Velvet Revolution with Smetana’s “Má vlast”
The Czech Philharmonic and Chief Conductor Semyon Bychkov launch an annual concert series commemorating the Velvet Revolution, in collaboration with the Prague Spring International Music Festival.
Marking the commencement of an annual concert honouring the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution on 17 November 1989, the Czech Philharmonic will perform Má vlast (My Homeland) under Chief Conductor and Music Director Semyon Bychkov. Presented in Prague’s Rudolfinum on 17 November 2020,the concert will be broadcast live on Czech TV and streamed internationally on demand for 7 days via the Facebook pages of the Orchestra and Mezzo TV amongst others. Mezzo TV will additionally broadcast the concert via its two channels Mezzo and Mezzo Live HD in 2021.
Bedřich Smetana’s six symphonic poems have long been a potent symbol of the Czech Philharmonic’s extraordinary and proud history. The Orchestra gave its first full rendition of Má vlastin a brewery in Smíchov in 1901; in 1925 Má vlastwas the work chosen by Chief Conductor Václav Talich for the Orchestra’s first live broadcast and, five years later, it was the first work that the Orchestra committed to disc. During the Nazi occupation, when Goebbels demanded that the Czech Philharmonic perform in Berlin and Dresden, Talich programmed Má vlastas an act of defiance; while in 1945 Kubelík conducted the work as a ‘concert of thanks’ for the newly liberated Czechoslovakia.
The Czech Philharmonic’s performance of Má vlast this November will mark 30 years since Rafael Kubelík’s legendary performance of the work in Prague’s Old-Town Square commemorating Czechoslovakia’s first free elections in June 1990.
Bychkov, who first conducted Má vlastwith the Czech Philharmonic in October 2019, reflects on this historic moment: “To commemorate the Velvet Revolution by performing Má vlast would be unthinkable without remembering the man whose life was as much dedicated to Smetana’s creation as it was to his country and its music. Rafael Kubelίk led the Czech Philharmonic as its Principal Conductor from 1941 until 1948, before leaving his native country in protest against the regime: “I had lived through one form of bestial tyranny, Nazism… As a matter of principle I was not going to live through another.”42 years later, following the Velvet Revolution and the country’s first free elections, Kubelík returned to his native land and beloved Czech Philharmonic to conduct Má vlast at the Prague Spring Festival, which he had inaugurated in 1946. Watching and hearing this performance on film became one of the most unforgettable moments in my life. Kubelík’s identification with this music, its own identification with the Czech nation and, the audience’s identification with both the music and its interpreters created a unity that one rarely has the privilege to experience. Our performance of Má vlast on 17 November is a homage to the Velvet Revolution, to a nation that treasures its freedom and, to Rafael Kubelík whose life remains a symbol of humanism.”
The Velvet Revolution concert is presented in collaboration with the Prague Spring International Music Festival whose 2020 Festival was programmed to have opened with the Czech Philharmonic performing Má vlast under Bychkov.
Teaser photo: Petra-Hajská