Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra: Renewing Vows

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The Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra (SOČR) celebrates its 90th anniversary at a Prague Spring concert May 18.

‘Renewing vows’ sounds like something for a wedding. But why not? A wedding – as well as two anniversaries – are perfectly fine premises for a musical celebration.

On May 18, the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra celebrates the 90th anniversary of the start of Czechoslovakian Radio broadcasting, and the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Artists Association (Umělecká Beseda). Conducted by Ondřej Lenárd with Igor Ardašev on piano, the program is positively matrimonial. We might even say that the performances will include something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.

It may seem that Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique represents the “something old,” but it does not. Composed in 1830, it definitely is the oldest work that will be performed, and the original score calls for over 90 instrumentalists, as was his wont. But the tale it tells is psychedelic “blue.” It’s the story of a gifted artist who poisons himself with opium due to the despair caused by hopeless love. This hallucinatory mirror of Berlioz’s own life has a dream-like quality. Indeed, this acclaimed work may well have been composed, at least in part, under the influence of opium. This then is our “something blue.”

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Bedřich Smetana

Speaking of influence, Berlioz was a major influence on Bedřich Smetana. On April 23,1864, Smetana conducted Berlioz’s choral symphony Roméo et Juliette, and Smetana added his own Shakespeare Festival March to the program.

The purpose of this concert was to celebrate another anniversary, 300 years of Shakespeare, and thus in a roundabout way this becomes our “something old.”

Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra by the almost-blind and almost-deaf Czech composer, conductor, pianist, and dramaturgist Jaroslav Ježek is our “something borrowed” element. Considered the father of Czech jazz, even Ježek’s orchestral works feature jazzy elements – attempts to assimilate rhythms borrowed from jazz. (For more on Jaroslav Ježek, see “Meet Mr Ježek,” Opus Osm, May 9, 2013.)

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Jan Klusák

And finally, that which is “new.” How about a world premiere? Jan Klusák, contemporary Czech composer born in Prague in 1934, and one of the foremost personalities of Czech culture who also has ties to both the Artists Association and Prague Spring, will have his work Forfeited Happiness performed as a world premiere.

But wait – forfeited happiness as a part of anniversary celebrations? How is that appropriate? Come and hear for yourself.

The Prague Spring concert marking the 90th anniversary of Czechoslovak Radio broadcasting and the 150th anniversary of the Artists’ Association will be held May 18 at 8 pm at The Rudolfinum. — oo

– Hana Trollman

Photo Credits: Top: Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra website; bottom, Petr Novák, Wikipedia

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