Preview: A French Twist at Prague Spring

Opus Osm

A prehistoric stone carving of three men performing a ritual. The Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France will perform a Czech composition with similar theme May 14.

Sixteen of 44 concerts at this year’s Prague Spring music festival have a French connection.

That’s why the first press conference took place recently at the French Institute in Prague, an institution with long tradition of Czech–French cooperation, and with the participation of H. E. Pierre Lévy, the French ambassador in Prague.

So let us go briefly through the most interesting of the “French” programs. It starts right with the traditional opening performance May 12 of Smetana’s My Country, which will be interpreted by the reputable Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, led by Canadian (of Armenian-Scottish origin) Peter Oundjian.

They will also partake in an evening of 19th and 20th century French music on May 14: Saint-Saëns’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in A Minor and Ravel’s Bolero will be followed by the composition Temptation by Czech, France-based composer Kryštof Mařatka. (He’s a grandson of the famous Czech sculptor Josef Mařatka, who incidentally was Rodin’s pupil.) This composition, sub-titled Ritual of the Prehistoric Fossils of Man for Mixed Choir and Symphony Orchestra, closes his trilogy inspired by prehistoric art; and it is dedicated to Václav Havel.

This year’s Prague Spring International Music Competition is devoted to the organ, and the contest’s final evening repertoire May 14 will be mostly French, too: César Franck, Louis Vierne, and Francis Poulenc.

Opus Osm

Miroslav Srnka

The May 19 performance of Ensemble Intercontemporain, a passionate booster of 20th and 21st century music, is a magnet for many reasons. For just one: the world premiere of Miroslav Srnka’s My life Without Me; and another: the Dérive 1 pour 6 Instruments by the Ensemble’s founder, Pierre Boulez.

The Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra has had a French conductor-in-chief since 2009, so it is no wonder they are bringing a French repertoire. Together with the legendary violinist Augustin Dumay they will play Ravel’s La Tzigane and the Violin Concerto by Slovak composer Ľubica Čekovská (praised by Arvo Pärt). The May 27 evening will be crowned by César Franck’s Symphony in D Minor.

Another French music highlight, Berlioz’s Le Carnaval Romain, combined with Prokofjev’s Peter and the Wolf, and the conductor Jiří Pešek’s favourite composition, Suk’s Pohádka (Fairytale), will make up a lovely romantic mixture on the next-to-last day of the festival June 1. — oo

– Lucie Rohanová

Note: Lucie’s description of other Prague Spring Festival highlights will be found here on Opus Osm starting April 29.

Photo Credits: Top: Wikipedia; bottom: Miroslav Srnka website

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