About the Event
The Czech Collegium performs an inspiring program, including works by Dvorak, Smetana, Bach, and Mozart.
The Czech Collegium is largely made up of leading players from the Prague FOK Symphony Orchestra. It devotes itself mainly to chamber music and has been well received both in its home country and abroad.
The Spanish Synagoge is the oldest Jewish building in Prague and boast stunning golden and geometric decorations, with a domed ceiling, Islamic motifs and stained glass.
Some claim the Spanish Synagogue is the most beautiful synagogue in all of Europe. Unmistakably a highlight of Prague's Jewish Quarter, it was built in 1868 on the site of the oldest synagogue in Prague. Its architectural style – Moorish Revival – inspired by the majestic Alhambra palace in Spain, gives the Synagogue its name. A splendid interior, with stained-glass windows and intricate, colorful arabesque parquet conjures up an exotic atmosphere, and makes the synagogue a very special venue for concerts of classical and sacred music. The Spanish Synagogue is administered by the Jewish Museum, and features permanent exhibitions exploring the history of the Jewish people in Bohemia and Moravia.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Perhaps the most important composer of all time, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an Austrian composer of the late 18th century. Born in 1756 in Salzburg, he showed prodigious musical talent from childhood. Beginning at five years of age, he composed more than 600 works, including concertos, symphonies, religious works and operas before his premature death at the age of 35. Hi influence over successive generations cannot be overestated - Ludwig van Beethoven wrote of Mozart "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years”. Despite the immense success of his compositions, and the acclaim he received across Europe, Mozart achieved little financial security and rwas buried in an unmarked grave in Vienna's St Marx Cemetery.
Antonin Dvorak is considered to be one of the most well-known and prominent Czechs in the world, as his musical work gained international recognition already during his lifetime. He was born in 1841 in a small Czech village into a butcher’s family. At the age of 6, Dvorak started taking violin lessons and it immediately became obvious that the boy had exceptional talent in music. Later in life, he was learning to master piano and organ as well as simultaneously working in a slaughterhouse. After Dvorak turned 16, he was admitted to the Organ School in Prague that trained future professional composers. After graduating, he stayed in Prague, joined Karel Komzak’s orchestra and started actively composing his own music. However, he struggled to make ends meet and always had to work on the side by playing music in churches and giving private music lessons. Finally, 1874 became a turning point in his life when he won a financial grant from an Austrian Prize competition for his 15 submitted works. This allowed him to quit the orchestra and devote himself fully to composing. During this period, he wrote his Slavonic Dances, Moravian Duets and Violin Concerto, which brought him sweeping success. In 1892 he was invited to teach at the New York National Conservatory, where he stayed until 1895 before returning home. He started teaching at the Prague conservatory and later became its director. Until his death in 1904, he had been a successful and well-loved composer, both in his homeland and around the whole world.
Bedrich Smetana is regarded as the father of Czech classical music, most known for his symphonic cycle My Homeland and opera The Bartered Bride. He was born in 1824 in Litomyšl, a town in Bohemia. Since childhood, Bedrich Smetana developed an affection for folk music and songs, which can be traced in his oeuvre. His father also played in a string quartet and taught young Bedrich to play the violin. However, the son preferred the piano and gave his first piano performance when he was only 6 years old. In 1943 Smetana set off to Prague where he attended the Prague Music Institute and became acquainted with Prague’s music life by attending numerous classical concerts. Back then he said: “…I shall one day be a Liszt in technique and a Mozart in composition!”. In 1848 he opened a private music school, which became very popular, especially among Czech nationalists – a movement that was thriving that year. Smetana was supporting the movement and wrote a few patriotic works, including two marches dedicated to the Citizens’ Army. However, the 1850’s were sorrowful years for the composer. He lost his three daughters, his wife was severely ill and the critics were giving unflattering reviews on his music. In 1856 he decided to start a new life in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he opened another music school, worked as a conductor of the Society for Classical Music and gained professional recognition. In his homeland, Smetana’s talent was finally acknowledged only in 1866 with the release of his opera "The Brandenburgers". Since then, his career saw ups and downs but reached its glorious peak when the public first heard his symphonic circle "Ma Vlast", which Smetana composed despite becoming deaf.
Johann Sebastian Bach
The name Bach and the word musician had long been synonyms in Germany as the world saw 56 musicians from this kin. But it was Johann Sebastian Bach, a genius composer and virtuoso organ player, who shed lustre on his family name. He was born on th 31st of March 1685 in Eisenach, a small town in Thuringia. At the age of 10 he became an orphan and was brought up by his elder brother Johann Christoph, who was an organist in a neighbouring town. His brother was the one to teach music to the young Johann Sebastian. Later he moved to Luneburg where he attended a church school and mastered the techniques of playing violin, viola, piano and organ by the age of 17. Besides that, Bach was a choir singer and later after his voice broke he became a chanter’s assistant. In 1703 Bach was hired as a court musician in the chapel of Duke Johann Ernst III. He earned such a good reputation there that he was later invited to Arnstadt to be an organist at the New Church, where he wrote his best organ works. In 1723 he moved to Leipzig to be a chantor at St. Thomas Church where he stayed until his death of a stroke in 1750. In the year of his death he had undergone unsuccessful eye surgery which lead him to lose his eyesight. During that strenuous time his second wife Anna Magdalena helped him to write his last musical pieces. Bach’s artistic legacy is vast. He created compositions in all genres of the time: oratorias, cantatas, masses, motets, music for organ, piano and violin.
Antonio Vivaldi went down in history as a creator of the instrumental concert genre and the father of orchestral music. He was born in Venice on the 4th of March 1678. Vivaldi was a weak and sickly child suffering from asthma, however could not stop him from devoting himself completely to music. His father, Giovanni Batista a professional violinist, taught his elder son Antonio to play the violin. With his father young Antonio met the best musicians of Venice of that time and gave concerts in local churches. He also worked as a violin teacher and later as a music director at the orphanage Ospedalle della Pieta. Meanwhile he composed concertos, sacred works and vocal music and in 1713 he achieved great recognition with his sacred choral music. Vivaldi got captivated by the world of opera and worked both as opera composer and impresario at the Teatro San Angelo. In 1717 he obtained a prestigious position by the prince court in Manua as a director of secular music and worked there until around 1720. During that time he composed his world-renowned masterpiece The Four Seasons. In the 1730's his career dwindled as his music became unfashionable and the great composer died in poverty. It took the world two centuries to rediscover and reevaluate Vivaldi’s music, as it was buried into oblivion after his death. In the early 20th century many previously unknown works were found and immediately captured the hearts of the music lovers.
Giuseppe Verdi was an Italian opera composer. From a young age, he developed a musical education with the help of a patron and soon dominated the Italian opera. In fact by his 30s, he became one of the most influential opera composer all over the classical scene. His most famous operas are Il Trovatore, Rigoletto and La Traviata. Furthermore, he was able to establish himself as a landowner with the income from his successful operas and focus on his private life. However, he soon returned to the scene with his new popular work Aida (1871), and three masterpieces: Otello, Requiem and Falstaff.
Gioachino Rossini was an Italian composer of the 19th century. He made his debut at the age of 18 and soon became one the most popular opera composer in history. His best known operas are The Barber of Seville (Il barbiere di Siviglia), The Italian Girl in Algiers (L'italiana in Algeri), and Cinderella (La Cenerentola). In general, his style can be defined as song-like melodic which earned him the nickname of "the Italian Mozart”. Later on he became famous for his exciting buildup of orchestral sound over a repeated phrase, which is now known as a "Rossini crescendo”.