Czech-ing out the music of Dvorak + more with guest conductor Jakub Hrusa

Jakub Hrusa will conduct the Houston Symphony and Chorus in the upcoming performance, Dvorak & Polovtsian Dances, on February 10, 11, 12, 2012.

There is always something special about bringing the music of my own country abroad. It is wonderful to meet musicians and music lovers who are sincerely interested in the traditions of distant countries. For me, the United States is indeed an extraordinary case. There is nothing really foreign to America, because all nations and cultures have settled there, and now, to an extent, feel right at home.

I think this program wonderfully combines Slavic music that is well-known (Dvořák, Borodin) with music that is considered novelty (like Janáček’s Taras Bulba).

Dvořák and Janáček were very close, and yet musically very different. Dvořák was relatively well-balanced, with an inclination towards spirituality and conservative religiosity. A good musical example is his Te Deum, which we will perform, and also his Stabat Mater or Requiem. Janáček, on the other hand, had a revolutionary,“anti-eccliastical“ love of people and life, that you can hear in works like his Glagolitic Mass or Sinfonietta. Music as particular as Janáček’s can even sound unfamiliar to quite a number of cultivated Czechs! I am very well aware of its complexity and sauciness – his music is immensely original.

Even though it is not Czech music, Borodin also makes sense in my program, for both musical and personal reasons. First (although I don’t travel there regularly), my family is one-quarter Russian. Second, Borodin (like Janáček and Dvořák) adored Slavic culture as a whole, and especially the history and traditions of Russia.

In keeping with that theme, Janáček‘s Taras Bulba is definitely a tribute to Russian culture, and yet, Ukrainians would strongly protest hearing this. Gogol’s novel Taras Bulba belongs to them, they would proudly say. And they would be right. It is not the nationalistic aspect of this rhapsody that fascinates me. It is the drama and the transfiguration at the very end. Taras is really a hot piece – one cannot resist and can get very easily burned. It is one of the most intense symphony pieces I know. It takes time to get it under one’s skin, since Janáček’s musical idiom is like nothing else, but persistence is rewarded in the end. Since my childhood, I have simply adored this music.

I cannot wait to start working on this program. It is a most exciting journey bringing these beloved pieces to curious audiences such as you.

See you soon in the flames and sparks of Slavic music!

Yours,
Jakub Hrůša

For more information or to purchase tickets to this weekend’s performance, Dvorak & Polovtsian Dances, please click here.

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