The Gürzenich Orchestra from Cologne has a remarkable and celebrated history. “They premiered the Double Concerto by Johannes Brahms, two symphonies by Gustav Mahler and the symphonic poems of Richard Strauss,” says Prague Spring Programme Director Josef Třeštík. It is still one of the finest and most intriguing orchestras on the scene today. “Under the guidance of its Chief Conductor François-Xavier Roth it has built up a fascinating repertoire spanning the Baroque to the present day and it works with some of the world’s top soloists, such as violist Tabea Zimmermann,” Třeštík adds.
“The knowledge that Paul Hindemith himself stood on the podium in Prague is a great inspiration for me for my performance of the piece with my musical companion Tabea Zimmermann,” Roth states. “The Gürzenich Orchestra has Richard Strauss in its DNA, and we included music by the wonderful Czech composer Leoš Janáček on the programme in honour of our host,” concludes the French conductor, who will make his Czech debut at the festival with two concerts. A day before this concert with the German orchestra he will conduct Les Siècles, a French orchestra performing on period instruments which he founded almost twenty years ago; the programme in this instance will combine works by César Franck and Claude Debussy.
“I consider Má vlast to be one of the most significant masterpieces of the 19th century, so it is a great joy to keep coming back to it.” says Daniel Barenboim, the legendary pianist and conductor who celebrates his 80th birthday in 2022. Opening the 77th annual Prague Spring Festival will be the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a unique ensemble that Barenboim established together with the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said to support dialogue between the various cultures of the Middle East through their music and coexistence.
Of course, this will not be the first time that Barenboim has opened the Prague Spring Festival with Bedřich Smetana’s Má vlast. In 2017 he conducted it at the groundbreaking opening concert with the Vienna Philharmonic, with which he also conducted the work on a European tour in Vienna, Linz, Munich, and Paris. “We are overjoyed that Daniel Barenboim has taken the emblematic work of the Prague Spring Festival, made it his own, and is promoting it all around the world”, says Prague Spring Festival director Roman Bělor. “There could be no greater symbolism than to perform this particular masterpieces with an orchestra of musicians from Israel, Palestine and other Arab countries”, says the conductor about opening the festival with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. “Home and homeland are very meaningful to all of them, in different ways.”