Czech Philharmonic commemorates 120th anniversary, recreating historic first concert

Чешская филармония, Фото: ЧТК

The Czech Philharmonic commemorated its 120 anniversary on Monday by recreating its famous first concert of January 4, 1896, featuring the music of the great Czech composer Antonín Dvořák. Then, Dvořák himself conducted; 120 years later it was the acclaimed Jiří Bělohlávek.

Czech Philharmonic with Jiří Bělohlávek, photo: CTK
I spoke to the director of the orchestra, David Mareček, about the performance.

“The atmosphere was really very special and of course the importance of the evening was lost on no one, as it was exactly 120 years since the Czech Philharmonic performed its first concert. That was in January 1896 and was conducted by the greatest Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, featuring his famous works: the overture to Othello, biblical songs, with Jan Martiník, soloist with the Berlin State Opera, and we finished with the New World Symphony.”

Were there any variations or changes?

“Yes. One hundred and twenty years ago the orchestra played also the 3rd Slavonic Rhapsody; that was because at the time only five of the biblical songs existed in the version for voice and orchestra and the other five were with piano only. Dvořák completed the five and the rest were completed by Jarmil Burkhauser, a musicologist who was deeply interested in Dvořák’s work. They have since been performer together, so we did that and left out the 3rd Slavonic Rhapsody which had originally been performed.”

David Mareček, photo: Jan Sklenář
Chief conductor Jiří Bělohlávek and members of the Philharmonic have very deep ties to Dvořák, having recorded all of his symphonies together in a recent project. Did you have a chance to talk to the conductor afterwards?

“Yes, I did. It was obviously very special for all of us. What he told me after the concert was that what had been most important for him, or most precious, was this natural relationship with the musicians. That means they were able to create new moments, a special atmosphere, special details which happened this evening because of this natural understanding. The musicians, the composer, the audience, I think all felt it, this music in their souls.”