Less than two weeks ago, Radio Prague celebrated its 70th birthday and soon, another section of Czech Radio will be marking an important anniversary. The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, or Symfonicky orchestr Ceskeho rozhlasu, is 80 years old. On Monday night it's launching its 80th concert season at Prague's Rudolfinum concert hall, featuring works by Beethoven and Prokofiev, under the baton of chief-conductor Vladimir Valek who has been at the helm since 1985.
Founded in 1926 as part of the Radiojournal station, the orchestra had only 20 members. It performed its first public concert just one day after its foundation, on October 2, 1926. Ever since then the orchestra has been fulfilling a double duty; making recordings for Czechoslovak and then Czech Radio and performing concerts for the public, also transmitted on the airwaves. Gradually, the number of musicians grew and the repertoire shifted from light entertainment music to classical works.
A great number of illustrious conductors have made their mark on the orchestra, Vaclav Talich, Karel Ancerl, Vaclav Neumann and Libor Pesek among the Czechs, as well as guest conductors from abroad: Franz Konwitschny, Serge Baudo and Sir Charles Mackerras, to name but a few. Composers Arthur Honegger, Sergei Prokofiev, Aram Khachaturian and others conducted their works played by the orchestra.
Today the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra is one of the country's finest bodies with a good artistic reputation abroad. With principal conductor Vladimir Valek, the orchestra has expanded its touring programme; it regularly appears in countries across Europe and conducts regular tours of Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan. Having played with a number of renowned soloists, the orchestra also has a few artistic awards under its belt and is a regular feature of the Prague Spring Music Festival. On Monday night, it kicks off its 80th season and the orchestra's director, piano soloist Jan Simon, says that to hear the first concert, you don't need to buy a ticket to the Rudolfinum.
"There is a public rehearsal in the morning and then the concert itself will be transmitted live on Czech Radio 3. As a novelty, it will be broadcast both in sound and image on the internet, on the website of Czech Radio's digital station D dur."
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra's English web page: www2.rozhlas.cz/socr/index_en.htm