A look back at Concertino Praga 2020

2. listopad 2020

The Antonín Dvořák International Radio Competition or Concertino Praga has delighted South Bohemian audiences for the fifty-second time. This year, the competition culminated in a true finale evening for the first time. 

The four finalists were from Russia and the Czech Republic, so we gave the finale the working title of Russia vs Czechia, like an ice hockey match. The finalists had reached the final four after two stringent rounds with a total of 54 competitors from sixteen countries. Not even Covid 19 was able to put a damper on these young musicians’ enthusiasm and as such they were able to showcase their mastery at the Rudolfinum in the presence of a live audience. They were accompanied by the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jiří Rožeň. All of this took place on 12 September 2020, when the finalists were the pianist Jan Schulmeister and the violinist Daniel Matejča from the Czech Republic and the trumpeter Aleksandr Rublev and pianist Vsevolod Zavidov playing for the “Russian team”.

The winner was decided by a twelve-member jury consisting of the conductor Jakub Hrůša, the pianists Ivo Kahánek and Lukáš Vondráček, the violinists Václav Hudeček (who was the first Czech to ever win the competition) and Dmitry Sitkovetsky (who was the first ever winner of the Concertina Praga competition), the flautist Walter Auer, the oboist Francois Leleux, the clarinettist Daniel Ottensamer, the trumpeter Marek Zvolánek, the harpist Jana Boušková, the Director of the Czech Philharmonic David Mareček and the music producer Thibaut Maillard.

The jury was most taken with the performance of the fourteen-year-old pianist Vsevolod Zavidov, who chose Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto no. 1 in E flat major as his performance piece. In addition to a cheque for 5000 EUR from the Karel Komárek Family Foundation, he also received the Czech Radio Prize (the production of a CD), as well as a cheque for 15,000 CZK from the Bohuslav Martinů Foundation.

Petra Hajská’s photographic reportage from the finale evening

Czech Radio’s new partnership with the Academy of Classical Music when organising the Concertino Praga not only contributed to the attractive finale concert, but also meant that it was included in the Dvořák Prague Festival. It was also logical that the traditional South Bohemian festival was moved to a date in autumn.

The laureates of the Concertino Praga were photographed by Peter Ganzglück

Český Krumlov, Masquerade Hall

The Concertino Praga South Bohemian festival is only two years younger than the competition itself. It first took place in 1969 and it was the brainchild of the composer Viktor Kalabis and his wife, the cembalist Zuzana Růžičková. Both had a very warm relationship with South Bohemia. Viktor Kalabis had studied at the grammar school in Jindřichův Hradec and he was later based in the region and spent a lot of time there. He also managed to bring the local inhabitants and the civic representatives on board with hosting the festival. As such, the festival has long enjoyed the support of the town of Jindřichův Hradec. The competition also has its own hotel there called Concertino.

Bechyně Estate, Vok Hall

A further strength of the South Bohemian festival, which still applies today, is the wonderful atmosphere among the young musicians. They not only enrich one another musically, but also with their approach to life and their experiences from their musical lives to date. This then infects the entire region. They easily overcome any language barriers, support one another and spend their evenings together playing and listening to music, etc. Firm life-long friendships are often made here and we are sometimes even lucky enough to witness the blossoming of new love. The only difficult thing is the farewells that are usually accompanied by tears. Once they reach the airport at Ruzyně, everybody becomes very quiet and does not know how to say goodbye.

What good impressions did the participants at this year’s South Bohemian festival leave with?

Vsevolod Zavidov, 1st prize, piano, Russia

I really enjoyed playing with the orchestra and with such an excellent conductor. I also made some new friends, which is very important to me. I will never forget this experience! I enjoyed the atmosphere in all the small South Bohemian towns with their wonderful castles and churches. I enjoyed playing the Concertino Praga signature melody with the others and spending time in the company of such excellent and talented boys! I am truly proud of the fact that I was part of the festival” Thank you!

Daniel Matejča, 2nd prize, violin, the Czech Republic

I loved the Concertino from the very beginning, especially the final round. Playing at the Rudolfinum was really something; the orchestra, the conductor and the atmosphere were simply wonderful. I will never forget it. The South Bohemian festival was a small celebration after the finale concert. Every concert had a wonderful atmosphere associated with beautiful trips to the host towns. The concerts were held in absolutely wonderful venues. I am pleased that I was able to be part of this musical collective and that I gained new skills and friends.

Alexandr Rublev, 3rd prize, trumpet, Russia

I really liked participating at the Concertino Praga competition. It is perhaps the best competition I have ever been involved with. I gained a lot of experience and new friends during the South Bohemian festival. Everything was very professionally organised! I will never forget the concert tour, the wonderful concert halls where I performed and, of course, the associated stories!

Márton Bubreg, First Class Honourable Mention, saxophone, Austria

I met some musicians I already knew at the festival (Márton Bubreg is no newcomer to the Concertino Praga. He competed with his brother, the clarinettist Bence Bubreg, and won in 2018 – in fact, they were the absolute winners: author’s note) and also gained some other musical friends! All of them are excellent musicians and they all play very well. I greatly enjoyed the finale and I would like to congratulate all the participants. I enjoyed playing the signature melody with the other guys and I liked all the venues where we played.

Český Krumlov and its château, Bechyně and the Bechyně Estate and the Schwarzenberg Tomb in Třeboň have long been festival venues, while the traditional festival closer always takes place in the château in Jindřichův Hradec. This year, it was an all-male event. The four finalists were joined by the most successful semi-finalists; the Bulgarian pianist Ivaylo Vassilev, the Austrian saxophonist Márton Bubrega and his brother the clarinettist Bence Bubreg. They were also joined by the Italian oboist Carlo Cesaraccio and the competition’s youngest Czech participant, the clarinettist Ondřej Toman.

Třeboň, Schwarzenberg tomb

All concerts of the South Bohemian Festival were recorded and broadcast by Czech Radio Vltava. You can listen to them on our website.

Jindřichův Hradec, Knight's Hall

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