Dvořákova Praha runs in September

The festival includes a family day and an open-air simulcast of a concert

The Dvořákova Praha festival begins in earnest Sept. 7 and runs to Sept. 21, with several highlights such as the black-tie opening performance of The Specter’s Bride, featuring soprano Kateřina Kněžíková, and a recital by the Academy of St Martin in the Fields on Sept. 12.

Many of the concerts are sold out or nearly sold out, but there are some events in the accompanying program for a wider audience.

There is a family day on Sept. 2, before the official opening, at the area around Anežský klášter in Prague 1. Family day will offer an afternoon of music and other entertainment. The outdoor concerts and activities starting at 1 pm are free, and a 5 pm indoor concert by Classic Piano Joke(r)s requires tickets.

An exhibition will let children follow Antonín Dvořák to England, America, his birthplace in Nelahozeves, and the Villa Rusalka in Vysoká. The outdoor music will include a cello quartet playing a range from Gershwin to Metallica, plus music from movies and shows. There are also concerts by the boys’ choir Pueri Gaudentes and the Cimbalom Ensemble of the Czech Philharmonic.

The day ends with Classic Piano Joke(r)s, made up of five pianists playing in the Church of St Francis. This is meant to remind the children that the respected greats of classical music did not always write music that is serious.

Another free event will be the live simulcast of the Sept. 15 concert, in front of the Rudolfinum at náměstí Jana Palacha, starting at 8 pm. The actual concert in the Rudolfinum, which has a dark-suit dress code, is all but sold out.

The oratorio Saint Ludmila in its original, complete version will be a special event to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia. The Czech Philharmonic and the Prague Philharmonic Choir under the baton of Jakub Hrůša will perform the work.

The soloists will be soprano Kateřina Kněžíková, Slovak mezzo-soprano Alena Kropáčková, tenors Richard Samek and Ondřej Koplík, and Slovak bass Jozef Benci. The concert will be broadcast live on an outdoor stage, where a large Czech choir will join in the singing.

The idea was inspired by a 1904 performance of Saint Ludmila with a choir of an estimated 1,600 voices.

The work unites Christian symbolism with patriotism, two things of fundamental importance to the Dvořák’s spiritual world.

The work’s world premiere took place in 1886 at a music festival in Leeds, which had commissioned a work on a Biblical theme from Dvořák. He accepted the commission, but he insisted on a theme from Czech history. The libretto, inspired by the life of the Czech Saint Ludmila, was written by Czech poet Jaroslav Vrchlický. It was one of the composer’s largest works both by its length and the size of the required vocal and instrumental forces.

The festival itself this year, in addition to honoring Dvořák and the centenary of Czechoslovakia, also has two concerts to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein. On Sept. 8, Camerata Salzburg with guest soloist Janine Jansen on violin will perform the Serenade after Plato’s ‘Symposium’ for solo violin, string orchestra, harp, and percussion. The program in the Rudolfinum also includes two works by Dvořák.

The Sept. 20 concert, also in the Rudolfinum, has Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra playing Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra, “The Age of Anxiety.” The program also includes Dvořák’s The American Flag and a work by Samuel Barber. Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman is the main guest of the evening.

The festival has more concerts in its traditional sections of chamber groups, world-class orchestras, debuts, a piano recital and the Dvořák Collection, which is slowly presenting all of the composer’s works.

The festival ends with the Staatskapelle Dresden, and under the leadership of Manfred Honeck. The program has works by Antonín Dvořák and Johannes Brahms. Mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink sings Dvořák’s Biblical Songs. These songs will bring to a close the festival’s two-year Dvořák Collection cycle of the complete cantatas and oratorios. More works by Dvořák and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F major fill out the evening.

For more visit www.dvorakovapraha.cz/en or www.facebook.com/dvorakovapraha.

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