Franz Liszt: Les Preludes, Symphonic Poem, S. 97
Elias Parish Alvars: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra in E flat Major Op. 98
Samuel Barber: Adagio for Strings
Leoš Janáček: Taras Bulba, Rhapsody for orchestra
In music, virtuosity is an admired, although its value is sometimes overestimated. Franz Liszt, Elias Parish Alvars, and Leoš Janáček were all virtuosos in their own entirely different ways, but at the same time the quality of their musicianship could hardly be overstated. All three were somehow unique and incomparable. The special characteristics of their composing, playing, and thinking will represent a challenge for this partnership of experienced and youthful musicians who constitute the orchestra Prague Philharmonia in conjunction with its Orchestral Academy. The concert opens with Les préludes, the third of the thirteen symphonic poems composed by Franz Liszt. One of the most influential musicians of the nineteenth century is presented here as the creator of the musical genre of the symphonic poem and of programme music, and also as an exceptional composer of orchestral music. It is good from time to time to be reminded of how his music influenced Bedřich Smetana and of how much Richard Wagner borrowed from him. In his day, the harpist Elias P. Alvars was famed primarily as an outstanding player, and he came to be called the “Liszt of the Harp”. This was because of not only his exceptional ability as a player, but also his personal charisma. In addition, he and Liszt both played superb instruments made by the company Érard. Performing Alvars’s Harp Concerto in E Flat Major will be Jana Boušková, the principal harpist of the Czech Philharmonic and an outstanding soloist. The rhapsody Taras Bulba is one of the masterpieces by Dvořák’s friend and admirer Leoš Janáček. Janáček’s work is explicitly programmatic, and it employs expressive resources to the extreme. It is in part thanks to this that the music moves listeners with almost cinematic eloquence. The patriotic tale of the Cossack chief Taras Bulba is framed by the deaths of his sons and finally by his own death. It is the title hero’s intractability that ultimately brings the composition to its emotional conclusion and reminds us of the perseverance of the human spirit.