Pianist Pogorelich among stars of this year’s Dvořák Prague

Ivo Pogorelich, photo: archive of Dvořákova Praha festival

The annual Dvořák Prague festival, dedicated to one of the country’s greatest composers of all time, gets underway at the Rudofinum concert hall on Sunday. The event will showcase renowned soloists, such as violinist Gil Shaham and pianist Ivo Pogorelich, and some of the world’ leading orchestras.

Ivo Pogorelich,  photo: archive of Dvořákova Praha festival
I spoke the festival’s artistic director Jan Simon and I first asked him to tell me more about the opening concert, which this year falls on the day of Antonín Dvořák’s birth.

“We prepared a complete Dvořák programme consisting of the Cello Concerto in B minor, the most famous instrumental concerto by Antonín Dvořák.

“It will be performed by young Austrian cellist Kian Soltani, who is the rising star of the musical scene. He did the recording, which stars Kapelle Dresden and the conductor Daniel Barenboim.

“In the second half of the concert there will be Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony conducted by the world-famous conductor Christoph Eschenbach, who is not the festival’s guest for the first time.”

One of the highlights of this year’s edition of Dvořák’s Prague is undoubtedly the Israel Philharmonic, led by Zubin Mehta. What pieces will they perform?

“Our listeners will have the opportunity to listen to Mahler’s Third Symphony.

“I would like to say that this concert is definitely very interesting because of the fact that this is supposed to be the very last performance of the Israel Philharmonic with its chief conductor Zubin Mehta, who served with this orchestra for more than 50 years.

Antonín Dvořák,  photo: Public Domain
“It is even longer than the legendary Yevgeny Mravinsky as a chief conductor of Leningrad Symphony.

The festival also continues with its efforts to perform Dvořák’s lesser known works. This year, it is his opera King and Collier. Can you tell us more about this piece?

“There is quite a complicated history surrounding this piece. Bedřich Smetana, chief of the opera house of the National Theatre at the time, in the mid-19th century, tried to study the work, but after studying the first act of the opera he decided to quit.

“Opera buffs had to wait for several dozen years, until 1929, when Karel Kovařovic performed the opera for the first time. So our listeners will hear King and Collier for the first time after more than 90 years.”

“What is also interesting is that the opera has never been recorded before. So we used this opportunity and made an agreement with Czech Radio to make a recording of this performance, which will serve as a reference recording for the future.”