In terms of its superb attendance (88%) the first Prague Proms season was a resounding surprise success to everyone, not least to CNSO’s competitors. Prague Proms 2005 presented eight main concerts to Prague´s most prestigious concert halls: the Rudolfinum and the Municipal House. Each concert was assigned a specific name: “Mozart Night” featuring soloists from the National Theatre, conducted by Libor Pešek, “Japanese Night” with Tomomi Nishimoto conducting, “American Night” under the baton of Paul Freeman and “Czech Night” with conductor Petr Alrichter etc. Performing soloists included violinists Václav Hudeček and Oldřich Vlček as well as Kemal Gekič, Leon Bates and Hideyo Harada on the piano, and Jan Hasenöhrl on the trumpet. Verdi's Requiem was performed on the “Last Night” referred to as “Italian Night” conducted by Marcelo Rota. Meanwhile the needs of jazz fans were more than catered for at the Jazz Nights held at Café Imperial until late in the night. Performers at Prague Proms 2005 included top jazz artists Milan Svoboda, Emil Viklický, Tonya Graves, and Jazz Efterrät. The blend of genres was spontaneously enhanced by a performance by legendary top star, Barry Mason, at the Smetana Hall of the Municipal House.
The resounding success of the first ever Prague Proms was reaffirmed as the second season came to a close. Highlights included the „Battleship Potemkin” special project conducted by Jan Chalupecký, „Night of the Silver Screen” led by Marcello Rota, “Carmina Burana” and Germán Gutiérréz, „Broadway Night” under the baton of Paul Freeman, „Night of Isles” and Petr Altrichter and „Czech Night” conducted by Libor Pešek. „…I was pleased to be able to evaluate last year’s first Prague Proms season as very promising and as an event providing enrichment to the current summer cultural offering. As the second season comes to a close, I can say that nothing has changed about this statement. Audiences were given the chance to attend a total of nine concerts in the Smetana Hall of the Municipal House, several jazz concerts (at the Mlýnec club, and Akord) plus some Baroque Opera held on a steamboat.
Alongside the CNSO Agency, the two personalities behind the festival, Jan Hasenöhrl and Libor Pešek (both equipped with an abundance of artistic and organisational skills, the latter with first-hand experience of the original London Proms) ensure the festival continues to live up to the name’s reputation in the future … Prague Proms soloists included violinist Jiří Hurník, Chris Brubeck on the trombone, trumpeter Jan Hasenöhrl, the soprano Simone Paulwell, the tenor Keith Jones, Soloman Howard and Jiří Hájek on bass, Marian Lapšanský on piano and Tony Lakatos on the saxophone. The two American Choirs received a fantastic response from the audience who displayed their satisfaction with standing ovations and shouts of encore after encore…” (from the review by Vladimír Říha, Hudební Rozhledy)
The CNSO Agency presented Prague inhabitants and visitors with the third season of the ever popular Prague Proms Festival. The Municipal House and Prague Jazz Clubs hosted a total of 15 concerts spanning classical music, film and jazz. A number of soloists (e.g., Eva Urbanová, Ivan Moravec, Karel Růžička, Aleš Bárta, Otakar Brousek) orchestras and bands (e.g., Highland Park High School Jazz Band, La Parada) performed for huge audiences. Once again we had the privilege of inviting Maestro Libor Pešek to take on the role of festival chief conductor. The busy programme included concerts such as., “Animals on the Stage” (with Marcelo Rota conducting), “Night at the Exhibition” (Andrea Morricone), and “American Night” (conductors Laura Karpman and Jan Chalupecký). One of the most alluring concerts “Night in Versailles” was performed at Troja Castle by Capella Istropolitana. Meanwhile the newly finished graded auditorium in the Smetana Hall was also very well received by audiences.”
