Prague Spring opening to be simulcast at Kampa

A performance of Smetana’s Má vlast will cap off a day of picnicking in the park

The 74th edition of the Prague Spring music festival starts May 12 and runs to June 4 at various venues in Prague.

The May 12 opening concert, which traditionally is a rendition of Bedřich Smetana’s Má vlast (My Country), will be simulcast for free on a screen in Kampa park, capping off a day of live entertainment there.

The concert itself takes place at the Smetana Hall in Obecní dům, and will feature Jakub Hrůša conducting the Bamberger Symphoniker. That is a formal affair, but for the live projection at Kampa, you can be more casual, and picnic food will be available.

The program at Kampa starts at 4 pm, with five live bands scheduled. That portion culminates in Big Band ZUŠ Litomyšl, starting at 7 pm. The simulcast of Má vlast starts at 8 pm.

It is now 60 years since Má vlast was singled out for the festival’s opening evening. It was played during the festival's first edition, but did not become firmly established as a regular part of the opening until 1959.

Jakub Hrůša first conducted Má vlast at the Prague Spring Festival in 2010, with the PKF – Prague Philharmonia. This time he will lead the Bamberg Symphony, whose chief conductor he has been since 2016.

The Bamberger Symphoniker was formed in 1946 by German musicians who were formerly members of the Prague German Philharmonic who were expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II.

“It’s amazing that the tradition of this orchestra, which was at that time rendering such a magnificent contribution to the glory of Prague cultural life, has been successfully preserved and transformed into a new ensemble based in Bamberg, today ranking among Central Europe’s finest orchestras,” chief conductor Hrůša said.

“Therefore, to me, its guest appearance at the opening of Prague Spring represents, not just in purely musical terms but in fact also viewed from a historical perspective, a fascinating and symbolic visit of its original home,” he added.

He commented that Smetana was influenced by German music, and the Bamberger Symphoniker has adopted Má vlast as one if its key pieces, having recorded it and performed it in many places.

“We thus engage in representing Central Europe in a way that I believe to be immeasurably more meaningful than any shortsighted fixation on the exclusiveness of cultural achievements defined through the prism of political borders. Of course, Má vlast is quintessentially and relevantly Czech, but the roots of its greatness run deeper and wider,” Hrůša said.

Other highlights in the festival include Stellar Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia – Roma under its music director Sir Antonio Pappano on May 17 in a program of Musorgskij, Béla Bartók and Rimskij-Korsakov.

New York’s Orpheus Chamber Orchestra will perform with pianist Jan Lisiecki on May 21. Spain’s Orquestra de Cadaqués will play some seldom-heard pieced May 30.

France will be represented in the festival by Les Arts Florissants, Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse. The latter will perform at the closing concert.

The Czech Philharmonic will be performing a French program with French conductor Louis Langrée on May 31.

Other Czech orchestras will include the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra led by John Nelson, performing Berlioz’s Te Deum for the first time in the festival in 40 years.

Alexander Vedernikov will lead the Prague Symphony Orchestra in Prokofiev’s cantata Alexander Nevsky on May 28.

Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra will appear with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra on June 2 with the winner of the ARD Music Competition, trumpeter Manuel Blanco.

There will also be recitals by noted soloists and a competition for young musicians.

For more information on the opening at Kampa visit www.facebook.com/events

For more about Prague Spring, go to www.facebook.com/PrazskeJaro or festival.cz/en

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