Prague Symphony Orchestra begins 80th season

Photo: D. Kneřová, Free Domain

The Prague Symphony Orchestra is celebrating 80 years of existence. The renowned orchestra was founded in the 1930s and to this day is abbreviated as F.O.K. which stands for film, opera and concert, in Czech. In the early days, its members made a living by performances for radio and recording music for film.

Photo: D. Kneřová,  Free Domain
I discussed the orchestra’s history and more with programme director Martin Rudovský in this edition of the Arts.

“The 1930s were admittedly a tough time to found a new orchestra, it was very economically difficult. Film and radio offered great possibilities, not least because they didn’t rely on an immediate audience. It was a good source of income how to survive in that era. In 1936, a contract on radio and film were signed. At the same time, work in those media was not long-lived but ended in the middle of WWII.”

The principal conductor in the 80th season is the Shanghai-born Muhai Tang.

What are some of the works in his repertoire?

“Muhai Tang was born in China but studied in Germany and specializes in German composers in the Baroque and other periods. He is the former chief conductor in Brisbane of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, as was our founder Rudolf Pekárek. We drew upon former concerts he conducted and in June will perform material in honour of our founder.”

Muhai Tang,  photo: YouTube
Who are some of the performers this spring that anyone scanning the programme should look out for?

“There are four wonderful world-class pianists: there is Boris Giltburg of Israel, Valentina Lisitsa from Ukraine, Eugen Indjic who is French-American-Serbian and very famous and there is a great collaborator of Muhai Tang, Yingdi Sun. That should be great. We will also incorporate jazz and classical music with the great Jaroslav Jakubovič on saxophone and Emil Viklický on piano, performing Mahler and Gershwin.”

The film tradition of the Prague Symphony Orchestra may be in the past; all the same you have film-related performances coming up: two in just a few days, concern celestial topics…

“That’s right. There will be two performances of music from the Star Wars series by the famous John Williams, and the same programme will include music from The Planets by Gustav Holst. Holst was a great inspiration for Williams with The Planets, of course. I get a bit nervous with film music - not all of it is suitable or good enough for the stage, but that of course isn’t the case with Williams. It’s a nice way of connecting popular scores with classical music.”

Plus there has been renewed excitement over the franchise following the recent release of an 88-second trailer of the upcoming seventh instalment of Star Wars…

“That’s right. I think that has helped, as both nights we have a full house.”

Smetana Hall at the Municipal House,  photo: Barbora Kmentová
The main venue where the orchestra performs is the famous Smetana Hall at the Municipal House. Acoustically and in terms of the overall atmosphere and history… for someone who Is visiting for the first time, this is a venue which shouldn’t be missed, isn’t it?

“Absolutely. I consider myself very lucky that I work here in this wonderful building and for all visitors it is a necessary stop, that’s true.”