What’s new in the upcoming season of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra?
The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra is entering the 2019/2020 season with several innovations. It is offering a new premium concert series, welcoming leading international soloists headlined by Sergey Khachatryan as the artist-in-residence, moving its chamber series to the Saint Agnes Convent due to great demand and establishing the Honorary Board of Members, who will be providing reflections and inspiration to the orchestra for its activities.
In addition to many well-known works, it will be introducing one world and two Czech premieres of contemporary composers. Heading up the orchestra since last season is Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Alexander Liebreich and the Principle Guest Conductor Marek Šedivý.
New Concert Series
The main innovation of the 2019/2020 season is the Premium series P, which will bring four extraordinary concerts. Its protagonists will be a leading international violinist, Sergey Khachatryan, PRSO’s artist-in-residence for the upcoming season, on two occasions and another outstanding violinist, Leila Josefowicz, who will be performing the Concert of Alban Berg entitled „To the Memory of an Angel”.
Sergey Khachatryan, a native of Yerevan, Armenia, won first prize in the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition in Helsinki in 2000, becoming the youngest player to do so in the history of this renowned competition.
He confirmed his exceptional talent five years later, when he won the gold in the Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition in Brussels. At the Gala opening concert of the season we will hear his performance of Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, while in April he will perform Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major.
Series R – The Classics in Rudolfinum remains the largest. This subscription series offers twelve concerts with carefully prepared musical dramaturgy and exceptional artistic personalities.
The repertoire, program and overall ethos are extraordinarily important for us. Together with dramaturge Josef Třeštík, we create this program line while thinking about these wonderful artists.
Alexander Liebreich, Chief Conductor
Hungarian cellist István Várdai, for example, will be returning to PRSO to play Edward Elgar’s Concerto, the premiere of which took place one hundred years ago from this year. Várdai will be playing the instrument that was performed upon by Jacqueline du Pré, an excellent and highly-regarded interpreter of Elgar’s Concerto. One of today’s leading French pianists, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, will also be returning. On the final evening of the season he will be performing Ravel’s Piano Concerto.
As in past seasons, there will also be space for older, lesser-known works in the program. This year the choice fell, for example, to Vítězslava Kaprálová’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, which is being studied by the young pianist Marek Kozák together with conductor Robert Jindra.
We will also have a chance to hear a brand new composition commissioned by PRSO, which is being written by Ondřej Štochl. He assigned the work for clarinet and orchestra and the solo is being studied by the excellent Finnish clarinettist Kari Kriikku.
We also have to mention the Czech premieres of compositions that have not been heard here yet. The vocal/instrumental work Polednice (The Noon Witch) to the text of Erben’s ballad composed by Ondřej Adámek will be led by Chief Conductor Alexander Liebreich, who premiered the composition several years ago at the Warsaw Autumn Festival. In the final concert of the season the composition Dark Dreams by Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas will be heard. It was commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic and New York’s Carnegie Hall.
The former Chief Conductor of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ondrej Lenárd, will be presenting two popular works of late Romanticism as part of the largest series R: Strauss’ Four Last Songs with Eva Hornyáková and the Fifth Symphony of Gustav Mahler. Another entry in the programme of Chief Conductor Alexander Liebreich will bring for many perhaps the surprising combination of the music of Antonio Vivaldi and Bohuslav Martinů: this December concert will traditionally take place as part of the Bohuslav Martinů Days.
In January three world-renowned artists will take the stage in the Dvořák Hall: the Estonian Conductor Anu Tali, British tenor Toby Spence and the fantastic French horn player Radek Baborák. PRSO’s Principle Guest Conductor Marek Šedivý will be performing The Faust Symphony, a monumental work by Franz Liszt. Other people working with PRSO in the 2019/2020 season include conductors Olari Elts and Alexander Hanson, vocalists Jaroslav Březina and Jozef Benci, pianist Martin Kasík and organist Aleš Bárta.
PRSO found a new concert place for its chamber series. The continuation of Series S – Studio 1, which had been performed in Studio 1 until now, will be set in Saint Agnes Convent in the Old Town. Thus, the orchestra is accommodating the great interest of the public, which often exceeded the available capacity. The newly-christened Series K – Komorní (Chamber), comprising four concerts, will see a performance by the winners of the international Concertino Praga radio competition, conductor Leoš Svárovský, violinist Martina Bačová and last, but not least, several members of the ensemble in the role of soloists.
The concert series N – New Horizons will also continue in the upcoming season. We can again expect non-traditional musical and artistic combinations accenting quality. Two concerts have been prepared: you can look forward to the first-class mastery of the songs of Avishai Cohen, a jazz bassist and composer from Israel, who will be performing with his Trio, and also a unique combination of live music and a film projection. Famous ballets by Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky will be heard together with a new film production of both tales from Dutch director Lucas van Woerkum.
As PRSO Director Jakub Čížek announced, the orchestra will undertake several tours. Immediately after the opening concert in Prague, it will travel to Katovice, Poland, where it will perform in the new concert hall on the occasion of the International Day of Music. Then it will move on to Slovakia, where it will be a guest at the Bratislava Music Festival. It will spend the better part of October on tour in China. Local festivals include Dvořák’s Prague, where PRSO is preparing a concert performance of the opera King and Charcoal Burner and, at the close of the season Prague Spring, Smetana’s Litomyšl and the Leoš Janáček International Music Festival, for which the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra is the resident ensemble since 2019.
PRSO Orchestral Academy and the Honorary Board
Let us return to what’s new: another innovation is the establishment of the PRSO Orchestral Academy, which aims at extending opportunities for the new generation of young musicians, while also providing established and experienced members of the orchestra a contact with the academic musical world.
Another innovation deserves public attention: the creation of the Honorary Board of Members, which was initiated by Artistic Director Alexander Liebreich. With regard to its mission, he stated: “Humanist, cultural and critical reflections on a sophisticated level are a basic requirement of society and artistic life. The orchestra needs roots as well as interaction with fields such as theatre, dance etc. It has to be strongly enrooted in society and members of the Honorary Board can surely contribute to the development of some themes and issues.” We should add that the members of the PRSO Honorary Board are the composer Georg Friedrich Haas, actor, vocalist, opera and film director Ondřej Havelka, dancer and choreographer Ivan Liška, opera director David Radok and composer Miroslav Srnka.
The sale of subscription tickets for Series P – Premium, R – The Classics in Rudolfinum, K – Komorní (Chamber) and individual tickets for the public dress rehearsals will begin on 13 May. Tickets for the individual concerts of all series will be put on sale on 27 May.