25th anniversary season

Music is for me a universal language in which I can express all that cannot be expressed in words.

Judita Škodová — violoncello · PATRON OF THE CONCERT | photo: Milan Mošna

Illuminations or Everybody Should Have Their Rimbaud

“J'ai seul la clef de cette parade, de cette parade sauvage.” This amazing, all-telling verse, which could be translated as “I alone hold the key to this savage parade”, opens the song cycle Les Illuminations for tenor and orchestra by Benjamin Britten based on the texts by Arthur Rimbaud. When working on Les Illuminations, Rimbaud was going through a passionate (and stormy) relationship with Paul Verlaine. In 1872, Verlaine left his wife and followed Rimbaud to London, where they spent the winter months together. In Les Illuminations, Rimbaud depicted all his trips beyond the borders of dreams caused by uncontrolled hashish smoking, his nightmares and his love for Verlaine which is encoded in his verses.

“Two geniuses, Rimbaud and Britten, meet in Les Illuminations. It can be very tricky to set poetry to music, because the best poetry already has music in it. It is the music of the words which emerges out of them and interprets their meaning. This is one of the most important characteristics of Rimbaud’s texts. A truly brilliant composer is thus needed, one who does not destroy this quality and can transform it into music which can stand from the musical point of view as well. I think that this is what Britten managed fantastically in Les Illuminations.” (Emmanuel Villaume)

The two remarkable poets’ relationship ended tragically. I the spring of 1873, Verlaine shot Rimbaud during a heated argument and was sentenced to two years in prison. Their last meeting dates to 1875 when Rimbaud gave Verlaine the manuscript of his Les Illuminations. The poems were published without the author’s knowledge eleven years later, in 1886.

Igor Stravinsky’s Circus Polka

On 12th January 1942, the telephone in the Stravinsky residence in Los Angeles began to ring. Calling was one of the greatest Russian choreographers, George Balanchine.

Balanchine: “I wonder if you'd like to do a little ballet with me.”
Stravinsky: “For whom?”
Balanchine: “For some elephants.”
Stravinsky: “How old?”
Balanchine: “Very young.”
Stravinsky: “All right. If they are very young elephants, I will do it.”

Fifty baby elephants in pink tutus danced in the ballet, led by legendary cow elephant Modoc.

“From Classicism to our times – the programme of the November subscription concert could not be richer! The journey through different styles and centuries in the company of Petr Nekoranec, Emmanuel Villaume and PKF – Prague Philharmonia promises a beautiful and exceptional evening.”

The title of the concert itself suggests that we can look forward to an evening full of colours, combining classical pieces with pure futuristic visions! As a young orchestra, I feel that it is our duty to offer somehow progressive dramaturgy to our audiences. The piece composed by artificial intelligence based on a fragment of an unfinished composition by Antonin Dvorak certainly fits in this conception. This is something completely new in terms of classical music and we, the musicians, are as interested to see the outcome as the audience is. Obviously, it is impossible to compare the AIVA composition to a piece composed by a human being. The musical – just like any other – creative work is in my view based on the subjective humanity of each individual author. But modern technologies can offer an interesting reflection of our humanity and slightly stir up the somehow still waters of the classical music world.

As always, I am very much looking forward to working with our chief conductor Emmanuel Villaume, it is a beautiful and inspirational experience for me every single time. Moreover, a French line stretches throughout this evening with Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Arthur Rimbaud (whose texts Britten set to music in his Les Illuminations), allowing us to experience a true concert of French charm. I am also looking forward to playing Pictures at an Exhibition. It is a beautiful piece, enjoyable for both the audience and the orchestra. This is because on top of the programme line, it also is a very well-orchestrated composition in which every instrumental group has some interesting music to play. And of course, I am excited about the cooperation with brilliant tenor Petr Nekoranec in this programme; this always is a remarkable experience in itself.


Symphony No. 37 in G major K 444/425a
Les illuminations Op. 18
Circus Polka
From the Future World (Composed by artificial Intelligence inspired by a fragment of Antonín Dvořák’s unfinished work)
Gymnopédies (arr. Claude Debussy)
Pictures at an Exhibition (arr. Maurice Ravel)

Petr Nekoranec — tenor
Emmanuel Villaume — conductor


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