The Rudolfinum is one of Prague’s most beautiful neo-renaissance buildings, “unrivalled by other European galleries of its time”. It’s in Jan Palach Square in Old Town along the Vltava River. Last night I attended a classical concert at the Rudolfinum performed by Prague’s Parnas Ensemble. The ensemble is a string quintet – two violins, viola, cello, and a double bass – formed by members of the Czech Philharmonic.
Members of the group are brilliant musicians who “have achieved rich experience both as soloists and chamber music players at concerts in Prague and abroad”. The program included pieces from the works of Mozart, Pachelbel, Haydn, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Bizet, Bach, and Dvořák and was an incredible performance in a very special atmosphere. Their encore was Leroy Andersen’s Plink, Plank, Plunk where the musicians hammed it up playing their instruments using fingers only!
The Rudolfinum was designed by Czech architects Josef Zítek and Josef Schulze. Built around 1884, it was named in honor of Rudolf of Hapsburg, Crown Prince of Austria. Although originally an art gallery the building was also used for multipurpose exhibits and cultural events. Between 1919 and 1938 the Rudolfinum even housed the Czechoslovak Parliament. In 1992 the building was completely renovated and became the home of the Czech Philharmonic and Galerie Rudolfinum.
Galerie Rudolfinum focuses on contemporary art. Current exhibitions feature the works of London-based Kashmiri painter Raqib Shaw and Portuguese photographer Carlos Relvas (1838-1894). Raqib Shaw “pushes socially accepted norms with his homoerotic paintings that seduce and subvert”. He first came into the public eye in 2007 when his painting Garden of Earthly Delights III sold for $5.49 million at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Sale.
The exhibition Carlos Relvas: Objects of Eternity presents the photographer’s work in “seven thematic chapters: landscapes, architecture, portraits, on the farm, ships and shores, everyday life, and the artist’s studio”. Relvas created one of the most beautiful and elaborate photographic studios of his time. If you’re interested in his photography, this is a fun video.
There are five exhibition halls at the Rudolfinum including Dvořák and Suk. The Czech Philharmonic rents a number of these elegant spaces for a variety of public and private functions. Dvořák and Suk Halls have high-quality acoustics designed to accommodate orchestral performances.
In January 1896 Antonín Dvořák himself conducted the Czech Philharmonic at Dvořák Hall’s very first concert! An imposing sculpture of Dvořák appears in the courtyard entrance to the Rudolfinum. During the summer tourists enjoy concerts at the Rudolfinum every evening beginning at 7:00 pm.