“It´s been three years now since Prague Proms began making contributions to the Prague summer cultural menu, and the festival’s success continues to grow year on year. . Although at first glance it might appear that this festival primarily targets visitors to the capital city, the event is a far cry from other tourist concerts on offer and we’d be hard pushed to find anything like it at any other time of the year.” (Wanda Dobrovská, Czech News Agency)
The fourth annual Prague Proms left nobody doubting its ranking among high-class international music festivals - placing special emphasis on the word international.
The CNSO Chief Conductor Libor Pešek led his orchestra in the opening concert to accompany dance choreography of Spanish dancers dressed s in traditional costumes. The famous Italian conductor, Marcello Rota, presented a number of Hollywood melodies from the movies of director geniuses. In addition, audiences had the privilege of hearing Paul Freeman conduct the “Gospel Night” concert featuring the American Gospel Choir. It goes without saying that “Japanese Night” featured a number of Japanese stars: conductor Yuki Miyagi and pianist Yukari Haga. The violin virtuosos Václav Hudeček, and Antonín Hradil (PKO concert master) introduced two successful participants to their violin workshop Petr Matěják and Jan Mráček. “They´re extraordinarily talented and more than a match for most Czech violin virtuosos these days. It’s just that they aren’t famous yet ...” Maestro Hudeček revealed for ČTK. In terms of jazz, the festival introduced Slovak stars Peter Lipa, and Ondrej Krajňák, the American superb double bass George Mraz, Lasse Lindgren from Sweden, and Czechs Roman Dragoun, Lukáš Chejn and Jan Hasenöhrl , leaving the Prague jazz audience completely speechless.
Visitors to the St. Barbara Cathedral in Kutná Hora were able to check out the organ concert of Aleš Bárta. The Czech Museum of Music hosted a performance by the Epoque Quartet, and the soprano Livia Venosová. The German Chanteuse Ute Lemper and the CNSO sold out one of the most distinguished concerts at Prague Proms 2008 “Nuit de la Chanson,” conducted by Rastislav Štúr. The last concert “Strauss Night” was a resounding success thanks to the virtuosity of phenomenal French horn player Radek Baborák, widely believed to be the best performer on this instrument anywhere in the world right now. The CNSO was conducted by Petr Altrichter.“Nothing could possibly beat the atmosphere and artistic calibre present at this last concert.”
Guest stars at the fifth annual event included Norwegian jazz singer, Silje Nergaard, British tenor Paul Potts, jazz trumpet player Randy Brecker, bassist Jimmy Haslip, as well as "Paganini of the Steelpan" Liam Teague. The festival featured concerts by many top Czech performers: e.g. pianist Jitka Čechová, organ player Jaroslav Tůma, and the Eben Brothers.
Other highlights included a James Bond Night (conductor Carl Davis), The Space Night with a live performance of Gustav Holst´s popular works, The Planets accompanied by high-definition videos.
Considering the range of potential distractions such as the scorching outdoor temperatures, the holiday season, not to mention the all important World Cup final, it is pretty incredible that we were still able to report sell-out performances. Chamber Series, and Jazz Series concerts (as e.g. in The Museum of Czech Music, Jazz Dock, and in Kutná Hora) also recorded full houses. The star-studded programme included Eric Marienthal (saxophone), James Morrison (trumpet) and Lalo Schifrin (composer and conductor). Record attendance levels were recorded at the top concerts such as Hollywood Night and the two Beatles Night performances while the concerts presenting the music of Gustav Mahler and Giuseppe Verdi also drew in impressive numbers.
The vast scope of genres featuring on the Prague Proms programme impressed the crowds, ensuring there was something for everyone to choose from.. In addition to classical music concerts - presented by conductors such as Libor Pešek, or Ignat Solzhenitsyn, and by many chamber ensembles and other great musicians (including Guy Touvron, Alena Baeva, Marcía Porter, Riccardo Botta, or Kateřina Chroboková) , the opposite side of the music spectrum was presented among others by popjazz Level 42, the excellent jazz quintet of Terence Blanchard, legendary trumpet player Bobby Shew, St. Blaises Bigband, Jazz Efterrätt, and the unforgettable young jazz musicians' show “Prague Proms Open” at the Jazz Dock music club, not to mention a whole host of other concerts.
