Prague Spring starts May 12

The 100th anniversary of Czechoslovakia is one of the themes this year

The annual Prague Spring Festival (Pražské jaro) of classical music starts May 12 and runs to June 3.

Prague Spring will offer about 50 concerts. The main theme will be the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia, with performances of music by Czech and Slovak composers.

The festival will be commemorating Bohuslav Martinů, Josef Suk, Klement Slavický, Pavel Bořkovec, Miloslav Kabeláč, and Eugen Suchoň, as well as the younger generation of composers including Michal Nejtek, Ondřej Adámek, Lukáš Sommer, and Marko Ivanović.

In keeping with tradition, the opening concert will be Bedřich Smetana's My Country (Má vlast), this time with Tomáš Netopil leading the Czech Philharmonic at Obecní dům. The opening concert will be simulcast for free to the public at Kampa, with events starting at 4 pm and running to about 10 pm. The concert itself is at 8 pm.

The Slovak Philharmonic with its new music director James Judd will appear at the concluding concert with 20th century Czech and Slovak music by Eugen Suchoň and Leoš Janáček.

Prague Spring will also be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, whose European debut took place at the very first annual Prague Spring in 1946. American conductor Keith Lockhart will lead the Czech Philharmonic and musical theater singers from London in selections from Bernstein’s Broadway musicals.

Under the baton of another American, Leonard Slatkin, there will be a performance of Bernstein’s Third Symphony. The concert also includes works by Mendelssohn and Schoenberg to mark the 70th anniversary of the foundation of Israel.

The lineup also has foreign orchestras and ensembles. Opening this series on May 15 will be the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam, under the baton of its chief conductor Daniele Gatti. The program will feature Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (“Titan”). Pianist Daniil Trifonov is making his return to Prague Spring in Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major.

The May 18 concert of the Warsaw Philharmonic under the baton of Jacek Kaspszyk will open with the world premiere of Ultramarine by Michal Nejtek, who was commissioned by the festival. Violin Concerto No. 2 by Karol Szymanovski will feature violinist Boris Brovtsyn. Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G Major will feature soprano Slávka Zámečníková, who was the overall winner at the Antonín Dvořák International Singing Competition in 2016, where she also won a special Prague Spring prize.

The music of Mahler is also a theme in the May 24 concert by the Budapest Festival Orchestra with Iván Fischer, which will be performing Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”).

Switzerland’s Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra under the baton of Lionel Bringuier will on May 22 perform the Piano Concerto by the British composer Benjamin Britten, a work that is seldom played. Leif Ove Andsnes will be featured on piano. The tone poem Rugby by Arthur Honegger will being sports into classical music. In the second half of the program, the orchestra will play Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

Violinist, violist, and conductor Julian Rachlin is the artist-in-residence of the Prague Spring festival. First, he will be the soloist in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto on May 14. At his recital on May 16, accompanied by the pianist Itamar Golan, he will be heard playing the famed Stradivarius “ex Liebig” violin built in 1704, and also a superbly crafted viola from the workshop of Lorenzo Storioni (1785). He will be playing quartet music at his third appearance on May 21, and on May 23 he will conduct the Prague Philharmonia.

The festival will also have several additional world and Czech premieres of pieces, and other works by contemporary artists. For example, the Graffe Quartet and the horn player Jan Vobořil will present André Previn’s new Quintet for Horn and String Quartet, which was commissioned to be premiered at Prague Spring by the Terezín Music Foundation.

On the other hand, there are also evenings of early music. The Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists with their founder and artistic director Sir John Eliot Gardiner will present some cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach. The Prague Spring public still remembers Bach’s B Minor Mass in 2010, when Gardiner also appeared with the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists.

The ensemble Accademia Bizantina is known for its distinctive sound based on the noble tradition of Italian chamber music. Together with its artistic director, the harpsichordist Ottavio Dantone, it will explore the late Baroque period with works by Antonio Vivaldi.

For over half a century, Jordi Savall has been one of the most prominent figures of the world of authentic interpretation of early music. He and members of the ensembles Hespèrion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya have surrounded themselves with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim musicians from Israel, Palestine, Greece, Armenia, Turkey, England, France, Spain, Italy, and Belgium to present music of Jerusalem in its varied palette of colors.

There are many more concerts by ensembles and soloists, and related events.

For more information visit www.facebook.com/PrazskeJaro or festival.cz/en.

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