Year of Czech Music gets underway

Prague's Rudolfinum

2024 is the Year of Czech Music, a celebration held once a decade, on every year that ends on the number four, a number that marks many Czech music anniversaries. The biggest tribute will be paid to Bedřich Smetana, the “father of Czech music”, who was born exactly 200 years ago and died 60 years later.

Photo: Year of Czech Music

The 20th edition of the Year of Czech Music was launched by the Czech Philharmonic with a New Year’s concert in Prague's Rudolfinum on Monday evening, under the baton of conductor Jakub Hrůša, who is also one of the ambassadors of the event.

Throughout the year, the Czech Philharmonic will also play two operas in concert, Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen and Smetana’s Libuše, both of them conducted by Hrůša. The country’s first national orchestra will also represent Czechia abroad, says its director David Mareček:

Jakub Hrůša | Photo: Petra Hajská,  The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra

“The nearest tour is going to take place in March and it will take the Czech Philharmonic to Spain, Austria, Germany and also France and Belgium. On that tour we will play mainly music by Antonín Dvořák, his most well-known symphonies number 7, 8 and 9, and his concertos, with our music conducter, Maestro Semyon Bychkov.

“In the summer, there will be BBC Proms and the Luzern Festival, with Jakub Hrůša, and at the very end of the year 2024, we will have three concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York, this time again with Semyon Bychkov conducting the music of Smetana, Dvořák, Janáček and Gustav Mahler.”

Photo: Year of Czech Music

The main focus of this Year of Czech Music is Bedřich Smetana, whose anniversary will be marked with a special project called Smetana 200. The Czech Philharmonic will celebrate the anniversary by playing Má Vlast, his most famous symphonic work, and Libuše, one of his most famous operas. Other institutions are also planning special programmes to celebrate the great Czech composer, says Mr. Mareček:

David Mareček  | Photo: Elena Horálková,  Czech Radio

“First of all, the National Theatre in Ostrava will perform all of Bedřich Smetana’s operas. The same is true about the opera in Pilsen. And of course, the National Theatre in Prague will also perform some of Smetana’s operas.

“A very important project is going to take place in the National Theatre in Brno. They will do a completely new production of Dalibor in co-production with the Welsh opera in Cardiff, conducted by Tomáš Hanus, a very famous Czech conductor.”

While Bedřich Smetana is the main focus of this Year of Czech Music, the year-long music celebrations will also mark other Czech music greats, including Antonín Dvořák, who died 120 years ago, and Leoš Janáček, who was born 170 years ago.

But there are many other Czech musicians, both classical and popular, whose anniversaries will be celebrated this year, including opera singer Jarmila Novotná, who died in 1994, the great songwriter and singer Jiří Šlitr, who was born 100 years ago, or the protest song-writer Karel Kryl, who would have turned 80.

The Year of Czech Music will be extensively covered by Czech Radio, including Radio Prague International which will have two special series to mark the occasion.