Prague Music Festival opened by Czech-Canadian pianist


While for most of the year Prague concert halls offer dozens of concerts every week, in the summer months, when people leave for their holidays most concerts are aimed at foreign tourists - almost every day you can hear several rather ropy renderings of Vivaldi's Four Seasons or Mozart's Requiem in churches around the city.

But since last year Prague has seen a new event that aims to improve the situation. The Prague Music Festival is a series of concerts initiated with the aim of bringing good performances to Prague concert platforms even during the summer months, says festival organizer Ilja Smid.

"The first year started with the idea of presenting Prague visitors with top Czech orchestras and top musicians as opposed to some other festivals like the Prague Spring or Prague Autumn which tend rather to import international stars to Prague. I believe that the Czech music scene can offer many performers of a similar standard and so we want to show them off to people who visit Prague."

The Prague Music Festival starts this weekend with an opening concert in the Rudolfinum, a chance to hear the Piano Concerto D-major by Johannes Brahms performed by the Canadian pianist of Czech origin Antonin Kubalek, accompanied by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra. I met Mr Kubalek here at the radio, right after a rehearsal and asked him why he chose particularly this piece.

"A year ago I was approached whether I would be free to perform at the opening concert, and I had a free hand to choose. Being, so to say, stupid enough for my age, instead of choosing something I have played many times before and through the years, I chose a concerto which I had always dreamt and wished to have an opportunity to play - and never had. So I just picked Brahms no. 1 without realizing what I'm getting myself into, at the age of seventy."

You are going to perform with the Prague Radio Orchestra. Right now, you've just finished the rehearsal here at the radio. How do you like the orchestra? How do you like the cooperation?

RudolfinumRudolfinum "The orchestra sounds very good in comparison to any other symphony orchestras of that type, like any other radio symphonies, and they are really very good musicians."

What about the Czech audience? Has it changed through the decades you haven't performed here?

"Well, I have been performing on and off since 1991 here. It's very difficult to compare to the 1960s but the appreciation and understanding is certainly - I would say - on a higher level than in most North American culture centers."

The Prague Music Festival will continue till August 13th. While the orchestral concerts take place at the Dvorak Hall of the Rudolfinum, the rest of the concerts will be featured at the Tyn Church on the Old Town Square.