Ceremonial festival residencies. The Dvořák Prague Festival keeps anniversaries and the future in mind

Special anniversaries this year inspired the Dvořák Prague Festival’s choice of special guests. Sir András Schiff, Boris Giltburg, the Czech Philharmonic, and the Bamberg Symphony will play their roles with greater intensity, and more than ever before they will jointly form the underpinnings of festival events.

The 2021 festival is being held in the spirit of celebration of two important cultural and historical anniversaries that tie in with our eponymous festival. Firstly, 2021 marks a round-numbered anniversary of Dvořák’s birth – the great Czech composer turns 180 this year.

A second date that falls during the festival is 15 September, when we will commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the death of St Ludmila – the first Czech saint, the grandmother of St Wenceslas, ergo the matriarch of the Czech nation. It was thanks to her care giving and influence that Wenceslas became the great political figure of his day, and he remains the most important patron saint of the Czechs.

It is highly symbolic that the most important work for vocal forces and orchestra connected with this subject matter is Dvořák’s oratorio, Saint Ludmila. The festival will present the work on the day after Ludmila’s remembrance day, which is also her feast day.

This combination of anniversaries inspired the festival team to colour this year’s Dvořák Prague Festival with an even more celebratory character: besides hosting the most wonderful musical ensembles and artists, the whole profile of the festival has been shaped a bit differently.

Festival artist-in-residence: Sir András Schiff

The first important change is the new position of “festival artist-in-residence”. The eminent pianist Sir András Schiff will serve in this capacity. Many will still recall his legendary appearance with the conductor Jiří Bělohlávek and the Prague Philharmonia at the Rudolfinum’s Dvořák Hall, when he gave an absolutely electrifying performance of Dvořák’s Piano Concerto in G minor.For a number of years, he has had ties to this country because of his artistic collaborations and friendship with the Panocha Quartet, leading to many joint performances and recordings. The Panocha Quartet has invited Schiff to join them in their appearance at this year’s festival for performances of both of Dvořák’s piano quintets. The Panocha Quartet appears regularly with Schiff for his special project Cappella Andrea Barca – an orchestra comprised of outstanding soloists and chamber music players who are Schiff’s friends from throughout the music world. Incidentally, the orchestra’s name Andrea Barca is a literal Italian translation of “András Schiff”.

Recital - Friday, September 17, 8.00 pm, Rudolfinum, tickets HERE

Dvořák Collection - Monday, September 20, 8.00 pm, Rudolfinum, tickets HERE

Closing concert - Friday, September 24, 8.00 pm, Rudolfinum, tickets HERE

Joint residencies of the Czech Philharmonic and the Bamberg Symphony

This year’s anniversary brings another special feature: joint orchestras-in-residence, which have a connection in the personage of conductor Jakub Hrůša, principal guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic and chief conductor of the Bamberg Symphony. Thanks to him, these two superb ensembles will share the role of orchestra-in-residence.

The roots and origin of the Bamberg Symphony are inextricably bound to Czechoslovakia. The ensemble was formed from members of the German Philharmonic Orchestra of Prague, who departed for Germany after 1945. The programmes of the two concerts of the Bamberg Symphony will be divided symbolically and fairly between Czech works and music composed in German-speaking countries. The perfection of this combination will be enhanced by the fact that the soloists for both concerts will be the outstanding Czech performers, Jan Mráček and Kateřina Kněžíková, who will again divide their repertoire equitably between Czech and German works.

Bamberg Symphony, Jakub Hrůša, Kateřina Kněžíková - Sunday, September 19, 8.00 pm, Rudolfinum, tickets HERE

Bamberg Symphony, Jakub Hrůša, Jan Mráček - Tuesday, September 21, 8.00, Rudolfinum, tickets HERE

Chamber Series and Dvořák Collection Curator Boris Giltburg

The role of curator of the Chamber Series has been retained as a permanent feature of the festival. This year’s curator will be the pianist Boris Giltburg. Here, too, there will be a change; it involves this year’s festival, but it also foreshadows changes to the structure of programming in the coming years.

The festival has turned its attention to Dvořák’s chamber music in the context of the Dvořák Collection series, and this means an overlap with the Chamber Series. The trend was already apparent at last year’s festival, and it will continue with even greater intensity this year. In the following years, the two series will be definitively combined as part of a chamber music project lasting several years.

Boris Giltburg’s involvement with Dvořák Prague Festival began with his wonderful debut recital in 2019. At the time, it was not yet clear how Giltburg’s artistic and personal ties to the members of the Pavel Haas Quartet would develop. That ensemble is regarded as one of the top string quartets worldwide. Together, Giltburg and the Haas Quartet have enjoyed much success on many prestigious stages around the world, and they have realised several joint recording projects to critical and public acclaim.

Dvořák Collection - Wednesday, September 8, 8.00 pm, Rudolfinum, tickets HERE

Dvořák Collection - Sunday, September 19, 5.00 pm, St Agnes Convent, tickets HERE

Dvořák Collection - Wednesday 22, 8.00 pm, Rudolfinum, tickets HERE