New Czech Philharmonic head Vladimír Darjanin on his plans for the orchestra

31-07-2009

The new director of the Czech Philharmonic is Vladimír Darjanin. Already within his first month in the post, Mr Darjanin is ringing some considerable changes. Upon taking over on July 1, the straight-talking Mr Darjanin said he believed the reputation of a world-class orchestra lay in tatters, and that he was the man to fix it. When I met him recently in his office in Prague’s Rudolfinum concert hall, he outlined his plans:

“The image of the Czech Philharmonic right now is not all that good. What is very important, fundamental even, is that before I took up my post at the Czech Philharmonic, we reached an agreement with the musicians on rights and royalties. This was one of the biggest problems. We have successfully negotiated so that we retain the rights to all of our recordings broadcast on TV and radio, and so our musicians will be paid for that. Another important decision is that now only the head of the Czech Philharmonic can decide to dismiss employees. The third thing is that we will start playing for TV and radio again, because over the last year and a half we have fallen out of the public eye a bit, and of course we have cancelled all of our tourist concerts and all of these other stupid things that are not even worth mentioning here.”

I put it to Vladimír Darjanin that, stupid or not, the philharmonic’s old tourist concerts were one of the orchestra’s biggest sources of income. Where does he plan to get that money from now?

“That is a common misconception which is propagated by I don’t know who, but I can guess. These concerts create such a negative image of the orchestra – or created, rather, now they are history. And they brought in such a tiny percent of all of our profits. And that’s not to mention that, without these recitals, on the day of a big Czech Philharmonic concert, we would have sold at least 100 more tickets if we hadn’t sold people tickets to such nonsense instead. So that is a myth, which has no factual basis.”

In the 2008-2009 season, the Czech Philharmonic was without a chief conductor, and instead relied on guests. As of this September, Israeli conductor Eliahu Inbal takes over the baton at the Rudolfinum for the next three years. Vladimír Darjanin outlines his cooperation with the 73-year-old so far:

“He is a conductor of a certain class and it isn’t for me to judge his abilities, I took over the orchestra when he had already been appointed. We have had a couple of meetings, on some things we have agreed more, on some things we have agreed less. Nonetheless, I respect his contract and we will try to work together within the framework of that. The fact that I am trying to have his contract shortened by one year, that’s another story. We haven’t agreed on anything yet, but if, in the end, this doesn’t work out, that’s not all that big a problem.”

But, why would the Czech Philharmonic’s new head like to shorten Eliahu Inbal’s contract?

RudolfinumRudolfinum “I would like to find, and this really is nothing against Mr Inbal, I would like to find a conductor who is a generation or two younger, who would give more of his or her time to the Czech Philharmonic and its musicians, and I would like for this cooperation to last longer. Really, this is not about age, but at each stage of our lives we have a different amount of strength and energy. And apart from anything else, Mr Inbal is already working at La Fenice and the Metropolitan Orchestra in Tokyo. At his age we can’t count on a long term partnership. But this is nothing personal, it is just pure analysis of the situation, of his age, of his capabilities, and of the fact that he has long-term commitments elsewhere.”

At the moment, Prague is covered in adverts for one of Vladimír Darjanin’s other projects – the Dvořák’s Prague festival, which gets underway in August. You’re just listening to an excerpt from what is referred to as Dvořák’s ‘English’ symphony in G major, which will open the festival on August 21. Who’ll be playing? The Czech Philharmonic. Mr Darjanin says he hopes the orchestra’s cooperation with the festival, which he still heads, will continue to develop:

“I started Dvořák’s Prague very logically, on the basis of some European-level analysis about what sort of festival was lacking here in the Czech Republic. And out of this analysis came the suggestion of a festival dedicated to Dvořák. So, I was really happy about this, and when I found out I was going to be the head of the Czech Philharmonic I wanted to retain my job as the boss of Dvořák’s Prague. Because this has been a really long-term project for me. And both the previous and the current culture ministers respect this, because by law, it is allowed. And the main orchestra for this festival was naturally conceived to be the Czech Philharmonic, and nothing has changed. I would be very happy if the resident orchestra of the festival remained the Czech Philharmonic, and if excellent soloists continued to come to the Czech Republic to interpret the music of Antonín Dvořák.”

Vladimír Darjanin, who also managed the Czech pavilion at Expo 2005 in Japan, was originally in fact a musician by trade. He studied double bass in his native Slovakia before moving to study music in Berlin. Does he think his musical background will help him in his new job?

“As the director of the Czech Philharmonic, of course it is an advantage that I have a musical training as well as a background in management. But, of course, I will be very cautious about not encroaching upon territory which belongs to the chief conductor of the orchestra. But nonetheless, I know a bit about music in general, and I respect the musicians precisely because I have a musical education and back then I even had a degree of success.”

The Czech Philharmonic’s season opens on September 5 with a concert of Dvořák, Martinů and Brahms. For more on the orchestra’s programme, visit its website: www.ceskafilharmonie.cz.

31-07-2009