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Jiří Bĕlohlávek to Return to New York Philharmonic

Sharon Paquette Lose • News • October 27, 2016

Jiří Bĕlohlávek returns to the New York Philharmonic to lead Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with Kun Woo Paik as soloist in his Philharmonic subscription debut; Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6; and Janáček’s House of the Dead Overture, Thursday, December 8, 2016, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, December 9 at 11:00 a.m.; and Saturday, December 10 at 8:00 p.m.

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is among the season’s performances of the complete Beethoven piano concerto cycle. Gramophone wrote of Mr. Paik’s 2005 Decca recording of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas Nos. 16–26: “His muscular, energetic pianism suits middle-period Beethoven’s bravura qualities, abetted by fingerwork that oozes determination and definition in every bar.”
Jiří Bĕlohlávek has released acclaimed recordings of all of the works featured on the program. The Sunday Timescited the Czech conductor’s “affectionate account” of Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony among the “highlights” of his 2014 Decca recording of Dvořák’s complete symphonies and concertos, adding that “it’s hard to imagine more idiomatic performances.”
The Saturday Matinee Concert on December 10 at 2:00 p.m. opens with Hindemith’s Kleine Kammermusik for Five Winds, Op. 24, No. 2 and Septet, with Principal Flute Robert Langevin, Principal Oboe Liang Wang, Principal Clarinet Anthony McGill, bass clarinet Amy Zoloto, Principal Bassoon Judith LeClair, Principal Trumpet Christopher Martin, and Principal Horn Philip Myers. The rest of the program features Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6, conducted by Mr. Bĕlohlávek. The chamber works featured on the Saturday Matinee Concerts this season, the Philharmonic’s 175th anniversary season, are all tied to the Philharmonic’s history. Hindemith first appeared with the New York Philharmonic in April 1937, as soloist in the New York Premiere of his Der Schwanendreher, Concerto on Old Folk-Melodies for Viola and Small Orchestra, led by Artur Rodziński. In April 1963 the composer conducted the Orchestra in the World Premiere of his own Organ Concerto, with Anton Heiller as soloist, along with works by Weber and Reger; earlier that month he had led the Orchestra in his Requiem, along with Bruckner’s Psalm 150. In February 1960 he led the Philharmonic in his Cello Concerto, with Aldo Parisot as soloist, in addition to works by Cherubini and Bruckner.
Artists
Czech conductor Jiří Bĕlohlávek was appointed music director and artistic director of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra in 2012, following his successful tenure as chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, of which he is now a conductor laureate. Previously he served as chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra (1977–89), music director of the Prague Philharmonia (1994–2004), and president of the Prague Spring Festival (appointed in 2006). In 2013 he became principal guest conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. In opera, he has collaborated with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; The Metropolitan Opera; San Francisco Opera; Opéra National de Paris; Madrid’s Teatro Real; Glyndebourne Festival Opera; and National Theatre in Prague. In recent seasons he has conducted new productions of Dvořák’s Rusalka for the Vienna Staatsoper and Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades for Zurich Opera. Under Mr. Bĕlohlávek’s leadership, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra has toured Europe and Asia, and will be heard in the coming seasons in Vienna, for a residency at the Musikverein, and across the U.S., including an appearance at Carnegie Hall. In addition to his ongoing Prague seasons and touring engagements with the Czech Philharmonic, he continues to perform as a guest conductor with the world’s major orchestras, with future highlights including appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, BBC Symphony (including the BBC Proms), and the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestras. Jiří Bĕlohlávek has recorded extensively, and recent projects with the Czech Philharmonic include Dvořák’s complete symphonies and concertos. In 2012 he was awarded an honorary CBE for his services to British music. Jiří Bĕlohlávek made his New York Philharmonic debut in February 1985 leading works by Bartók, Dvořák, and Beethoven with piano soloist Jeffrey Kahane.
