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An ‘ouverture’ to the festival in a place linked to the life and work of Antonín Dvořák
Sunday, September 4, 2022, 5.00 pm
On the Trail of Dvořák

Excursion to places connected with his life and work

For the devoted fans of Antonína Dvořák who gather for events of the Club of Friends of the Dvořák Prague Festival.


Antonín Dvořák: The Cunning Peasant – overture, Op. 37., B. 67Antonín Dvořák: Serenade for Strings in E Major, Op. 22, B. 52Antonín Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95, B. 178, ‘From the New World’

This year’s traditional festival overture On the Trail of Antonín Dvořák is taking us to Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad) in western Bohemia. Over the centuries, the famed spa town has witnessed many visits by composers, although they were not always there for medical treatment. In Karlovy Vary, Dvořák met with his main publisher Fritz Simrock and with the important Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick, and he also heard his works performed there several times. The famed spa orchestra often included his music on its concert programmes. Karlovy Vary can also take pride in having been the place where the European premiere of Dvořák’s New World Symphony took place in the composer’s presence. The residents of Karlovy Vary are preserving the local Dvořák tradition to this day, as is shown by the regular holding of the Antonín Dvořák International Singing Competition or the fact that Karlovy Vary was the first city in the world where a statue of the composer was erected. Festival visitors will get the chance to visit authentic sites where Dvořák stayed, and of course there will be plenty of his music as well, which promises to be a special experience in conjunction with the lovely Old-World architecture of the city. As usual, the festival musicologist Dr David Beveridge will supplement the programme with expert commentary.

  • Dress code: casual
  • End of concert: 6:20


On the Trail of Antonín Dvořák

Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra

The Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra is one of the oldest orchestras in Europe. It was founded in 1835 by composer, violinist, and conductor Josef Labitzky as a seasonal spa ensemble. Forty years later, Labitzky's son August turned it into a permanent symphony orchestra with a versatile repertoire. A significant achievement of the orchestra was the performance of the continental premiere of Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony in Poštovní Dvůr (The Postal Court) on July 20, 1894.

It is impossible to name all of the important people who were and are connected with the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra. We must name at least one violinist and conductor Robert Manzer, thanks to whom the orchestra gained excellent relations with important personas of the European music world, including Pablo Casals and Richard Strauss. Many renowned conductors performed with the orchestra such as Jiří Bělohlávek, Dean Dixon, Aram Chačaturjan, Zdeněk Košler, Charles Mackerras, Libor Pešek or Petr Altrichter as well as famous soloists such as Ivo Kahánek, Ivan Klánský, Václav Hudeček, David Oistrach, Pavel Šporcl, Adam Plachetka, Josef Suk, Ivan Ženatý, Mstislav Rostropovič, Jiří Bárta, Magdalena Hajóssyová, Dagmar Pecková and many others.

Among the permanent conductors who significantly contributed to the orchestra were Václav Neumann, later chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Vladimír Matěj, Josef Hercl, and Radomil Eliška. Their legacy was later followed by the British conductor Douglas Bostock, who was KSO´s chief conductor during 1991 – 1998 and recorded numerous CDs with the orchestra. From 2004 to 2009 the chief conductor was prof. Jiří Stárek, from 2011 to 2016, a French conductor Martin Lebel, followed by Jan Kučera, under whose leadership the orchestra attracted audiences of not only classical repertoire but also from crossover pop-music programs, film music, and family programs. Ondřej Vrabec, who is not only an award-winning conductor but also a renowned solo horn player of the Czech Philharmonic, a sought-after chamber musician and teacher at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, will take over the chief-conductor role in September 2022.

Traditionally, the orchestra participates in the city's special events such as the Opening of the Spa Season, JazzFest Karlovy Vary, or the prestigious Antonín Dvořák International Singing Competition.

Since 1992, the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra has been organizing Beethoven Days Music Festival, and one of the oldest music festivals in Europe Dvořák's Karlovy Vary Autumn Festival has celebrated its 63rd anniversary in 2021.

Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra has always been part of the cultural pillars of Karlovy Vary. In recent years it has significantly expanded its scope both within the Karlovy Vary region and beyond, by participating in concerts and music festivals in our country and abroad.

Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra

Jan Kučera

The conductor, composer, and pianist Jan Kučera, born in 1977 in Klatovy, is one of the most versatile Czech artists. He studied composition with Bohuslav Řehoř, conducting with Miriam Němcová and Miroslav Košler at the Prague Conservatory and, subsequently, conducting with Vladimír Válek at the Academy of Performing Arts Prague. Within his conservatory graduation concert, he debuted as a conductor with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and premiered his three tone poems, based on motifs from works by Czech writers (Kundera, Hrabal, Kolář). He has composed symphonic and chamber pieces, cantatas, and songs, as well as incidental music for more than 30 productions for theatres in Prague and elsewhere in the Czech Republic. He has also created musical arrangements, including symphonic adaptations of songs and melodies from Czech films.

As a conductor, Jan Kučera has regularly collaborated with leading Czech orchestras, with whom he has performed or recorded the classical repertoire, as well as more than 100 symphonic pieces by contemporary composers, many of them in premiere. Between 2002 and 2010 he mainly worked with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. In June 2007, in co-operation with Canada’s renowned Compagnie Marie Chouinard, he and the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra performed Igor Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps. In the same year, he received an honourable mention in the conducting competition within the Prague Spring festival. In October 2007, he conducted the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra’s acclaimed performance at the Musikverein in Vienna of Dvořák’s New World Symphony, which he also presented during a tour of Japan, together with Beethoven’s symphonies. Within the Czech Republic’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in 2009, he and the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra recorded for Supraphon the national anthems of the 27 EU member states. Owing to his musical versatility and promptitude, he has been frequently invited to participate in crossover concerts too. He has also collaborated with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, with whom he has performed Smetana’s My Country, Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, and other works.

Jan Kučera has also been active in the opera domain. At the National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava, he conducted the productions of Martinů’s Mirandolina and Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel. At the National Theatre in Prague, he prepared the music and conducted the production of Shostakovich’s Antiformalist Rayok / Orango, the world premiere of his own comic opera Red Mary and Rossini’s La cenerentola. In 2016 he wrote a ballet The Three Musketeers for National Moravian-Silesian Theatre in Ostrava. His second ballet music The Taming of the Shrew will be premiered in November 2018 in the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen.

In 2015–2021 he was engaged as the chief conductor of the Karlovy Vary Symphony Orchestra.

Jan Kučera - conductor

Karlovy Vary, Mill Colonnade