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PKF – Prague Philharmonia celebrates its 20th anniversary

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The PKF – Prague Philharmonia celebrates its 20th anniversary this season, arranges an exquisite program, attracts such artists as Kate Royal, Isabelle Faust, and Mischa Maisky and bids farewell to its chief conductor

This fall will mark 20 years from the moment when the most famous of our contemporary conductors, Jiří Bělohlávek, gathered the students from the chamber clubs of colleges and high schools who were to become the Prague Chamber Philharmonic. The group, teeming with passion, ambition, and young enthusiasm immediately set out on a demanding yet successful journey into the great world of music, so that they might one day join the ranks of the most important players in the classical music scene… These were the words that began the story of the orchestra now called the PKF – Prague Philharmonia.

On the occasion of the twentieth century of their founding, which may have occurred in fall but will full the entire season with celebratory spirit, the group will reward its audience with exquisite and original dramaturgy, attract resounding names for soloists and conductors from the far corners of the world and from right here at home, and keep with tradition by presenting the premiere of one of the freshest works of music, this time from a Czech composer. The 2014-2015 season will begin between 28 September and 5 October with a specially conceived project, “20 Years in Style”, in which it will offer three pivotal concerts of the season under the batons of chief conductors who helped create its history and contributed to its artistic profile. The celebratory spirit will grow ever more with its firm foundation of accompanying programs and media events.

The quality of the prepared program will be ensured by top soloists and conductors who have accepted our invitations for our celebratory season. Among them will be the star soprano Kate Royal, the virtuoso violinist Isabelle Faust, the world-famous cellist Mischa Maisky, the leading French conductor Emmanuel Villaume, first flautist of the Berlin Philharmonic Emmanuel Pahud, first-class Russian conductor Evgeny Bushkov, the talented young pianist Denis Kozhukhin, the brilliant trumpetist Gábor Boldoczki, the versatile German conductor Philipp von Steinaecker, the excellent clarinettist and conductor Paul Meyer, and also representatives of the Czech scene – the prized soprano Simona Houda Šaturová, the leading domestic mezzo-soprano Jana Wallingerová, the internationally renowned tenor Richard Samek, and one of the most interesting contemporary Czech bassists, Jan Martiník. This not to mention the performances of the excellent soloists from the ranks of the PKF – Prague Philharmonia itself, such as violinist Jan Fišer, cellist Lukáš Pospíšil, oboist Jan Souček, and bassoonist Tomáš Františ.

“While a true recap would yet be premature given the age of the PKF – Prague Philharmonia, we can certainly say that in the 20 years of its existence it has brought the Czech cultural environment a series of valuable new programs and introduced its domestic audience to many of the gems of world renowned yet still fresh artistic faces. It often thrived in the classics but never hesitated to experiment. The concept of the upcoming season is to continue in this spirit and use these prepared projects to enhance and reinforce who PKF has become in the past 20 years, how far it has come.

As I just mentioned, in addition to the musical program we will invite listeners from the wider and non-musical public as well to participate in a series of additional activities, such as the documentary film about PKF produced by Czech Television, a broadcast of the introductory concert of Jakub Hrůša and the entrancing Kate Royal, special radio programs, projections, media activities in social media networks, and more,” states the director of the PKF – Prague Philharmonia Radim Otépka about the celebratory season, which will be linked and differentiated from other seasons with the special logo and tagline “20 Years in Style”.

“We consider the ’20 Years in Style’ project particularly appealing, as in addition to current and former chief composers Jakub Hrůša, Kaspar Zehnder and Jiří Bělohlávek and other wonderful personalities it will offer other concert selections long favoured by PKF (Concerts for Children and Schools, Contemporary Concert Cycle, Chamber Cycle, Special Concert, and this time also Special Concert for Children). Our effort is for our fans and devoted listeners to view the content of the celebratory season of PKF as an expression of thanks and recognition for their patronage. It is also a pleasure to thank the players themselves and everyone who supports PKF for the fact that their support has made possible to still be playing after twenty years,” Otépka adds.

In addition to the musical events and other accompanying program, the PKF – Prague Philharmonia will have another important occasion in the upcoming season – after seven years the current chief conductor and music director Jakub Hrůša by bringing audiences the opportunity to see him in the concert hall throughout the season. “If I remember well, I first conducted PKF (like many of my young colleagues) at a children’s concert in 2002. At the moment of the closing concert of the 2014-2015 that will make a beautiful thirteen years of life together. From 2005 I was honoured with the position of permanent guest conductor, and from 2008 I was the chief conductor. I strongly desire to continue my association with the orchestra in the future. Right now I am feeling above all the need to express my great thanks. I am going on my own conviction that it is time to take a step onward, and now I know that I will always remember the serial PKF concerts with nostalgia,” Hrůša states.

