Czech Philharmonic marks 110th anniversary with special concert

Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

The Czech Philharmonic is one of the world's finest orchestras. It has been around for an unbelievable 110 years - its first conductor being none other than the famous Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. The Czech Philharmonic are marking the anniversary with a special concert, held at exactly the same location as 110 years ago, its home, the Prague Rudolfinum concert hall, under the baton of chief-conductor Zdenek Macal.

Since its first appearance on January 4th, 1896, generations of distinguished musicians have played in the Czech Philharmonic under ten chief-conductors and dozens of guest conductors, including such great names as Edvard Grieg, Gustav Mahler and Leonard Bernstein. The ensemble's current conductor is the world-renowned Zdenek Macal who took over from Vladimir Ashkenazy in 2003. He is also conducting Wednesday's special concert.

Eva Sedlakova is the manager of the Czech Philharmonic.

"It's really a special programme. We start with the overture to Bedrich Smetana's 'The Bartered Bride', then the three dances, 'Polka', 'Furiant' and 'Skocna', all from this opera. Then we will play in premiere a work by the contemporary Czech composer Evzen Zamecnik, called 'Concerto giocoso', and after the break we will play Antonin Dvorak's 'Symphony No. 5'."

The Czech Philharmonic has enhanced its international reputation on countless world tours - its first foreign appearance being in 1902 in Britain. In just two weeks' time the ensemble will appear in the German town of Wiesbaden, in the first of a series of German concerts scheduled for this year. I asked Eva Sedlakova what else was in store for the orchestra in 2006.

"At the end of the season we have quite a long tour of South America. We'll be playing three concerts in Brazil, one concert in Uruguay and two concerts in Argentina, in Buenos Aires. As for some special events, I really should mention the very festive occasion which will take place not only here in Prague but throughout the whole of Europe, which is the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. Because Mozart is tied to Prague, we will celebrate this anniversary by a special concert in the Theatre of the Estates, playing an all-Mozart programme with works which are tied to Prague. That's 'Don Giovanni', the overture to the opera, then 'Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra in A major' and then 'Symphony No. 38 in D major'."

The Czech Philharmonic's first gramophone record was Bedrich Smetana's 'My Country' conducted by Vaclav Talich in 1929. Since then the ensemble has built an extensive discography, which includes recordings of complete symphony works by Antonin Dvorak, Bohuslav Martinu and Gustav Mahler, and received numerous international honours. As manager Eva Sedlakova says, recording continues even though the international market is largely saturated.

"The market for recording has great difficulties throughout the whole world. So last time we recorded some Martinu's work. It was two months ago with the British conductor Christopher Hogwood. And we record for the Japanese label Octavia Records. They record live some of our programmes, mainly Mahler symphonies and then the whole cycle of Dvorak symphonies."