Marek Ivanović, and Roman Novotný playing the flute solo. — oo
– Zuzana Sklenková
Photo Credits: Mary Matz