Pianist Kun Woo Paik made his debut at age ten performing Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the Korean National Orchestra. At 15 he moved to New York to study with Rosina Lhévinne at The Juilliard School, and he also studied in London, with Ilona Kabos, and in Italy, with Guido Agosti and Wilhelm Kempff. His international career took off following his first New York appearance, when he performed Ravel’s complete piano works at Lincoln Center, as well as his orchestral debut at Carnegie Hall. He has since collaborated with conductors including Jiří Bĕlohlávek, Iván Fischer, Mariss Jansons, Paavo Järvi, Vladimir Jurowski, Dmitri Kitayenko, Long Yu, Neville Marriner, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Krzysztof Penderecki (performing his new piano concerto under his direction), and Wolfgang Sawallisch. Mr. Paik has performed with the New York Philharmonic on tour, as well as with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra (1987’s Last Night of the Proms), Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Berlin Symphony, Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Warsaw Philharmonic, and English Chamber Orchestra. Kun Woo Paik’s recordings include works by Scriabin, Liszt, and Musorgsky, as well as the Rachmaninoff piano concerto cycle for BMG. His recording of the complete Prokofiev piano concertos received France’s Diapason d’Or 1993 and Nouvelle Académie du Disque awards. As an exclusive Decca artist, he recorded Busoni’s transcriptions of works by J.S. Bach, Fauré’s piano works (which won all the major prizes in France), and Chopin’s complete works for piano and orchestra (with Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic); in 2005 he began a project to record all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas. Mr. Paik’s recent engagements include a Carnegie Hall recital, a performance at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic and Yuri Temirkanov, the complete Rachmaninoff concerto cycle in St. Petersburg, and returns to the New Japan Philharmonic, China Philharmonic, Shanghai Philharmonic, and Bergen Philharmonic. He has also given recitals in France, Italy, and Spain. Kun Woo Paik, who lives in Paris, was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 2002. He made his New York Philharmonic debut in October 2004 on the Philharmonic’s tour of Korea and Japan, performing Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, led by Lorin Maazel.
Repertoire
Czech composer Leoš Janáček (1854–1928) translated the libretto for his opera House of the Dead from Dostoyevsky’s novel The House of The Dead, which the composer thought to be the writer’s finest work, writing “I do not know a book better than this in all our literature, not even excepting Pushkin.” The book is a fictionalized memoir of the author’s four years in a Siberian prison camp, and follows dozens of characters who come and go. Janáček began work on the opera in 1927, when he was 74, and knew it would be his last opera. He wrote: “It seems to me as if in it I am gradually descending lower and lower, right to the depths of the most wretched people of humanity. And it is hard going.” He died before he was able to put the final touches on the piece, and it was premiered in 1930, two years after his death. The House of the Dead Overture was the last part of the piece on which Janáček worked, and though it is thematically and emotionally linked to the haunting world of the opera, it also incorporates sketches from a violin concerto he had begun the previous year but never finished. The Philharmonic has previously presented a concert version of the complete opera in March 1983, conducted by Rafael Kubelík.
Ludwig van Beethoven’s (1770–1827) Piano Concerto No. 3 (1803) was another one of his works that wasn’t quite finished in time for its first performance. The composer conducted from the keyboard, while Ignaz von Seyfried turned pages: “I saw almost nothing but empty pages; at the most, on one page or another a few Egyptian hieroglyphs…. He gave me a surreptitious nod whenever he was at the end of one of the invisible passages, and my scarcely concealable anxiety not to miss the decisive moment amused him greatly, and he laughed heartily at the jovial supper afterwards.” The concerto was presented during a spring 1803 benefit marathon for the composer himself that also included premieres of the Second Symphony, the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives, and a reprise of the Symphony No. 1. The Piano Concerto No. 3 is a masterpiece that introduces a new voice into Beethoven’s works in the genre — a personal statement from the heart of its creator and a showcase for his prodigious pianistic abilities. It was also one of the last in which he saw himself as soloist — his increasing deafness would soon make ensemble playing nearly impossible. The Philharmonic first presented the complete Third Concerto in 1865 at the Academy of Music, featuring soloist Richard Hoffman and conductor Carl Bergmann; Alan Gilbert most recently led pianist Yefim Bronfman and the Orchestra in the work in June 2014 in New York, as well as during that summer’s Bravo! Vail residency.
Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904) had attained his success with colorful, nationalist works, novelties that charmed Western European ears with their exotic Slavic melodies. He was a proud and fervent Czech patriot, but he also belonged to the great Central European musical tradition that looked to the symphonic works of Beethoven and Brahms. Dvořák began composition of his Symphony No. 6 in 1880 when Hans Richter, conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic, asked him to write a symphony for them. He completed the work in seven weeks and it was premiered in Prague on March 25, 1881. It was a hit, and within a year it had been performed throughout Europe and in the United States, establishing Dvořák internationally not only as a symphonic composer but also as a Slavonic composer. It was first performed by the Philharmonic in January 1883, and was most recently performed in January 2004, led by Andrew Davis.

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