It has become somewhat of a tradition for concerts of film scores to feature on the festival programme. This year was no exception thanks to Carl Davis’ "Oscar Winners" Hollywood Night not to mention the prolific and legendary film composer Ennio Morricone, who presented his works on the stage of the Smetana Hall with two concerts featuring the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno.
The huge choirs teamed together to sing the works of Bernstein and Mozart, as well as Gospel music.In their accompanying role at most concerts, The Czech National Symphony Orchestra held everything together with refined precision.
The 8th Prague Proms season was marked by a great many premieres. Among these included the world premiere of the composition written for the Proms and the Czech National Symphony Orchestra by the American composer and trumpet player, Nicholas Payton. Other premieres included Duke Ellington's famous New Orleans Suite performed for the first time in the Czech Republic. The festival hosted debut appearances in the Czech Republic for a number of other guest artists too including the most successful jazz vocalist of the last decade, Kurt Elling as well as Gabriela Montero, the outstanding Venezuelan pianist. The festival also took the bold step of launching for the first time on an open-air stage on Wenceslas Square featuring the Czech National Symphony Orchestra performing the Hollywood Night programme. The season was also marked by steps taken to further consolidate our position. Our skilled event management team successfully integrated a wonderful summer repertoire spanning from the classics, film music and musicals to Cuban rhythms. When it came to jazz the space was handed over to young progressive jazz bands at the Prague Proms Jazz Dock Open, as well as to the Brno-based Goose on a String Theatre (recently awarded the Alfred Radok's prize) with their performance of Leoš and Your most Faithful, Undoubtedly the Prague Proms festival well and truly deserves a top spot on the Prague musical calendar Patronage of the festival by the Lord Mayor of Prague also suggests we are now one step closer to becoming the number one event on the Czech summer festival calendar.
To mark the festival’s 10th anniversary, once again this year the organisers managed to put together a truly unique programme designed for a discerning audience. Classical music comprises the backbone of the festival content presented at CNSO concerts and on this occasion dedicated to mixed choirs and a concert version of Verdi’s opera, La Traviata. Ranging from gospel performances by African-American group the Central State University Chorus Ohio to the more classical style of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chorus, all the concerts were exceptionally well attended, enjoying a tremendous audience response. This year’s film music concert programmes also offered exceptional appeal and as such received favourable criticism from audiences. For the first time in the Czech Republic, audiences had the chance to hear melodies from the films of the extravagant creative mastermind Tim Burton written by Danny Elfman, his most trusted composer and singer. The sell-out show at the Smetana Hall was evidenced by the enthusiastic standing ovations by members of the audience, many of whom turned up in elaborate outfits and lavish make-up representing a range of characters from Burton’s films. What a huge success! The film music theme was picked up anew to kick off the festival proper at the open air concert on Wenceslas Square and then again at the Best of Hollywood Nights concert which primarily presented music from Oscar-winning films over the last decade. One example of our passion for merging genres could be seen in our sell-out ballet concert of Swan Lake, the Nutcracker and Le Corsaire starring English National Ballet soloist Daria Klimentová and her professional partner Vadim Muntagirov. Other events to stand out in the first half of the festival included the Norwegian violin virtuoso Eldbjörg Hemsing and chamber groups Trio La Musica at Lichtenstejn Palace plus the organist Aleš Bárta and violinist Jakub Junek at St. Barbara’s Church in Kutná Hora.
Once again this year the handpicked festival jazz repertoire proved to be a winner among all those who came along. Following performances by R&B singer China Moses, Raphaël Lemonnier and charismatic guitarist Biréli Lagrène and his quartet, the big event on everyone’s musical mind was the premiere of Vince Mendoza’s New York Stories conducted by the composer himself and featuring top instrumentalists including the saxophonist Joe Lovano, guitarist John Abercrombie and our very own trumpeter Jan Hasenöhrl. Slovak group the Bratislava Hot Serenaders made for an attractive addition to the programme with their Hot & Sweet Jazz Music inspired by 20s and 30s America as well as the post-war Slovak music and dance scene. The jazz festival part culminated with a concert by world-renowned start Natalie Cole accompanied by the CNSO at the completely sold out Prague State Opera house. The jazz aspect of the festival was enriched by a dozen different concerts – mostly local ensembles who had the chance to present their work at The Loop Jazz Club on the ground floor of Hybernia Palace. Such events were a highly popular destination for visitors to evening-time Prague looking to have a coffee or glass of wine while soaking up the sweet sounds of jazz.
