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«MUSICOLOGICA OLOMUCENSIA VII Univerzita Palackého v Olomouci Olomouc 2005 The present volume was submitted to print on 6 April 2005. Dieser Band ...»

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Until the 1860s, the principle source of repertory knowledge in Prague (apart from conservatory orchestra) was the Cecilian Association (established 1840), a Utraquist club associating amateur and professional musicians. Orchestral concerts were also staged with various frequency by Jednota umělců hudebních k podpoře vdov a sirotků (Association of Musicians to Help Widows and Orphans) (1803), German Theatre Orchestra and Žofín academy (1841). Contemporary taste for an eclectic musical program was met by the concerts of traveling virtuosos with orchestral numbers. However, artistic and financial success was only achieved by renowned artists. Other musical undertakings included the so-called charitable academies, church concerts, and military bands performances. A seemingly wide offer of orchestral concerts was, however, “mainly erratic,” where “quantity replaced quality in both interpretation and repertoire,” as observed by Vladimír Lébl and Jitka Ludvová in their paper dealing with concerts in Prague. “Prague bourgeoisie, in their proverbial Austrian thrift, was not prone to more magnanimous support and the one-time sponsoring nobility was running out of money. Financially demanding orchestra operation revealed the extemporaneous nature of Prague concert life in a very bright light. Prague had no suitable music hall and all other necessary elements of musical communication were rather weak.”15 The 1860s brought numerous improvements, mainly due to newly established institutions: Národní listy (1861), Hlahol magazine (1861), Prozatimní divadlo (Provisional Theater) (1862) and Umělecká beseda (Patriotic Association of Artists) (1863). However, the most acute problems remained. Prague lacked a grand music hall and all efforts to organize regular orchestral performances struggled with lack of financing and low attendance. The root cause is to be found, among others, in the relation between vocal and instrumental music. The priority was the opera due to a “direct relation between domestic musicality and ideological, nationalist motivations. The emphasis was on the musical genres that mediated notional information.”16 An incomparable extent of public attention and financial support between Prague opera and symphonic concerts was evident in the coverage of the construction of the National Theater and the Rudolfinum. The program V. Lébl – J. Ludvová, „Pražské orchestrální concerty v letech 1860–1895,“ Hudební věda 17/2 (1980).

V. Lébl – J. Ludvová, „Nová doba (1860–1938),“ Hudba v českých dějinách.. Od středověku do nové doby (Praha 1983).

of orchestral concerts remained unnoticed by the general public and music critics, as opposed to the opera repertoire. Tense relations between nationalities and the consistent separation of Czech and German musical life were felt more in the instrumental area than in opera. In concert activities, Utraquist operation survived for quite a long time.

The idea of systematic symphonic music production was strongly promoted by Bedřich Smetana. He summed up considerable imperfections of musical life in Prague compared to the situation abroad in his article entitled “Of our concerts,”17 in which he articulated the necessity to establish regular subscriber concerts and systematic concert season, dominated by Czech music and music of other Slavonic nations for Czech audiences.

Smetana’s attempt to establish subscriber concerts of Umělecká beseda (Patriotic Association of Artists) failed after only three concerts in 1864. From 1869, the composer organized and conducted regular concerts with the Provisional Theater orchestra, later reinforced by the German opera orchestra (1871). He gave precedence to establishing an orchestra exceeding the limits of one theater over political tendencies. The merging of both opera bodies in 1873 resulted in the establishment of the Philharmonic, conducted by both theater conductors: B. Smetana and L. Slánský. However, the Philharmonic perished after the opening of the National Theater and Smetana’s death.

It was in this period that the Rudolfinum came into operation. Its music hall solved one of the thorniest problems of concert life in Prague. This fact was praised, in spite of its otherwise negative criticism, by Národní listy as follows: “Yesterday was the day when the deficiency that hurt everyone, who loved Prague and compared it to foreign cities, was finally remedied.”18 Before the Rudolfinum was opened, we would search in vain for a music hall in the true sense of the word in Prague. The matter in hand involved mostly assembly rooms of various sizes that hosted diverse social activities, including music.

Concert life has thus for long been taking place in such halls as Platýz, Konvikt in Old Town (approximate capacity-200 seats), and primarily on Žofín island. Despite numerous drawbacks (no dressing rooms for artists), the Žofín hall was widely used since 1830, mainly due to its capacity (400 seats). Compared to these rooms, the Rudolfinum building must have made a breathtaking impression upon its visitors.

