Prague Spring International Music Festival, No 68

Opus Osm

The view of an earlier Prague Spring at the Rudolfinum. This year marks the festival's 68th year.

The most difficult part of the music? Deciding which concerts to attend.

The 68th edition of Prague’s internationally-renowned music festival officially begins with the traditional opening concert May 12 (see Opus Osm, Apr 25).

But even before that, an extra concert featuring no less than the Berlin Philharmonic, conduced by Sir Simon Rattle, will be added to the concert schedule.

The performance, with soloist mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, will be held on May Day morning at 10:45 at Prague Castle.

Opus OsmSpeaking about vocal performances, there are plenty of these on the Prague Spring program this year. The renowned ensemble of medieval music Schola Gregoriana Pragensis will give a performance composed from their traditional Gregorian and polyphonic repertoire (with some French authors, to keep the French line, too); and some choral texts with the motif of traveling, called Homo Viator. This topic was chosen to correspond to the place where various historical vehicles are exhibited – a place from the opposite end of the time scale, the Czech National Technical Museum – to remind you of the inseparability of the human soul and the creative intellect.

Homage to the famous Czech tenor Beno Blachut, performed by Aleš Briscein (tenor) and Lenka Máčiková (soprano), consists of a wide range of mainly romantic operatic arias from Donizzeti to Dvořák (May 23).

The eminent German lieder singer Matthias Goerne, accompanied by the French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard – the former well known to the Czech public, the latter having his Prague premiere – will present a less known lieder repertoire by Brahms, Beethoven, and Schubert (May 27).

Opus Osm Ticket Tip: As of this writing, a few good seats are still available for the Sir Simon Rattle/Berlin Philharmonic concert, featuring Magdalena Kožená, May 1 at 10:45 am at Prague Castle.

“Il divino Boemo,” Mozart’s friend Josef Mysliveček, will be represented with his oratorical work La Passione di Gesù Cristo by Collegium 1704 and Collegium Vocale 1704 founded and led by Václav Luks, in cooperation with the soprano Martina Janková (May 29).

Master Class in Piano with Garrick Ohlsson
It has been just 40 years since the first Prague performance of pianist Garrick Ohlsson, who does not need to be introduced. This time (May 26), in addition to the Romantic repertoire of Beethoven, Liszt, and Schubert, he will premiere a composition ordered by the Prague Spring’s partner, the Boston-based Terezín Music Foundation. Four Movements for piano by the Slovak composer Ľubica Čekovská is the selection for the foundation honoring the musical legacy of those who died at the Nazi camp. Her violin concerto will also be performed by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra the next evening.

And here’s something special for Ohlsson fans, that you will not find in the official program: May 27 from 10am to noon, Mr Ohlsson will give a master class at HAMU. Using three different students, he’ll show the method, advantages, and deficiencies in their Chopin interpretation. Admission is free; you just need to get there early.

Opus Osm

Rudolf Firkušny

And for piano lovers who are already regretting that the Prague Spring festival will soon be over, some good news: Prague Spring has decided to found an autumn edition, a piano festival dedicated to the memory of perhaps the greatest Czech pianist, Rudolf Firkušný (1912-1994). He was at the birth of Prague Spring in 1946 and worked as its first president after 1989. This smaller, week-long festival will take place later in November, so as not to compete with the programs of the Czech Chamber Music Society and the FOK’s “World piano music” series. Firkušný’s students have already been approached about taking part in its first years.

So now the only question remaining about the Prague Spring International Music Festival(s) is: How to choose from all the concerts! — oo

– Lucie Rohanová

Photo Credits: Top: Prague Spring website; middle: The National Technical Museum, brochure; bottom, Steve J Sherman, Janáček Music Academy Brno website

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