Popelka, Špaček and Sekera – inspiring trinity with Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
For Saturday 9 October, the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra has made programme of Czech and German classical music. They have invited outstanding soloists, the violinist Josef Špaček and pianist Miroslav Sekera, to perform together on Bohuslav Martinů’s Concerto.
The programme also includes Wolfgang Rihm's Ernster Gesang and Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 3 in F major. Petr Popelka, the chief conductor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra in Oslo and – from the next season chief conductor of the PRSO.
Martinů was himself a violinist and knew the technical and expressive possibilities of the violin and piano most intimately. The Concerto, which he composed in 1953 in New York, bears the typical features of his late work. It combines restless planes and simple melodies but compared to other works of the time it is more traditionally conceived and has a strong tonal anchor.
The second part of the evening will be devoted to the relationship of the contemporary composer to the work of one of the greats of musical history. Wolfgang Rihm, the living legend of German music, wrote Ernster Gesang in the 1990s at the suggestion of conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch as a piece specifically to be played before the music of Johannes Brahms. For several months, therefore, he studied the songs and piano pieces from Brahms' late period. Eventually he arrived at Brahms' last vocal work, Vier Ernste Gesänge, which reflects on the theme of death on the basis of selected biblical texts. And at that moment, Rihm connected the whole work with the memory of his recently deceased father. Rihm's introverted, lyrical work sets the mood for one of Brahms' masterpieces.
Johannes Brahms wrote Symphony No. 3 in F major in the summer of 1883 in the spa town of Wiesbaden. When Antonín Dvořák came to visit him in Vienna in the autumn of that year, Brahms played the first and last movements of the new symphony at the piano. In a letter to their common Berlin publisher Simrock, the friend from Prague let it be known that the symphony surpassed the previous two – and if not in the strength of its conception, then certainly in beauty!
Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra H 342
Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra
Petr Popelka – conductor
Josef Špaček – violin
Miroslav Sekera – piano
Rudolfinum, 9 October 2021 at 7:30 p.m.