Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra enters 79th concert season

The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra here at Czech Radio, is one of the leading ensembles in the country and will be entering its 79th concert season this Friday. Radio Prague spoke to Jan Simon, executive director and soloist in residence, to see how the orchestra has been faring and what it has in store for us.

"The opening concert this season celebrates the 70th birthday of our chief conductor, Maestro Vladimir Valek, which will be conducted by his pupil Jan Kucera at the Rudolfinum. But we are also dedicating a concert to Dimitrij Shostakovich, at which his son Maxim Shostakovich will perform the Violin Concerto with a Korean violinist and Tchaikovsky's Symphony. But we'll also be touring abroad. We're preparing for the eight tour of Japan, will perform in Dijon in France, and have a concert in the Munich Gasteig, which is the residence concert hall of the Munich Philharmonic and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. So, I think our concert activity for the upcoming season is quite rich."

Vladimir Valek has been the orchestra's chief conductor since 1985. How has he contributed to the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra's great success?

"The most important contribution is that he worked with the orchestra continuously and very hard. We have to remember that the orchestra was not used to perform on concert stages. It was mainly an orchestra that was recorded in a studio for Czech Radio. But bringing the orchestra outside the building to a stage, where it is in direct contact with the audience is something entirely different. So, the musicians had to get used to this kind of an atmosphere and that's what our Maestro was successful at."

Is the orchestra still able to travel as much as before?

"From the economical point of view, it's definitely difficult to organise tours because the costs are very high. Not only the transport and accommodation costs but the logistics of it all are quite complicated. However, our concert has permanent and regular organisers abroad, who invite us every two years or so. To Japan, for example, we go regularly every two years. So, it's getting more and more difficult but we still have a full schedule."

What audience - from what country - gives you the warmest welcome? Where do you personally like to play most?

"It's difficult to say because in southern Europe, for example, the acceptance is completely different and they are very excited by the performances. In the United States, already when you come back to the stage for another round of applause, it's a sign of success. It's also different in Germany. So, it's most important if the people understand the music and I feel that they do everywhere - in Japan, in Europe, and on the American continent."