Concert to bring together Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Czech ensembles in solidarity with Ukraine

Prague Sounds is hosting a special concert at Vladislav Hall at Prague Castle in collaboration with the Prague Philharmonia, Czech Philharmonic, and Kyiv Symphony Orchestra – as well as the Prague Philharmonic Choir this Sunday. The music to be performed is Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, based on poetry written by Wilfred Owen, a British war poet who was a victim of World War I. I spoke to the Programmer of Prague Sounds, Guy Borg about the upcoming performance and its significance.

Vladislavský Hall | Photo: © City of Prague

I want to start by asking you about the significance of the music being performed at the concert this Sunday – it’ a piece by Benjamin Britten, can you tell me a bit about it?

“Britten’s War Requiem was written between 1961 and 1962 as a tribute to those who had fallen in war. It was first performed in one of the British cathedrals that was heavily bombed during the Second World War. The piece is a source of meditation on war, a tribute to the victims, and also a call of hope and it’s certainly against the barbarity of war.”

It goes hand in hand with who the concert will be performed with, the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra. How did they get involved on this project?

“This was a question of really good will on all sides. Of course the coming together of the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, Prague Philharmonia, and the Prague Philharmonic Choir is not only a coming together of first rate orchestras, but there is a certain amount of symbolism involved and a high level of solidarity. I think given the current context of our times and the piece being performed, this gathering of musicians is something very special.”

Logistically was it difficult to make this happen with the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra?

“Logistically, putting on a performance of War Requiem is never easy because it involves the coordination of so many different musicians, artists and ensembles. In this case, it’s been a question of collective will and desire to make the performance happen. Between all the ensembles, we’re very grateful for their cooperation, willingness, and commitment to the performance.”

The venue is very special, the concert will be performed in Vladislav Hall at the Prague Castle. Why this venue in particular?

“For a number of reasons. Prague Sounds which began its life as Strings of Autumn started out in 1996 at the Prague Castle, for the first few years it was the festivals home under President Václav Havel. Now with the current Presidency, we sensed a new openness. We’ve always been keen to see if we could renew our connection to the castle, and this year seemed to be the perfect marriage of the piece, the place, and the significance of both. So we’re very grateful to President Pavel and to the castle administration for enabling us to put this on.”

Aegidius Sadeler: Graphics from the Vladislav Hall | Photo: National Gallery Prague

President Pavel and Prime Minister Fiala, alongside some other Czech politicians will be in attendance on Sunday. Why do you think this is an important symbol of solidarity with Ukraine given that so many members of the government and the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra will be together?

“I think for all of us, whether President, Prime Minister, or citizen, it’s an important and symbolic event. For all of us who see on a daily basis the pictures of the brutality that’s been going on in Ukraine, a war on our doorstep in Europe. I think for everybody there is a sense of wanting to stand up. It’s not just about standing up, but the piece itself gives people a chance to contemplate, that’s something we want to encourage. This will be contributed to not only the concert itself, but also by a special event happening leading up to it.

“There will be a mass ringing of the bells in the centre of Prague, 100 bells of the churches in the centre of the capital, ringing in a sort of prayer for the fallen. Before the concert at 8pm there will be a ceremonial ringing of the cathedral bell, and the concert will end will end with a single toll of the bell. Throughout history bells have been associated with mourning, signalling the end of war, and in this case I think it’s very appropriate that in a show of solidarity we have 100 bells that will be ringing in the city of Prague, a moment for those living in the city to contemplate and meditate about what’s been going on.”

03/09/2023 – 20:00
Vladislav Hall, Prague Castle

run audio