Once again this year the organisers managed to put together a truly unique programme designed to satisfy even the most discerning audience. Classics were presented at the CNSO concerts, part of which was dedicated to opera. This meant we had the chance to witness performances by one of Italy’s leading opera queens Marie L. Borsi as well as the songs of Berlioz and Mahler sung by the American mezzo-soprano Chaazi Levicek. The traditional favourite Carmina Burana turned out to be a popular choice leading to a sell-out show at the Smetana Hall along with the subsequent programme of opera arias built on a quartet of great voices – the soprano Anna Netrebko and invited guests Ekaterina Gubanova, Aleksandrs Antonenko and Ildar Abdrazakov. Our first experiment of live music to accompany video games also turned out to be a resounding success.
By adopting a sophisticated promotional strategy, we managed to completely fill Forum Karlín, mostly appealing to a younger audience of computer whizzes. Including words from the project protagonist Tommy Tallarico, moments from the most well-known video games were projected onto the screen accompanied by music from the CNSO. Technically speaking, in its merging of film and live music, Disney Fantasia ranked among the most demanding items to feature on the programme. Converted into state-of-the-art animation form, the 1940 Disney Studios cartoon was set to Beethoven, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and Debussy just the way it had been chosen by the legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski back in his day. It should come as little surprise therefore that the production was not only well received by child members of the audience but grown-ups too. In 2016 the CNSO will be taking this programme to the East coast of the USA – from New York to Miami.
We’re also proud to have hosted a concert to mark the greatest of all American holidays – none other than Independence Day celebrated on 4th July each year (since 1776). Featuring the CNSO and an American chorus, the almost entirely American programme was launched by US ambassador Andrew H. Schapiro. This was yet another highly appealing concluding concert with demand for seats far exceeding capacity inside the Smetana Hall. There can be no questioning that this genre has now become an integral part of our festival programme and is growing in popularity year on year. When it came to chamber music we were honoured to welcome the American & International Young Orchestra at the Municipal Hall’s Sladkovský Hall, the Jeremy Winston Chorale to the St. Barbara’s Church in Kutná Hora and the organist Jaroslav Tůma at Prague’s Týn Church.
Bringing along a star-studded cast of world calibre soloists led by the trumpeter Bobby Shew, the Buddy Rich Bigband clearly stood out as the main draw from our jazz repertoire. The highly professional approach of veterans including Chuck Findley, Pat LaBarbera, Charles Owens and Andy Fusco enhanced by the outstanding Steve Smith, not to mention their rapport with the Czech colleagues was both admirable and exemplary. The concert was attended by a whole host of well-known personalities from the music and singing sphere. And a similar crowd gathered to hear another famous group – the Christian McBride Trio. The series of foreign jazz ensembles was enriched by a performance by Chris Minh Doky and the Nomads. And the greatest thing of all reflecting the atmosphere of these concerts, the appreciative audience and performances of musicians is that all of them want to pay Prague another visit some time soon. Representing the local jazz scene at the festival was the AghaRTA Band and Jazz Efterrätt. With the exception of the Bigband, owing to the size of their outfits, all the jazz concerts took place on the beautiful premises of The Loop Jazz Club, part of Občanská Plovárna. Adding a touch of extra diversity to the festival, we also offered a number of concerts conveying different genres− Pragasón whose són and salsa rhythms are a guaranteed hit with lively audiences, as well as Michal Horáček & guests plus Jan Hrubý’s Kukulín.