It will be a concert that the Prague Congress Center has never experienced before. At the end of April, several composers from around the world will perform on the same stage to interpret the best Hollywood film music under their baton.
The event, which will end with a multi-day summit, is co-organized by the PKF – Prague Philharmonia group, conducted for the second consecutive year by Kateřina Kalistová. The former deputy to the Ministry of Culture considers the orchestra one of the best acts in post-revolutionary history, and the concert will be a pleasant break from its traditional repertoire and classical music.
“Once all the songwriters are here at the top, it would be a sin not to enjoy it,” he smiles.
The concert will be the culmination of the Composers Summit Prague 2022, which will bring together the best professionals and will deal with music in the audiovisual sector. How long did the preparation last and was it difficult to bring all the composers together on the same stage?
The preparations lasted about six months and the fact that all the composers will be here was not a complicated organization. There will be a total of eight conductors, the principal will be Jan Kučera. But they are all great personalities in film music who it is a pleasure to work with and I think it is mutual and they are looking forward to the concert.
So who can audiences expect and how many songs will they hear?
In addition to the main conductor, Jeff Beal, holder of five Emmy Awards, will personally conduct his compositions there and wishes to introduce the Prague public to the music of the cult series House of Cards. He even plays the trumpet himself.
The new song Romanza will be performed by Nan Schwartz, a Grammy-winning orchestral performer for Harry Potter and Godzilla, and under the baton of Jan Kučera, our musicians will perform excerpts from Spider-Man, for which Christopher Young composed the music. He is known as Hollywood’s scariest composer as he mainly specializes in horror movies.
Antoni Komasa Lazarkiewicz imagines and directs his work of the film Charlatan, and I must not forget Conrad Pope, who is the arranger and the orchestrator of Hollywood, of which one will hear the main music of the film Mimi Boss.
And such a delicacy will be the world premiere in concert of the music of the new film Fireheart from the creators of Madagascar. Its author is Chris Egan, who will present himself to the public as a conductor. Sixteen songs will be heard together.
It looks really spectacular. Don’t you think you would ever repeat such a concert?
It is unique in that all these composers will be in Prague at the same time for the summit. But bringing them together just for a gig would be extremely demanding organizationally. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t love it. However, we also know from abroad that two or three composers usually meet at such concerts, so our event is unique in Central Europe, and perhaps in all of Europe.
Are tickets still available? And don’t you plan to support Ukraine with the profits?
Tickets are still on sale, and as far as Ukraine support goes, that’s almost the norm these days. After all, our orchestra has been dedicated to it since the beginning of the conflict. We were among the first to organize a benefit concert for its inhabitants. We also hired a Ukrainian violinist who fled to the Czech Republic before the war. And Natálija will also play at this concert.
How much does it cost to organize a concert?
We go in the hundreds of thousands, up to a million crowns. But if we wanted to organize it in a regime other than within the framework of the summit, I would speak of millions.
What is the current interest in classical music?
I would say classical music is doing well. For the entire current season, which started last September, we have not canceled a single concert due to covid, which I consider a success. Our orchestral cycle, which we play at the Rudolfinum, has nine major concerts per season and we try to make this an experience for the listeners.
The main repertoire is the music of Viennese classicism, that is to say Hayden, Mozart, Beethoven, but the ensemble is very flexible, it is able to pass from the chamber ensemble to the great symphonic concerts. And it is popular also thanks to the fact that it still retains the quality inspired by its founder and conductor Jiří Bělohlávek.
It will celebrate its 30th season next year and Emmanuel Villaume, a Frenchman, is the conductor for the eighth year. Although it is a symphony orchestra, it has the energy of a chamber, each of these musicians is a personality, they pay great attention to sound, phrasing, dynamics. It’s an orchestra with a culture of excellence and tremendous energy, and I believe Hollywood conductors will appreciate this unique chemistry.
How many members does the orchestra have?
The base is made up of about fifty musicians, who are paid regularly, once a month. And then we have a number of those who have worked with us for a long time and whom we hire. The film score is specific in that it has a large cast, so we’ll definitely use the help for the concert.
And where are you based?
In the Ládví cultural house, where we usually play concerts for schools or the Christmas fish mass. But our main halls are the Rudolfinum or the Municipal House, you don’t really have a choice in Prague.
We will also play at the Litomyšl festival, we will go to Kroměříž, we will be in Příbram or Český Krumlov, in Brno at the Špilberk festival. And then we host abroad. This orchestra derived a large part of its income from tours, made complicated by the covid, and even today the situation is still not quite ideal.
However, it starts slowly, we leave Sunday for Italy and France, and in the fall we were in Japan with the special authorization of the Japanese government. We will play in Vienna, at the Musikverein or in Linz at the Bucknerfest festival. And at the Rudolfinum we will start the Czech Presidency of the Council of the European Union in July, and we will give the concert in Brussels in September.
The farther we went was to Japan or touring the United States. Before covid, people traveled regularly to Korea, traditionally to Oman, where our musicians performed at the Royal Opera House, or to Kuwait.
The orchestra has performed all over the world, won numerous awards for its musical recordings and performs with the big names on the world classical music scene. For example, he gave a three tenor concert in Petra, Jordan, which was seen by tens of millions of people around the world.
You changed your repertoire because of the war in Ukraine. I mean, didn’t you cut the Russian authors?
No, we recently performed the Tchaikovsky Symphony, where Ukrainian violinist Natalia also performed under the baton of a Canadian-Ukrainian conductor. The concert was dedicated to the invaded country, it was planned in the repertoire and we left it there.
How did you even get the position of director of PKF – Prague Pfilharmonia?
I was asked if I would be interested in the position. At the time, I was working as an assistant in the living culture management section of the ministry, and since I was already thinking about a change, I really liked it.
The orchestra is excellent and I consider it one of the best acts in post-revolutionary history, so it was an honor for me. And also a difficult test, because I took office in February 2020, just before the outbreak of the pandemic crisis.
You have left an official post at the Ministry of Culture. What is it like working on the other side of the barricade?
Until you are in the shoes of the people concerned, you do not know how the grant procedure will unfold and you no longer have the money to run the institution, until then you do not realize how difficult it is to manage a cultural institution in the Czech Republic. And I thought I was empathetic to the cultural community.
Today, I would probably have a deeper understanding of the emotional processes of the people who communicated with us. I probably couldn’t do anything else, but I would understand why they behave the way they do. Maybe all public servants should have a duty to bounce back for a year or two, run a cultural institution, and then come back to government. Maybe then it would look different.