The ceremonial opening concert in the Dvořák hall on February 7, 1885, was performed by the musical conservatory orchestra that found a new residence in the Rudolfinum, conducted by its director A. Bennewitz. Foreign artists were invited to add glamour to the occasion. The house opening was more of a prestigious social, rather than national, occasion, and the program featured only one composition by a Czech author – Slavonic Rhapsody by Antonín Dvořák.19 “Czech was not spoken in Rudolfinum on the glorious Slavoj, 1/7 September 1, 1862. This paper has been quoted and repeated frequently.





Národní listy, February 8, 1885.

The concert program was as follows: First, professor Josef Förster played the national anthem on organ, followed by overture op. 124 Consecration of the house by L. v. Beethoven, a duet from Lohengrin by R.

Wagner (T. Malten – Saxon royal court and chamber singer in Dresden, and A. Schlaeger – c. k. court opera singer in Vienna), three pieces for organ (Toccata in F by J. S. Bach, first movement from 6th organ sonata by F. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and free fantasy) played by A. Fischer – Saxon royal music director day of its opening,” wrote composer J. B. Foerster the day after. Czech journalism brought much sharper formulations, full of tense national emotions, contrasting with conciliatory tone of the German press, who wrote with praise of Česká spořitelna sponsorship and introduced foreign artists as having a warm relationship to Prague. To the contrary, Czech dailies saw the opening concert as “a true provocation” or even “the suicide of German musicianship in Prague” and the new building of Rudolfinum as “a battering ram against Czech culture.” Artists invited from “enemy foreign countries” “embellished the celebration with shiny tinsel and spangle.”20 It turned out that the philanthropic intentions of Česká spořitelna to aid the development of arts in Prague would not be fulfilled shortly and easily.

In spite of all initial aversions, however, concert life started to slowly shift from Žofín to the Rudolfinum and Dvořák Hall became the center of solo, chamber and orchestra performances in Prague. Before the Czech Philharmonic was established, the venue hosted, apart from the conservatory orchestra performances,21 the so-called Slavonic concerts, organized by Akademický čtenářský spolek (Academic Readers’ Association), and the orchestral season of Popular concerts, organized by a special committee of Umělecká beseda (Patriotic Association of Artists). Organizing activities of both institutions kept high standards and good reviews, and its dramaturgy featured numerous premieres and re-runs of works by Czech composers. Lists of established orchestral concerts in Prague between 1860 and 1895, including programs, were published by V. Lébl and J. Ludvová in their study.22 Important or otherwise interesting performances or premieres realized in Dvořák Hall are worth mentioning here.

The total of nineteen seasons of Slavonic concerts organized between 1877 and 1895 became a regular part of the concert year in Prague. Since the ninth season, these productions moved from Žofín to the Rudolfinum and the defunct Philharmonic Association was replaced by the National Theater Orchestra. The very first Slavonic concert in Dvořák hall on March 29, 1885 featured premieres of Foerster’s Slavonic Fantasy and Fibich’s Vigils, and the symphonic poem Antar by Rimsky-Korsakov. On March 25 of the following year, the overture Noc na Karlštějně by Z. Fibich was replayed with Glinka’s Reminiscences of a Summer Night in Madrid. On March 11, 1888 the Rudolfinum witnessed the premiere of Dvořák’s revision of the Symphony no. 2 in B-flat and Fibich’s melodrama Hakon (with piano accompaniment), while the following year P. I. Tchaikovsky’s Italian Capriccio was staged for the first time in Prague. May 6, 1892, saw the premiere of Dvořák’s Symphony no. 4 in D-minor conducted by the author himself, and the premiere of the Violin Concerto op. 10 by Trnečka. The following year premiered Fibich’s Symphony no. 2 in E-flat in Dresden, the already mentioned Slavonic Rhapsody, songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brandl, and Wagner (Malten, Schlaeger) and the evening closed with Hallelujah from the Messiah by G. F. Handel.

Critical reflections were published in the following dailies: Dalibor, February 14, 1885, Národní listy, February 8, 1885, Pokrok, February 8, 1885, Světozor no. 2 and 9, 1885, Zlatá Praha no. 6 1885.

A list of conservatory concerts appears in A. W. Ambros – J. Branberger, Konzervatoř hudby v Praze. Pamětní spis k stoletému jubileu založení ústavu.(Praha 1911).

