The great American conductor Lorin Maazel helmed the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra at a sold-out Smetana Hall of Prague’s Obecni Dum on Friday night in what was his first appearance at the Prague Spring international music festival for 43 years. Maazel, who is 83, has been one of the world’s leading conductors for the last five decades. This year’s Prague Spring features more than 30 concerts and three opera performances. It runs until June 2.
Organized by the International Dvorak Society, the American Spring music festival (April 8th to July 4th) annually brings internationally renowned soloists and music ensembles to a broad audience in the Czech Republic, with concerts and master classes taking place in dozens of towns and villages around the country. Among this year’s performers is pianist Diana Fanning from Middlebury College, Vermont whose recent piano recital featured music by the Czech composer Leoš Janáček. When she visited Radio Prague’s studio shortly after the recital we talked
The 68th annual Prague Spring International Music Festival began on Sunday with Bedřich Smetana’s Má Vlast (My Country) at Prague’s Municipal House and is continuing with high-profile events until the beginning of June. This week alone visitors will be able to attend the finale of the Prague Spring International Music Competition, The Giacomo Variations featuring American actor John Malkovich and a performance by Czech violin virtuoso Josef Špaček to name only a few of the many events.
A commemorative act at the graveside of Czech composer Bedřich Smetana officially opened the 68th annual Prague Spring Music Festival on Sunday. The prestigious festival traditionally begins with a rendition of Smetana’s cycle of symphonic poems My Country; this year it will be performed by the French Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Over the next three weeks music lovers will be able to take their pick from 45 concerts, presenting leading international orchestras and soloists as well as six opera performances at different venues in the Czech capital.
My guest in today’s Arts is violinist Josef Špaček, who has emerged as one of the Czech Republic’s most talented virtuosos. Špaček – a graduate from the Juilliard School – is a concertmaster with the Czech Philharmonic and in less than a fortnight he will be performing at the Prague Spring International Music Festival. He has also just released his debut CD with recordings of Prokofiev, Janáček and Smetana.
Recent years have seen a renewed interest in the work of great Baroque composer Jan Dismas Zelenka – in his day admired by contemporaries like Johann Sebastian Bach. His work was completely forgotten after his death, only rediscovered 150 years later by the Romantic-period composer Bedřich Smetana. Slowly, knowledge of Zelenka’s work emerged. Even now there is plenty to be discovered: Prague’s Ensemble Inégal recently performed Zelenka’s forgotten Easter Mass for the very first time.
Prague City councillors on Tuesday are to discuss a plan that should lead to the easing of traffic along the Smetana embankment in the Czech capital. Under the proposal being tabled, the embankment would be closed to motor vehicles every Saturday beginning in mid-May and lasting until the end of June. The local tram route would not be affected. The Smetana embankment runs along the Vltava River close to the city’s historic centre, between the Charles Bridge and Legion Bridge; it features a bike path that continues on to Podolí and further out of the city.
Prague’s Rudolfinum concert hall is one of Europe’s most prestigious classical music venues – it kicks off the Prague Spring International Music Festival each year, among other things. Certainly its hallowed halls aren’t open to just anyone. So an appearance at the weekend by an orchestra made up of Roma or gypsy musicians was a rare event.