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Bach Goes to Prague

Wed May 31 2017

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"One thing that is always surprising to me is how beautifully the softest sounds carry." @houghhough talks preparat… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…


This week Emily and Alex from our Development team took a bunch of OAE Patrons, some of the Orchestra’s most loyal supporters, to Prague. They discovered castles, stag dos, and a little bit of Bach. Emily tells the story:

Thursday 25 May

9am Alex and I leave Gatwick bound for Prague where we are taking 14 OAE Patrons to see the OAE perform their Bach Goes to Paris concert in the Spring Festival and take in some of the sights along the way. A couple of Patrons are on our flight as well as Nick Logie (viola) and we share a cab to the hotel.  It’s 18 years since I was last here but I’m immediately transported back to my previous visit – cobbled streets, trams and fairy tale architecture. It’s a very pretty city and our rooms all look out over the sunny Valtava.


3.45pm We walk along the river to the Rudolfinum concert hall in time to meet the Patrons for the 4pm rehearsal with the conductor, William Christie.

Rehearsal with William Christie

It’s a beautiful building – all marble foyers with an ornate and very pretty interior.  However, the acoustic is slightly problematic and after some lively debate and consultation with Patrons sitting in the auditorium, the oboes and bassoons are placed centre stage at the front with the flutes and trumpets raised at the back of the stage and the basses on rostra.  The effect is greatly improved and we marvel at how the musicians get through a two hour rehearsal of Bach, Fischer and Rameau, less than two hours after arriving in the city.

The Patrons have their say on the acoustics

6pm Alex and I grab a cup of tea and cake whilst finalising the details for the dinner after the concert.  We then head back to the hotel for a quick turn around before walking back to the Rudolfinum for the concert.  It’s a full and appreciative house and so it should be.  The players perform brilliantly with some fantastic wind solos. The programme includes Johann Fischer’s Suite in G minor from his Journal du Printemps.  Not a work I know but one that really suits the orchestra and appropriately enough is written by a Czech composer.

The concert The concert

After the concert we head to a nearby restaurant to be joined by Bill Christie, his agent and Maggie Faultless. Good food and company make for a convivial evening.  We get back to the hotel around 12.30am to find a group of players still going in the bar.  Having been awake for 20 hours straight, we head to bed.  I’m kept awake by the sound of Rameau’s Air pour Bouree et la Rose in my ears which soon becomes drowned out by the sound of raucous stag parties steaming along the river banks as they try to find their hotels.

Friday 26th May

7.30am I wake to glorious sunshine on the river.  There’s no sign of indulgent stags this morning.  Whilst we have breakfast, the players file onto the coach back to the airport.  I have increased respect for their stamina – one of them will be playing in Hipermestra at Glyndebourne this evening.

10.30am We walk up the hill to the castle in hot sunshine and manage to meet up with the rest of our group despite the crowds. Our guide gives us a lively whistle-stop tour of the cathedral and the Vladislav Hall where knights used to joust under a beautiful, sweeping rib-vaulted ceiling.  He also shows us where the 1618 defenestration of two catholic governors happened – they landed in a dung heap and survived but the incident precipitated the Thirty Years’ War.

Vladislav HallOur guide in the castle courtyard

We go down the hill to the Lobkovicky Palace for a patchy rendition of popular classics on flute, viola and piano.  The surroundings are beautiful – the playing is not!  We leave with renewed appreciation for our own musicians’ talent and realise just how attuned we are to their standard of playing and musicianship.  Lunch is in the courtyard café, then the group splits up so that people can look at the exhibits which include the original score of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.

5pm We meet at the Municipal House for a guided tour.  The building is a gorgeous art deco centre built in 1907 for the public to use for cultural and social events.  The design and craftsmanship are breath-taking and it has all been beautifully preserved.  As well as a concert hall there are dozens of rooms where political meetings and events take place. It is a testament to public funding and civic pride.

6pm We indulge in a restorative drink in the American Bar in the basement of Municipal House before heading up to the ground floor French restaurant.  It’s a long and lively supper – one of the best aspects of these trips is that they give our supporters the chance to get to know each other as well as strengthening their commitment to the OAE.

Saturday 27th May

9.30am We check out and take a cab across town to the Dvorak Museum.  The house is a small shrine to Dvorak featuring his viola, his Bosendorfer (piano) and an impressive desk he composed at.  One of the more bizarre exhibits features dozens of different orchestrations of the New World symphony that you listen to through headphones.  We listen to the reggae version – the polar opposite of historically informed performance but entertaining nonetheless.  We enjoy the sunny garden before going in search of coffee and heading off to the airport.

Sun at the Dvorak Museum

This was a highly enjoyable trip –a great group of Patrons drawn together by a shared passion, enjoying a beautiful city.  There’s already been talk of the next one – Vienna, Bucharest, the USA…who knows?

If you would like to receive information about forthcoming Patrons’ trips, please email Alex Madgwick at alex.madgwick@oae.co.uk

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