After a five-year pause, the top local orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, is again returning to perform the opening concerts of the Prague Spring Festival. The traditional opening composition, Smetana’s My Country, will be conducted by the current head of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, a thirty-six-year-old native of Saint Petersburg, Vasily Petrenko. The Czech Philharmonic will then appear again at another Festival concert, this time under the baton of a renowned German conductor, Ingo Metzmacher.
Of the other large Czech ensembles, the Prague Symphony Orchestra will be the guest of the Festival on two evenings, first led by the British conductor Christopher Hogwood and then, at the closing concert, by its artistic director, Jiří Kout. The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra will perform two concerts – at the first, it will accompany the soprano Edita Gruberová and at the second evening, the orchestra will be led by its conductor of many years, Vladimír Válek.
An event comparable to the guest performance of the Berlin Philharmonic at the 2011 Festival will the concert by the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Daniel Barenboim, much looked forward to by both the general public and music specialists alike. Prague Spring audiences will twice welcome the BBC Symphony Orchestra from London, which will be led by Jiří Bělohlávek at the close of his many years as its chief conductor. Of the traditional ‘great powers’ of early music performed on period instruments, the renowned Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is coming to Prague from Great Britain. An ensemble that was founded more than a quarter of a century ago, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will perform a special programme at the Prague Spring, consisting of concertos, cantatas, and oratorios by Johann Sebastian Bach. The principal soloist of the evening will be the renowned Grammy-winning British tenor, Ian Bostridge. On two evenings of Beethoven piano concertos, the Norwegian virtuoso Leif Ove Andsnes will be accompanied by the international Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
Of the solo vocalists, apart from Edita Gruberová, the recital by the mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, accompanied by the world-renowned Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida, is of particularly great interest. The mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink, who has enjoyed years of popularity amongst her many Prague fans, will again return to the Festival stage. Another English tenor, of a reputation equal to Bostridge’s, Mark Padmore, will perform songs by Beethoven and Schubert, accompanied by his compatriot Paul Lewis. A wide range of international star vocalists, including Nikolai Schukoff (who sang in Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 at the 2011 Prague Spring Festival), will take part in a concert performance of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, with the Prague Philharmonia conducted by Jakub Hrůša. Of the solo instrumentalists, the re-encounter with Rostropovich’s pupil Natalia Gutman (the winner of the 1961 Prague Spring Cello competition, which launched her career) will certainly draw a large audience. Among the soloists from the Czech Republic to appear at the Festival will be the violinists Ivan Ženatý, Pavel Šporcl, and Roman Patočka, the cellist Jiří Bárta, and the solo flutist of the Czech Philharmonic, Roman Novotný.
Lovers of historically informed performances of early music are sure to welcome Jan Dismas Zelenka’s oratorio, Il Serpente di bronzo, performed by the outstanding Ensemble Inégal, and also organ concertos by Vivaldi and Handel, interpreted by Robert Hugo on the newly restored Baroque organ at the Saint Saviour Church together with his Capella Regia. For lovers of ethnic music, performances are planned by the New World Ensemble (an all-girl ensemble from China, playing traditional folk instruments) and the hot-blooded Gypsy Devils.