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Thursday 27 Nov 2014

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BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra unwraps classics of Czech music

Bohemian Rhapsodies

Beginning 12 November, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra presents Bohemian Rhapsodies, a landmark retrospective marking the 50th anniversary of the death of composer Bohuslav Martinu and the 20th anniversary of the Czech Velvet Revolution.

Celebrating the rich vein of music that pulsed in Eastern Europe during the 19th and early 20th centuries, the orchestra also presents some enduring masterpieces by two composers steeped in the culture of their respective Bohemian and Moravian roots: Dvorak and Janacek.

Though perhaps not a household name in the UK, Martinu's reputation as a composer stands alongside that of Stravinsky and Bartok, and the BBC SSO explores the main phases of his musical development through all five of his piano concertos, played for the first time in Scotland in their entirety by some of the world's leading pianists.

As well as Dvorak's three most popular symphonies, the series includes his Legends and Janacek's spectacular Sinfonietta.

The BBC SSO's Associate Guest Conductor Stefan Solyom opens the series on Thursday 12 November with the best loved of Dvorak's symphonies, the Ninth, and Martinu's powerful Third Piano Concerto, performed by the gifted young Czech pianist Ivo Kahanek.

On Thursday 19 November, leading Czech conductor Petr Altrichter directs the sunniest of Dvorak's symphonies, the Eighth. Australian pianist Piers Lane performs Martinu's brilliantly jazz-inflected First Piano Concerto of 1925, and Janacek's evocative The Fiddler's Child, with a starring role for the orchestra's leader Elizabeth Layton.

In a special edition of BBC Radio 3's Discovering Music on Sunday 22 November, presenter Stephen Johnson, pianist Martin Roscoe and the BBC SSO unfold the story of Martinu and his darkly romantic music.

Stefan Solyom returns to City Halls on Thursday 26 November for Dvorak's dark and powerful Seventh Symphony, and Ivo Kahanek performs Martinu's Fifth Piano Concerto.

This celebration of Czech music ends on a high note on Thursday 3 December when the orchestra's Principal Guest Conductor Ilan Volkov presents Janacek's Sinfonietta, with its huge line-up of brass. This spectacular piece is offset by the more restrained beauty of Dvorak's poetic Legends, and a rare performance of Martinu's Fourth Piano Concerto Incantations, performed by one of America's leading pianists, Garrick Ohlsson.

Each Thursday night concert in the series will be broadcast live on Radio 3 at the earlier than usual concert time of 7.00pm.

One of the BBC SSO's longest-serving members, cellist Anthony Sayer, said: "Martinu is one of those composers that really gives you value for money; his music's fun, it's full of life, full of soul, full of spirit.

"He was a fascinating and original musical thinker, most of whose huge output is hardly known to most modern listeners.

"He was the last representative of the great Czech tradition and he deserves to be celebrated."

As with all Thursday Night Series concerts, each is complemented by a series of pre-concert Preludes, featuring some of the foremost authorities on Czech music, and post-concert Codas showcasing the featured pianists and members of the orchestra in a recital setting.

Further listening with a Czech flavour is available via a series of linked chamber music concerts entitled The Bohemians – all in the same venue – starting on Sunday 15 November.

Notes to Editors

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra presents Bohemian Rhapsodies: Thursday 12 November to Thursday 3 December 2009.
All concerts take place at City Halls, Glasgow.
Box Office: 0141 353 8000.
Further information is available on


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