Italian conductor receives Golden Disc for Smetana's "My Country"

Bedrich Smetana's cycle of symphonic poems "My Country" is one of the most famous pieces of Czech music. It is familiar in the Czech Republic and around the world. One of the most outstanding recordings of "My Country" is played by the Prague Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Italian conductor Gaetano Delogu. A few days ago Mr. Delogu was in Prague to receive a Golden Disc award in appreciation of the 10,000 copies of "My Country" sold in the Czech Republic over the last 12 months. Alena Skodova spoke with him after the ceremony and asked him first how he felt about the award?

"I'm feeling very proud because the story of "My Country" performed by myself was a kind of challenge for myself. When I was first invited to conduct such a masterpiece I had some doubts but then I saw the score and the temptation became day by day stronger and stronger, and finally we arrived to a performance with the musicians of the Prague Symphony Orchestra and that was a big, big pleasure, because we worked hard and finally we arrived to the performance, the inauguration of the Prague Spring festival, I remember that evening was something unforgettable for me and I'm so happy that the recording went so well."

Mr. Delogu was the Prague Symphony Orchestra's chief conductor for three years in the mid-1990s, and so I asked why he had chosen this orchestra - had he known it before?

"The liaison with this orchestra is very, very old. I met them for the first time 25 years at one festival in Switzerland, in Sion, and since that moment it was love, instant mutual love, so I worked with the Prague Symphony Orchestra, conducted many, many concerts and one day we decided to become closer, they appointed me their music director and we did many good things together."

Some people say that music by national composers is best performed by musicians of that particular country - so I asked Mr. Delogu whether he felt there was a grain of truth in what they say.

"No, I don't think so, especially when we stand in front of masterpieces, the masterpieces are music for everybody in the world, you see, I don't agree that Beethoven must be done just by Germans and Smetana by Czechs. Music is an international language and the beauty of this internationality is that every musician who has inside the sensitivity to understand that music can do that. And that's the vitality of music. When you listen to some Mozart played by an Italian, or some Wagner by an American, it can be nice. Also some Czech music by an Italian. I would say that between Italians and Czechs there is a certain kind of parallelism - we understand each other, part of our cultures is common, so sometimes I think that a marriage between an Italian and a Czech can work well. And that was my case."