The Orchestra's Genesis
The Orchestra's Genesis
When reading that the PKF – Prague Philharmonia, former Prague Philharmonia, was founded in 1994, an inquisitive person immediately asks by whom and why, whether the orchestra originated “out of nowhere” or linked up to another ensemble… The establishment of an orchestra alone gives rise to a number of questions. The following text does not give a detailed account of the ensemble’s genesis but strives to answer the question of why and how it came to life and in so doing illuminates the motivations of those who have connected a large part of their lives with the orchestra.
Intersection of Ideas
Perhaps every young Czech who in the pre-revolution times prepared for a career as a professional musician encountered the phenomenon of the Army Artistic Ensemble. It was about to undergo reconstruction, with the new management planning to convert a large symphony orchestra into a top-class professional chamber ensemble. And so as to carry out this intention, they needed to engage an outstanding conductor.
At the time, elsewhere in Prague, a small music label came up with the idea of recording a CD featuring the rising star Eva Urbanová. An orchestra was sought. Someone mentioned that there was one, the New Czech Chamber Orchestra, said to be a distinguished string ensemble, helmed by Jiří Bělohlávek.
Precious few though were aware that the New Czech Chamber Orchestra was facing a crisis. The young musicians headed by Tomáš Hanus and “supervised” by Jiří Bělohlávek realised that if they were to make progress they would have to make their activity regular. Moreover, many of the players had begun thinking of what they would do after they had completed their studies. Some of them had already been permanently engaged in orchestras or theatres, yet what they would like to do more than anything else was to play together. They initially considered the idea of connecting a small orchestra with the army unfeasible...
In April 1994, Jiří Bělohlávek signed an agreement with the Ministry of Defence stipulating the formation of and support for a chamber orchestra within the then Army Artistic Ensemble, for at least five years. From 24 to 30 June, an audition for members of the orchestra took place in the Gallery of the newly refurbished building of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Some 184 musicians registered and 114 actually turned up. The greatest interest was in the wind instruments section: 29 clarinettists, 24 flautists, 20 oboists. A tense atmosphere of expectation reigned, occasionally relieved by bursts of laughter, for instance, when Radek Baborák, the future soloist of the Czech, Munich and Berlin Philharmonics, asked: “Does anybody have a horn here”, before he became one of the founding members of the new orchestra. An orchestra to which Jiří Bělohlávek gave the name Prague Philharmonia.