Subscriptions to the concert selections and advance ticket sales to Special Concerts and the Special Concert for Children in the 21st season 2014-2015 will commence Thursday, 19 June. Individual tickets to other concerts will become available from 17 September. More information about the program available at, more news will follow online and on Facebook.

The Orchestral Cycle of Concerts will be hosted not only in the usual Dvořák hall of the Rudolfinum but also in the Smetana Hall and Spanish Hall of Obecní Dům. The project “20 Years in Style” will immediately set the season’s bar high: “We built a dramaturgy that symbolically shows all the various faces of PKF activity – Czech and international classical music (Voříšek and Beethoven with Jiří Bělohlávek), energetic and vocal performance (“Romany” operetta program with the Kalandos Ensemble, soprano Julia Kamenik, and Kaspar Zehnder in the Smetana Hall of Obecní Dům) and an ambitious and extensive concert experience with me (we will perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 for the first time in Prague; it is a composition that stands at the conceptual peak of the creative aspirations of an orchestra of our type; it is amazing that we have won the first class international vocalist Kate Royal for this collaboration),“ says Jakub Hrůša of the program of three introductory concerts, who will direct the commencement concert in the Rudolfinum, with tape delay broadcast immediately following thanks to Czech Television through the ČT Art channel. During the break viewers will also see the premiere of the documentary film about PKF – Prague Philharmonia produced by Czech Television.

The program will not be wanting for representatives of the Czech musical elite as well – in the last concert of the “20 Years in Style” project, the Thálie 2001 recipients for best female vocal performance, the soprano with the brilliant full voice Simona Houda Šaturová will perform under the baton of conductor Jiří Bělohlávek, the leading local mezzo-soprano Jana Wallingerová, permanent guest of the Staatsoperette Dresden, tenor Richard Samek, and one of the most significant Czech musicians of his generation, the bassist Jan Martiník. The second and third concert will also be accompanied by choirs – the Prague Philharmonic Choir and the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno. The concerts of the “20 Years in Style” project will take place 28 September, 1 October and 5 October.

A total of nine concerts of the Orchestral Cycle will offer work from all creative periods from older classicism to the contemporary Czech premiere of a composition by Miroslav Srnka. Certain concerts will be specially focussed on key composers, in whose interpretation the PKF has excelled from the beginning – leader of the classical period Joseph Haydn and the great German romantic Robert Schumann. With the Haydn program one of the most promising representatives of the middle composing generation and a great Russian artist Evgeny Bushkov will be featured with the orchestra, whose baton will direct his countryman, the young and talented pianist Denis Kozhukhin, who will perform in the concert together with the renowned Hungarian trumpetist Gábor Boldoczki.

Chief Conductor Jakub Hrůša will himself become a representative of Schumann’s repertoire when in the charismatic company of the international cellist Mischa Maisky, who will subsequently tour Japan, he presents the composer’s prelude to the dramatic poem Manfred. In addition to Schumann the evening will also be dominated by the contemporary Czech composer Miroslav Srnka, whose composition entitled No Night No Land No Sky, a commissioned composition for the PKF – Prague Philharmonia and the Kolín Philharmonic, will soon enjoy its Czech premiere. Other ambassadors of Schumann’s works will include the German conductor and cellist Philipp von Steinaecker, who this time will allow his conductor’s role to take the fore, and the unmistakeable and highly sought after German violinist, renowned for the contours of her performance and the purity of her tone, Isabelle Faust. Both compositional subjects will then meet in a March concert in the noble Spanish Hall of Prague Castle, where the PKF – Prague Philharmonia recently performed two exceptional concerts. Its protagonist shall be a French solo clarinettist and composer who during one evening will carry out both his artistic roles, Paul Meyer. While Meyer is a very active representative of contemporary music and many contemporary concerts have been organized for him specifically, this time he will prepare for listeners a classically oriented program.

The penultimate orchestral concert welcomes two of the same name – Emmanuels Villaume and Pahuda. The renowned French composer, currently the visiting chief conductor of The Slovak Philharmonic, will meet for the first time with the Berlin Philharmonic flautist in a performance of works by O. Messiaen, W. A. Mozart, and G. Bizet. The final stroke of the season will be the last of the set of three concerts of works by Joseph Haydn. With the participation of soloists from the PKF orchestra – concert masters Jan Fišer and Lukáš Pospíšil, as well as oboist Jan Souček and bassoonist Tomáš Františ – Jakub Hrůša will wave his conductor’s baton for the last time and lead a joyful journey of “nature, life, and love” (Antonín Dvořák — “Nature, Life, and Love”, a cycle of three concert symphonies for grand orchestra).

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