Historic concerts this week. From the 1982 Prague Spring Festival, a concert by The Czech Philharmonic led by Music Director and Principle Conductor Vaclav Neumann in music of Bohuslav Martinu and Ludwig van Beethoven.
The concert was given as part of the 40 year observance of the massacre and the burning of the village of Lidice during World War 2.
The concert starts with Martinu’s Symphony Number 1 – and then is followed by the intermission which features a Czech Philharmonic broadcast recording of Martinu’s Memorial To Lidice, written in 1943.
The concert ends with Beethoven’s Symphony Number 3 “Eroica”.
A bio via the Supraphon Record Company site (a long time affiliation with Neumann and The Czech Phil.):
Václav Neumann (1920–1995), a distinguished Czech conductor and unforgettably charismatic music director of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, made the highest number of discs of any artist, irrespective of profession, for Supraphon. They above all include complete sets and individual recordings of major works, with many of them having received the world’s most prestigious awards, as well as minor, generally popular pieces. The present album comprises a large selection of the recordings Václav Neumann made before he assumed the post of principal conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, with most of them possessing a great historical value. And a number of the featured recordings are appearing on CD for the very first time.
Unlike many other famed conductors, by the time he became head of the Czech Philharmonic, Neumann was already an established artist of international renown. He started his professional career as a violinist (he studied at the Prague Conservatory with Josef Micka) and concurrently took conducting lessons (from Pavel Dědeček and Metod Doležil). While still a student, he initiated the establishment of the legendary Smetana Quartet, in which he initially played first violin and later on viola. Following the end of World War II, be became a violist of the Czech Philharmonic, which from 1942 to 1948 was led by Rafael Kubelík. Neumann, however, wanted above all to be a conductor and definitely decided to pursue this path in 1947, after leaving the Smetana Quartet. A watershed in his career came in March 1948, when he had to stand in for Kubelík, who had suddenly fallen ill. In the same year, Kubelík emigrated and Neumann took over the majority of his scheduled concerts, conducting performances in Prague and other cities in Czechoslovakia. He led the Czech Philharmonic during its tour of East Germany and in 1949 conducted Smetana’s My Country at the opening concert of the Prague Spring music festival. Nevertheless, at the time he lacked sufficient experience to head as renowned an orchestra as the Czech Philharmonic and hence after a year left his post of chief conductor. From 1951 to 1954, Neumann served as music director of the Plzeň Radio Orchestra (today’s Plzeň Philharmonic), in 1954 he became conductor of the Brno Region Symphony Orchestra, which two years later he merged with the Brno Radio Symphony Orchestra, thus giving rise to the Brno State Philharmonic. Subsequently, he joined the Prague Symphony Orchestra, with whom he made his debut at the Komische Oper in Berlin. In 1957, he was appointed its chief conductor.
The Martinu is naturally engrossing and riveting.
Caveat: There is one glitch, and it happens 1 hour and 4 minutes into the concert, during the first movement of the Eroica. A tape break in the middle of recording resulted in the loss of a few seconds of music. So it sounds like a sudden skip in music. It’s not. Blame using used tape to record concerts with at the time. But at least you’ve been warned – the rest of the concert is in good shape, and my apologies in advance.