In 2024 we will be marking not one but two Bedřich Smetana anniversaries. In March it will be 200 years since the composer’s birth and, on 12 May, 140 years will have passed since his death. What better way to celebrate this colossus of Czech music than with a performance of Má vlast (My Country) at the Prague Spring’s opening concert by an orchestra regarded as the best in the world? This is a distinction enjoyed by the Berlin Philharmonic, who will pay a visit to Prague after an absence of ten years. The orchestra will perform the festival’s signature work headed by their Chief Conductor, Kirill Petrenko. The concert marks his Czech debut.
- Bedřich Smetana: My Country
- Berliner Philharmoniker
- Kirill Petrenko - conductor
Petrenko had demonstrated his fondness for Bedřich Smetana’s Má vlast when he was General Music Director of the Bavarian State Opera. With the latter’s orchestra he performed the entire cycle of six symphonic poems and presented it in Vienna’s Konzerthaus. “In his interpretation Petrenko blends what could be described as a passionate sense of detail with an unerring feeling for overarching programming,” wrote Bavarian Radio critic Bernhard Neuhoff. “The Viennese public rewarded this exemplary interpretation with euphoric applause.” Before bringing the Berlin Philharmonic to the Prague Spring, they will perform Má Vlast in three highly anticipated concerts at the orchestra’s home base in Berlin. The opening of the Prague Spring promises to be an exceptional experience.
The Berlin Philharmonic has been a regular guest at the Prague Spring since the 1960s; they have appeared at the festival with all their Chief Conductors – Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle.
Kirill Petrenko has headed the orchestra since 2019. Critics and audiences alike appreciate his rousing charisma, his profound awareness of the inner sense of music, the way he works with sound, and his choice of repertoire, which covers the great Classical-Romantic works, neglected composers and contemporary music.
It’s no secret that Petrenko, born in Omsk, Siberia, has a keen affinity with Czech music. No other foreign conductor, for instance, has done so much to promote the symphonic writings of Josef Suk. Together with the Berlin Philharmonic he is gradually presenting all the major works by this native of Křečovice in Central Bohemia, the pupil and son-in-law of Antonín Dvořák. When they performed Suk’s funeral symphony Asrael in 2020 at subscription concerts in the German capital, the endeavour was considered a musical event of the first order. “This was a performance, with Petrenko himself visibly moved at its conclusion, that will be difficult to forget,” wrote Hugo Shirley in a review for the Bachtrack website.