A Czech evening in the Philharmonie in Berlin – but with a certain sadness. Sir Charles Mackerras was to have conducted this concert from October 2010, but this great conductor died on 14 July of the same year. Tomáš Netopil took his place at the conductor’s stand of the Berlin Philharmonie for the first time – a young, up-and-coming conductor who at the time had already celebrated debuts at the Salzburg Festival and with the Staatskapelle Dresden.
Our star guest this evening was the Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, singing the title role in three symphonic fragments from Bohuslav Martinů’s opera Juliette, composed in 1939. For a long time, this surreally magical stage work was hardly ever performed, but it has experienced several revivals in the last few years. A recording of the fragments from Prague, also with Magdalena Kožená as Juliette was awarded the Echo Klassik award from the Deutsche Phonoakademie in the “World premiere recording of the year” category.
This concert certainly demonstrates the diversity of Czech music. Firstly, in Martinů’s fragments, we hear a compelling mixture of French impressionism and modern angularity, then after the interval we immerse ourselves in the world of Slavonic music with Antonín Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony, a work which radiates anything but cosy nostalgia. Quite the opposite: with its frequently sombre, brittle expression, there are few other of his works which give us such a profound, authentic insight into the inner life of the composer.