V. Lébl – J. Ludvová, „Pražské orchestrální koncerty v letech 1860–1895,“ Hudební věda 17/2 (1980).

(April 9), among other works staged at this concert were Borodin’s overture to King Igor opera and Suk’s Dramatic overture. The eighteenth season, on April 8, 1894, witnessed the premiere of Symphony no. 2 in F by J. B. Foerster and Fibich’s idyll for orchestra In the evening. Finally, on March 7, 1895, the Rudolfinum hall premiered Suk’s overture Winter Evening Tale and the Prague premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 6. Most Slavonic concerts were conducted by National Theater conductor Adolf Čech.

The so-called “Popular concerts” series of Umělecká beseda (Patriotic Association of Artists) were launched in 1886 by publisher Velebín Urbánek, drawing on the example of Parisian popular concerts organized by Pasdeloup and similar productions staged in Germany, Belgium, and England. Organizing affordable but valuable concerts for the masses was supposed to stop the ever more acutely perceived decline in general musical taste. However, its organization could not do without subsidies and contributions in the long term. Individual programs of Umělecká beseda (Patriotic Association of Artists) were thus supported mainly by Česká spořitelna, Obecní záložna Karlín, Rada města Prahy, Obec pražská and Zemský správní výbor, and among various other generous sponsors was Josef Hlávka. Numerous artists performed for the benefit of Popular Concerts, among them Dvořák, and H. v. Bülow. Before the Czech Philharmonic was established, sixteen such orchestral concerts were organized in the Rudolfinum. As the Philharmonic Association refused to play for the money offered, the first two programs were played by joint Prague military orchestras, reinforced by amateur musicians. The program of the two initial concerts (March 21 and April 25, 1886) included Dvořák’s Symphony no.6 in D, the funeral march from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, Beethoven’s “Leonora” III, and the First Symphony in F by Z. Fibich, conducted by the author. Beginning with the third Popular Concert (December 8, 1886), where Haydn’s Symphony in B-flat, op. 91, and Mendelssohn’s “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage” overture were played, the National Theater orchestra began its regular performances in the programs of Umělecká beseda (Patriotic Association of Artists), usually conducted by A. Čech and occasionally reinforced by the choral society Hlahol. The following concert on January 6, 1887, introduced the premiere of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances II no. 1, 2 and 7, conducted by the author, and the program also featured Beethoven’s Symphony no. 8 in A and Fibich’s melodrama Water Goblin. On April 17, 1887, after the introductory Palestrina’s Stabat Mater, Dvořák conducted his Nocturno in B and Serenade in E. The Popular Concert on November 27, 1887, featured the piano concerto in D minor by W. A. Mozart, Weber’s Euryanthe overture and symphonic poem Night on Bald Mountain by M. P. Musorgsky. The twelfth concert introduced Mozart’s Symphony in C (“Jupiter”) and Smetana’s scherzo from Triumphal Symphony. The following performance on February 2, 1890, presented Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the overture and finale from Tristan und Isolde, and the premiere of Dvořák’s Symphony no. 8 in G. The subsequent concerts featured domestic works such as Smetana’s Richard III, Dvořák’s Carnival and Czech suite in D, Fibich’s overture Comenius, premieres of Kovařovic’s Dramatic Overture and Šebor’s Symphonic Dances no.

2 a 3 (February 18, 1894) or Bendl’s Capriccio and Trnečka’s Piano concerto in B-flat Minor. Foreign works included the Coriolan overture, Symphony no. 6 in F and Fantasy for piano, orchestra and choir by L. v. Beethoven, Liszt’s Preludia, Symphony no 2. in D by J. Brahms, Chopin’s Piano concerto in F Minor and Harold in Italy by H. Berlioz.

The programming of Slavonic and Popular Concerts corresponded with the situation on the Prague musical scene before the establishing of Czech Philharmonic. The repertory of orchestral concerts in the second half of the 19th century, in which both Czech and Utraquist societies participated, was slightly different from other European cities. While “in Vienna, London or Paris, the number of performed late authors was increasing (up to 70 %) and the newly created music had to struggle for its place, the tendency in Prague was the opposite and living Czech authors achieved up to approximately 75 % representation in the repertory. Smetana, Dvořák and Fibich were played dozens of times…”23 In the case of the Rudolfinum we may observe that in this period, as opposed to other orchestral concert venues in Prague, Dvořák’s music prevailed over Smetana’s by a slight margin.



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