Filharmonie Brno in Janáčkovo divadlo. Credit: Filharmonie Brno

Filharmonie Brno Presents Works By Two Exiled Composers As Part of the Year of Czech Music

Filharmonie Brno will perform the works of two exiled composers this Thursday and Friday at the Janacek Theatre, as a contribution to the Year of Czech Music series. The orchestra has been carrying the legacy of Jan Novák and Antonín Rejcha for some time, both with live performances and recordings on their own label. The shows will present the work of Novák and Rejcha in the same evening. “Both are authors in exile, both excellent composers, solitaries who yearn for artistic and personal freedom,” said the dramaturg of the Filharmonie Brno, Vítězslav Mikeš.

The title of the concert, “Waiting for spring and peace” refers to the ideological focus of both works: Novák’s Vernalis temporis symphonia (“Spring Symphony”) is a celebration of spring, hope and rebirth, while Rejch’s cantata Der Neue Psalm (“New Psalm”) is written to a text paraphrasing the Lord’s Prayer as a prayer for peace. “At the present time, when the world has been gripped by war and unrest, this concert can be perceived not only as a reminder of the wonderful music of two outstanding composers, but also as a message to today’s world,” added Mikeš. 

Both compositions are vocal-instrumental: the Spring Symphony is designed with a vocal final movement according to the model of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In Rejch’s work, four soloists will join the orchestra in addition to the choir.

Novák’s musical work takes neoclassicism as a starting point, characterised by its clear form, fresh melodic invention, significant rhythmicity, elegant lightness and distinctive humour, all of which are present in The Spring Symphony, accompanied by sound-painting motifs with a touch of spring, such as the sound of birds chirping. “We present Novák’s works regularly, and we know that whoever hears it will immediately fall in love with it. His music is beautiful, melodious, and captivating at the first listen,” said the director of Filharmonie Brno, Marie Kučerová. Novák composed the symphony for the opening of a concert hall in Aarhus, Denmark, where he lived in exile. The melody played by the bells of the Aarhus town hall every noon is incorporated into the work.

Antonín Rejcha, who was famous especially as a theoretician and pedagogue, left home at the age of eleven to join his uncle, who brought him into the world of music. In Vienna, he became very friendly with Beethoven and Joseph Haydn, before later settling permanently in Paris, where he taught Hector Berlioz and Franz Liszt. Rejcha’s work was based on classical forms, but with numerous innovative and even experimental ideas. This is also true of his four vocal-instrumental works, including the New Psalm.

“I work day and night and I don’t want to create works that appear and disappear like clouds over the horizon. I work for the future, because I have the talent for it, and I am responsible for it now. I have no desire at all for the fleeting fame of so many of my colleagues who run, barely catch their breath, but leave nothing behind,” said Rejcha, describing his attitude to his works.

In addition to the orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno, soprano Martina Janková, mezzo-soprano Pavla Vykopalová, tenor Aleš Briscein and bassist Jiří Brückler will perform. “Martina Janková and I have already worked together on Rejch,” said Kučerová. “She took the title role in his oratorio Lenora, which we recorded on CD. Lenora’s performance four years ago caused a huge response, and the concert was also filmed by Czech TV.” 

Lenora was recorded by the orchestra under the baton of chief conductor Dennis Russell Davies, who will also conduct this week’s concerts. Friday’s concert will be broadcast live by Czech Radio Vltava to mark the 100th anniversary of their Brno studio. Jan Novák’s daughter Clara and his cousin, opera singer Richard Novák, will also attend.

“Waiting for spring and peace” will be performed twice, this Thursday and Friday at Janacek Theatre, starting at 7pm. Tickets are available online on the website, in the pre-sale at the Filharmonie Brno ticket office, or at the venue before the start of the concert, where students can get tickets for CZK 50.

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