Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava
Within a very short time after its establishment in 1954, the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava ranked among the leading Czech symphonic orchestras. Since 1958, when it made its first tour abroad, the orchestra has repeatedly visited entire Europe, the U.S.A., Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. And in 2006, thanks to the financial support provided by the Municipality of the City of Ostrava and Arcelor Mittal, the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra became, after the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra which had made its tour to Australia in 1959, only the second Czech symphonic orchestra that has been given the opportunity to present itself to the Antipodes.
No doubt that the foreign tours bring financial benefit to the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, but it depends on the number of concerts and on the territory, of course. The notable significance of foreign concert tours also consists of the possibility to compare the orchestra’s quality and to strengthen its position on the music market.
In addition, the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava has been successfully performing both in its hometown and close vicinity, as evidenced by the increasing interest of the audience. The orchestra is regularly invited to participate in the prestigious Czech festivals (Prague Spring, Janáček May, Smetana Litomyšl, Prague Music Festival, etc.).
The orchestra artistic profile characterized by its full and deep sound, musical expression and technical maturity has gradually been formed by both permanent conductors and significant guests such as V. Neumann, V. Smetáček, J. Bělohlávek, L. Pešek, Z. Mácal, Ch. Mackerras, S. Baudo, H. Rilling, and since 2005 also by Theodore Kuchar, its present Chief Conductor. The well-known soloists who have performed with the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava include, for example, Josef Suk, André Navarra, Eva Urbanová, José Carreras, and recently James Buswell, Sergei Babayan or Pascal Rogé, to name a few.
The Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava often performs not only the work by Janáček and other Czech composers that are well-known all over the world such as Dvořák, Smetana and Martinů but the width of its repertoire is much larger, as evidenced by the dramaturgy of individual concerts where such names as L. van Beethoven, W. A. Mozart, Fr. Schubert, R. Strauss, B. Bartók, R. Schumann, M. Ravel, M. Bruch, A. Bruckner, A. Copland, L. Bernstein and others appear.
Highlights of the 2008-09 season included a four-week USA tour. Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra toured United States from January 22th to February 21th 2009. The performance tour was led by the Orchestra´s Music Director and Chief Conductor Mr. Theodore Kuchar. The tour, with young talented American violinist Jennifer Frautschi, Finnish pianist Paavali Jumppanen and American renowned pianist Derek Han included 19 orchestral concerts in 19 major US cities – from New York to Sacramento – spanning eleven American states.
The tour repertoire was “confected” by Mr. Kuchar with a view to live presentation of Czech music abroad and included pieces of Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák and Bohuslav Martinů.
Mr. Kuchar remains as a strong advocate of great Czech composers. In addition to this tour, he has also recorded with Janacek Philharmonic compact discs encompassing ouvertures and symphonic poems of Antonín Dvořák and the complete orchestral works of B. Smetana.
The rich discography that has increased a great deal under Theodore Kuchar in the post of Chief Conductor, who is known in the world as the most prolific recording conductor, is another evidence of the orchestra’s repertoire width.
In August 2004, the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava under Kuchar’s conduction, recorded a set of three CDs with pieces by Antonín Dvořák, i.e. Symphonic Poems and Overtures. In December 2004, a set of symphonies by Danish composer Carl Nielsen was recorded; this recording has been highly appreciated by professionals. In the 2006/2007 season, the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava recorded seven other CDs for renowned recording companies, i.e. Brilliant Classics, Joan Records, Cybelle Records, and CPO Records. The first two performances included recordings that were made in autumn 2006 under the conduction of well-known conductor David Porcelijn with whom the orchestra has a long co-operation established. One CD contains three symphonies by Dutch composer Henk Badings. This recording for CPO Records was made under the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands Prague. The second CD contains pieces by contemporary Dutch composer Jacqueline Fontyn.
Other recordings under the conduction of Theodore Kuchar were made as early as 2007. Besides one CD containing a recording of four pieces by American composer Charles Berry, i.e. Mariners Famfare, Veerythrusch with Cedare, Symphony No. 3 „Celestial” and Cello Concerto, where the solo part was performed by Jiří Hanousek, First Violoncellist of the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, another four CDs were recorded. Three of them create a set where the listeners can find the symphonic work by Bedřich Smetana, including the complete cycle of symphonic poems “My Country”, as well as nearly unknown pieces such as the unfinished Prague Carnival or the overture from the puppet-play Doctor Faustus and the like.
At the end of the given season a unique recording was made, i.e. Piano Concerto No. 5 by S.S. Rachmaninov, whose replica was discovered and arranged only recently. The piano was played by Wolfram Schmitt-Leonardy.
Since the 90´s of the 20th century, the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava has also systematically been involved in performing both the Czech and the world’s “new music”. Jointly with the New Music Centre Ostrava, it has been organizing summer festivals and creative workshops for young composers from the whole world, with the participation of the world’s leading composers and performers. In this field, the orchestra has achieved remarkable success at the world’s leading festivals of avant-garde music in Prague, Warsaw and Berlin. The active approach of chief conductors Christian Arming and Petr Vronský has contributed a great deal to the development of this area of the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra performance. The results of their systematic work have also reflected in other areas of performance. Theodore Kuchar, the present Chief Conductor, has been carrying on with their work and intensively developing the further quality of the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava.