Prague Symphony's concert season begins as ensemble celebrates 70th birthday

The Prague Symphony Orchestra

The Prague Symphony Orchestra began its annual concert season yesterday with a special gala concert on the Old Town Square. The reason for this unusual open-air event was to celebrate the orchestra's 70th birthday, and perhaps also to bring classical music to people who don't necessarily frequent concert halls.

The Prague Symphony was originally founded in 1934 - while Tomas Garrigue Masaryk was still president of Czechoslovakia - by the conductor and impresario Rudolf Pekarek.

By recording the score for most Czech films of the 1930s and performing regularly in live broadcasts for Czechoslovak Radio, the orchestra quickly established itself as the leading ensemble of the First Republic.

It was to remain a constant feature of Czech life in the often-turbulent decades that followed. Nowadays, it is one of the best symphony orchestras in the world, which has performed in dozens of countries and attracted many leading figures in classical music as guest conductors and soloists.

Josef Suk's "Fairytale" was one of the works played on the Old Town Square yesterday, and concert-goers will have the chance to hear it again as one of the many highlights of the orchestra's 70th-anniversary concert programme, which also includes pieces by Shostakovich and Dvorak, as well as little known works by Bohuslav Martinu and the undeservedly neglected Czech composer Pavel Slezak.

It is hoped that balanced and imaginative concert programmes like this will keep the Prague Symphony Orchestra at the forefront of classical music for decades to come.