Monday 16 November 2020

Smetana's Má vlast performed in honour of Velvet Revolution: Czech Philharmonic live & on-line

Semyon Bychkov and Czech Philharmonic (Photo Marco Borggreve)
Semyon Bychkov, Czech Philharmonic (Photo Marco Borggreve)

In collaboration with Prague Spring International Music Festival, the Czech Philharmonic and chief conductor Semyon Bychkov will perform Bedřich Smetana's Má vlast on 17 November 2020 in the Rudolfinum in Prague. The first of a planned annual concert honouring the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution on 17 November 1989 (the non-violent transition of power from the one-party Communist government in Czechoslovakia). 

The concert will be broadcast live on Czech TV and streamed internationally on demand for seven days via the Facebook pages of the orchestra and Mezzo TV amongst others.

Smetana wrote the six symphonic poems of Má vlast (which were probably not conceived of as a single entity) between 1874 and 1879, at a time when the composer was in worsening health, and had lost his hearing. Each work was premiered separately, but the complete set was performed together for the first time in 1885 in Prague. The Czech Philharmonic first performed Má vlast completed in 1901 (in a brewery), and in 1925 the work was chosen by chief conductor Václav Talich (1883-1961) for the orchestra’s first live broadcast and, five years later, it was the first work that the orchestra committed to disc. During the Nazi era, when Goebbels demanded that the orchestra perform in Berlin and Dresden, Talich programmed Má vlast as an act of defiance; while in 1945 Rafael Kubelík (1914-1996) conducted the work as a ‘concert of thanks’ for the newly liberated Czechoslovakia.

The performance of Má vlast on 17 November 2020 will mark 30 years since Kubelik conducted the work in Prague’s Old-Town Square commemorating Czechoslovakia’s first free elections in June 1990 [YouTube].  Kubelik was chief conductor of the orchestra from 1941 to 1948, when he left the country in protest at the Communist regime, and he only returned in 1990, conducting Má vlast with the orchestra at the Prague Spring Festival which he had inaugurated in 1946.

Further information on the broadcast from Czech TV (in Czech), and the Czech Philharmonic's Facebook page.

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