New Year’s concerts of JPO were an exceptional success
The entry into the new year was truly extraordinary for the Janáček Philharmonic. On 1 January 1954, it celebrated its 70th birthday, but it also entered the Year of Czech Music. On three consecutive evenings in January, the Philharmonic played a New Year’s concert to a completely sold-out hall.
From 10. – 12. The JPO offered its audience the Overture to Bedřich Smetana’s opera The Bartered Bride in the first half of the concert, which also honoured the bicentenary of Smetana’s birth, and Fragments from the opera Juliette, which featured Kateřina Kněžíková in the lead role of Juliette, for which she was also awarded the Thalia Prize, tenor Richard Samek as her beloved bookseller Michel, and baritone Jiří Hájek as the Seller of Memories. The second half of the evening was devoted to Antonín Dvořák’s masterpiece New World Symphony. The baton was traditionally taken by JPO chief conductor Vassily Sinaisky, for whom this was the last New Year’s concert in this position. The New Year’s concerts were an enormous success and the audience rewarded the orchestra with a very long standing ovation at each performance.
During the first, Wednesday evening, the Mayor of the Statutory City of Ostrava Jan Dohnal gave a speech on the stage and wished the Philharmonic not only a happy anniversary. “We wish the Janáček Philharmonic many listeners, much adventurous repertoire and, of course, all the best for the next seventy years at least, if not more,” the mayor noted in his New Year’s speech right in the hall, adding, “This is the first New Year’s concert of the three that are here today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and it is also the first New Year’s concert that takes place in these temporary premises that have so far provided the Janáček Philharmonic with sanctuary. You know that in the past the New Year’s Concert has been held in the Gong, but of course before that traditionally in the DKMO home, and I believe that this is where the JPO will be opening the new year in a few years in a new concert hall.”
The mayor received a small gift from JPO director Jan Žemla in the form of the book Janáček Philharmonic *70, published by the JPO to celebrate its 70th anniversary and which is available for purchase from Janáček Point or the eshop.
A report from the rehearsal was broadcast by Czech Television and reporter Kateřina Geryková interviewed both Vassily Sinajský and Kateřina Kněžíková, who commented on her role as Juliette: “It’s a challenging part not only for Juliette, but for all the characters. It is not entirely easy to learn and one spends quite a lot of time studying it,” as well as the orchestra’s newcomer Dominik Bunec, who played the iconic English horn solo in the New World Symphony. “It’s a lovely melody that’s a great emblem for the beautiful tone of the English horn, and not surprisingly it’s a highlight of Antonín Dvořák’s work,” he said.
“The Janáček Philharmonic has once again demonstrated its quality and has made an impressive start to another year,” reads the review of the concert in Klasika+ magazine. “The rich orchestration manages to convey the folk character of the music. The performers worked with the different tones of each instrument to create an authentic sound that evokes the atmosphere of Czech folk traditions. The chosen tempo was ‘just right’, emphasising the lively and joyful character, yet the details of the instrumentation, the expressiveness of the motifs and the specific elements of the piece stood out.” writes critic Tereza Zbořilová. Another review of the concert was published by Patriot Magazine.