77th edition of Prague Spring Festival opens on Thursday

Rudolfinum concert hall in Prague

The Prague Spring International Music Festival was first held in 1946, and since 1952 it has traditionally opened on 12th May, the anniversary of the death of renowned Czech composer Bedřich Smetana. With the festival disrupted during the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Prague Spring is happy to return in full force this year with a special programme, as spokesperson Pavel Trojan told me.

“The 77th edition of the Prague Spring Festival will open according to its traditions, with a cycle of symphonic poems by Bedřich Smetana, My Country (Má vlast), and especially this year there is a strong story behind it, because the piece will be performed by West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a unique ensemble founded by Daniel Barenboim in 1999 to promote dialogue between the different cultures of the Middle East through music and co-existence. There could be no greater symbolism than to perform this particular masterpiece with an orchestra of musicians from Israel, Palestine, and other Arab countries. Home and homeland are very meaningful to all of them in different ways.”

What are the other highlights of this year’s programme?

“The festival’s final concert is very special too. Andris Nelsons will lead the Vienna Philharmonic in a programme including Dvorak’s Sixth Symphony.

“Among the other foreign orchestras that the audience can look forward to hearing is the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with its chief conductor Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.

“François-Xavier Roth, a star conductor on stages around the world, will be appearing in the Czech Republic for the very first time and with both of his orchestras—the French period instrument orchestra Les Siècles and Germany’s Gürzenich-Orchester of Cologne.

“And the cellist Gautier Capuçon will be the festival’s artist-in-residence – he will offer three different concerts: a solo recital, a concert with piano accompaniment, and last but not least, Edward Elgar’s cello concerto with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.”

Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 | Daniel Barenboim & the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (complete symphony)

How did the last two years of the coronavirus pandemic affect the festival, and have there been any lasting effects?

“We are very much looking forward to the Prague Spring shining in full force again this year, after two years when the festival was mediated to the audience mainly in the form of streamed concerts. This year the Prague Spring will offer once again super musicians from all around the world. We very much hope that the audience will enjoy the concerts and fill the concert halls, because the economic model of classical music festivals is based on multi-source financing, and revenue from ticket sales is an essential part, so we can only hope for great audience interest.”

Is the festival doing anything with regards to the ongoing situation in Ukraine?

“We considered it important to express support for brave Ukraine. We therefore dedicated the opening concert in honour of Ukraine, and included a special concert in the festival programme which will take place on 2nd June. It will feature a Ukrainian ensemble called Kyiv Soloists and will offer a special programme of Ukrainian composers.”