Česká centra, Czech Centres

Česká centra / Czech centres - logo


Prague Philharmonia in New York

Classical music concert. PRAGUE PHILHARMONIA - Jiří Bělohlávek, Conductor.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni, overture
Leoš Janáček:  Suite for Strings
Jan Václav Hugo Voříšek: Symphony in D Major


Tickets are sold in cooperation with the Bohemian Benevolent & Literary Association

Prague Philharmonia was established in 1994 upon the initiative of the conductor Jiří Bělohlávek as a chamber ensemble made up of young music school graduates playing with true engagement and passion. Following 1996, when it became one of the first public benefit companies, it gradually came to be ranked among the Czech Republic’s foremost orchestras and built up renown abroad.
The fundamental configuration of the Prague Philharmonia is based on the type of orchestra dating from the period of Viennese Classicism, whose compositions form the cornerstone of its repertoire. In addition to paramount works of this epoch, the Romantic era and the 20th century, the concert programme is supplemented by a special series of concerts featuring modern and contemporary music, still rather exceptional when it comes to the leading Czech orchestras. When it comes to education, the Prague Philharmonia not only dedicates to talented young musicians in the Prague Philharmonia Orchestral Academy, but children too.
It was the first orchestra in the Czech Republic to start organising special concerts for children. Owing to their conception, the concerts do not create the impression of being “educational” but, conversely, familiarise children with classical music in an extremely entertaining form. The programme for children is completed by the Notička club for children, which strives to cultivate their aesthetic sensibilities and extend their leisure-time activities.

The Prague Philharmonia frequently performs at prestigious world concert halls, is a regular guest at international music festivals and appears with world-famous conductors and soloists, including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Milan Turković, Emmanuel Villaume, Jefim Bronfman, András Schiff, Shlomo Mintz, Sarah Chang, Isabelle Faust, Mischa Maisky, Magdalena Kožená, Anna Netrebko, Natalie Dessay, Rolando Villazón, Placido Domingo and many others.
The orchestra has to date recorded more than 60 compact discs for labels of such renown as Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, Supraphon, EMI and Harmonia Mundi. One of the most recent Prague Philharmonia albums is the live recording of Bedřich Smetana’s My Country from the opening concert of the 2010 Prague Spring festival.
Among the interesting projects the Prague Philharmonia has lined up for the 2011-12 season are a tour of Japan and South Korea, an orchestral concert featuring the violinist and conductor Vladimir Spivakov, an autumn tour with Maxim Vengerov and collaboration with Anna Netrebko, Erwin Schrott and Jonas Kaufmann.

The young Czech conductor Jakub Hrůša became the orchestra’s new chief conductor at the beginning of the 2008-2009 season.




The leading personality among contemporary Czech conductors. He is a graduate of the Prague Conservatory and Prague Academy of Arts, he enjoyed a close association with Sergiu Celibidache, with whom he studied for three years.

In 1970, after winning the Czech National Conducting Competition, he became Assistant Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1971, he was a finalist in the Herbert von Karajan International Conducting Competition. During his collaboration with the Brno State Philharmonic Orchestra, from 1972 till 1978, he undertook a number of major concert tours with the orchestra to Austria, Germany and the United States.

An important chapter in his musical career was his 12-year association with the Prague Symphony Orchestra (Chief Conductor 1977-89). Jiří Bělohlávek significantly increased the artistic level of the orchestra and secured, for the ensemble and himself, a visible position on the Czechoslovak music scene. He toured frequently with the orchestra in Europe, the USA and Japan, and made many important recordings.

Jiří Bělohlávek´s collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra began in 1973. For many years he was a regular guest conductor and in 1981 became its Permanent Conductor. From 1990 till 1992 he held the position of the orchestra's Music Director, continuing the tradition of distinguished Czech Maestros - Chief Conductors of the Czech Philharmonic (Václav Talich, Karel Ančerl, Rafael Kubelík and Václav Neumann).

In 1994, Jiří Bělohlávek founded the Prague Philharmonia and became its Musical Director. From 1995 till 2000 Jiří Bělohlávek was the Principal Guest Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London. Since 1995 he has been a Professor of the Prague Academy of Arts, and in 1998 he became the Principal Guest Conductor of the Opera at the National Theatre in Prague.

Jiří Bělohlávek has enjoyed success as guest conductor with the world's greatest orchestras, having worked with the New York, Munich, Berlin, Japan and Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestras, the NHK Symphony in Tokyo, the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, the Staatskapelle in Dresden, and with the Boston, Sydney, Vienna, London and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras. His conducting career to date has included performances at a great number of celebrated international music festivals including those at Tanglewood, Salzburg, Edinburgh, Montreux, Locarno, Perth, Schleswig-Holstein, Lucerne, and the Berliner Festspiele, the Prague Spring festival and others.

Currently, Mr Bělohlávek is in great demand for guest conducting engagements worldwide, and he enjoys ongoing relationships with the BBC Symphony in London, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Symphony, the Washington National Symphony, and others.

Maestro Bělohlávek´s involvement with opera dates from 1979, when he became a permanent guest of the Komische Oper Berlin, conducting performances of Smetana's Secret and Stravinsky's Rake's Progress. Subsequently he conducted the new production of Martinů´s The Greek Passion at the National Theatre in Prague (1984), Janáček's Jenůfa in Seattle (1985) and Martinů's The Miracles of Mary at the Brno State Opera (1990). His return to the National Theatre of Prague with the new production of Janáček's Jenůfa in 1997 was a great success, as were his other productions here - Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, Dvořák's Rusalka (both in 1998) and Bizet's Carmen in 1999. In December 2001, Jiří Bělohlávek conducted a new production of Smetana's Devil's Wall (directed by David Pountney) and Janáček's Fate (in co-operation with the director Robert Wilson - 2002). Jiří Bělohlávek´s musical achievement in the production of Janáček´s Jenufa at the Glyndebourne Festival (UK) in June 2000 (with the director Nikolaus Lehnhoff) was awarded the Barclay Theatre Award.

A prominent place in Jiří Bělohlávek's extensive discography is occupied by recording of the complete orchestral works of Johannes Brahms with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the set of sixteen CDs on Chandos label with mostly Czech music, two of which were awarded the prestigious Diapason d'Or prize in Paris. Jiří Bělohlávek's recording of Smetana's My Country with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra was awarded the Supraphon Golden Disc in 1995, and in May 1999 the conductor received a further Supraphon Golden Disc for his recordings and promotion of works by Bohuslav Martinů.

The recordings he has made in recent years with the Prague Philharmonia are of a particularly fine quality, for here Bělohlávek draws on his many years of conducting experience, combining that experience with high performing standards of his own orchestra to attain his interpretational ideal. This has given rise to exemplary recordings amongst others Dvořák's Legends and Czech Suite, Dvořák's and Suk's Serenades for Strings, and Novák's Slovácko Suite.

Jiří Bělohlávek has been appointed to the role of Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, taking up the position officially at the First Night of the Proms 2006.



The world premiere of the opera Don Giovanni on 29 October 1787 at the Nostic (today’s Estates) Theatre in Prague met with great acclaim, paving the way for the work to become a permanent fixture of opera houses worldwide. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was commissioned with writing a new opera during his visit to Prague in January 1787. Unlike in Vienna, where it had flopped, his previous opera, Le nozze di Figaro, garnered tremendous success in the Czech metropolis. Mozart worked on Don Giovanni over the next few months, yet only applied the finishing touches to it after arriving in Prague on 4 October. As in the case of Le nozze di Figaro, the libretto was written by Lorenzo da Ponte. The opera, about the admired and condemned rake and rebel, radiates Shakespearean ambiguity, blending slapstick comedy and tragedy, the “high” and the “low, giving rise to philosophical contemplation while at the same time affording splendid entertainment replete with excitement and humour. This year, 225 years will have passed since the world premiere of the opera Don Giovanni.

The Suite for String Orchestra was written in 1877 and is in fact Janáček´s earliest surviving instrumental piece, apart from the Intradas and Sounds in Memory of Förchtgott-Tovačovský. Its six parts had originally been denoted Prélude, Allemande, Sarabande, Scherzo, Air and Finale (in the 2nd version), but Janáček later gave the titles up. The suite documents the fact that in its time Janáček still regarded composing rather more as a complementary activity than as the main concern of his creative endeavour.

The piano virtuoso and composer Jan Václav Hugo Voříšek was one of the last Czech musicians (later on termed “Czech musical emigrants”) who in the second half of the 18th and the early 19th centuries left their homeland to seek fame and fortune abroad. The desire to meet Ludwig van Beethoven in person was one of the main reasons why Voříšek interrupted his studies of law in Prague and in the autumn of 1813 departed for Vienna. In addition to composing, he regularly gave concerts, and his virtuosic technique soon earned him the reputation of being one of the finest pianists in the Austrian capital. During his performances for Viennese aristocrats, he actually encountered his idol Beethoven. Voříšek completed his only symphonic work, Symphony in D major, Op. 23, in January 1823. The composition was first performed at a concert of the Vienna-based Society for Friends of Music alongside Beethoven’s oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives. Considering the fact that it was Voříšek’s first symphonic piece, its maturity is truly amazing. The composer did not linger with a slow introduction, which until then was relatively common: the main theme appears right at the beginning of the first movement, which is noteworthy for its compactness and torrential cadence. It is similar in the following movements, which display the composer’s inspired inventiveness and superb instrumentation. The Beethovenian heroism and pomp is overridden by conciseness and effective use of the available means, with elements echoing Baroque flashing through in places, as in the case of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s late works.  ~Kryštof Spirit


Organized by the Czech Center New York in cooperation with the Bohemian  Benevolent & Literary Association and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic

Our Partners