I enjoyed another fantastic classical music concert in Prague last night. The venue was beautiful Church of St. Simon and Jude in Staré Město. The Late Renaissance church dates back to 1354. Today, it’s a concert hall. Last night’s program included works by Haydn and Mozart.
The mellow crowd of a few hundred was mostly Czech. I’ve learned to smile and nod when someone speaks to me in Czech – much easier than saying I don’t speak the language! My very limited Czech works in larger, busier gatherings.
Saints Simon and Jude Church
Saints Simon and Jude Church has a powerful atmosphere. It was founded as a hospital chapel, but is now a performance venue and the “ideal location for masterpieces of classical and sacred music”.
“The Saints Simon and Jude Church organ was played by Mozart and Haydn, and is still functional and famous for its excellent authentic sound”.
In 1620, the church was rebuilt in Baroque style, with an added convent and hospital. After 1989, the church was “given back to the Order of Merciful Brothers who lent it for use to the Prague Symphony Orchestra”. Orchestral and chamber concerts of early music are held there.
Haydn Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Cello, Oboe, Bassoon, and Orchestra
Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante was performed by members of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, led by Conductor Petr Popelka. It was extraordinary! The orchestra played the magnificent Lo Speziale Overture, followed by four soloists who performed Sinfonia Concertante for violin, cello, oboe, and bassoon. They were fabulous:
- Hiroko Takahashi – Violin
- Petr Malíšek – Cello
- Jurij Likin – Oboe
- Václav Fürbach – Bassoon
Petr Popelka Conductor
“Within two seasons and despite the covid pandemic, Petr Popelka established himself as an inspiring young conductor.” He’s been “Chief Conductor of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra in Oslo since August 2020. Starting September 2022, he will become Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra“. He’s also Principal Guest Conductor of the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava.
In the 2019/2020 season, Petr Popelka was the “first Conductor Fellow of the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester“. After devoting himself to conducting since 2016, he won the coveted Gstaad Menuhin Festival Academy’s Neeme Järvi Prize in 2017.
During the 2021/2022 season, Popelka returns to the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. He will also make debuts with other renowned orchestras throughout Europe. Popelka was educated in his hometown of Prague and was deputy principal double bass of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden. He’s also a composer.
Mozart Litaniae Lauretanae K 195
Haydn’s symphony was outstanding, but Mozart’s Litaniae Lauretanae K 195 was exceptionally beautiful staged in the ambience of Saints Simon and Jude Church! The performance included Prague’s renowned Kühn’s Mixed Choir, led by their choirmaster Jaroslav Brych, and four incredible soloists:
Michaela Šrůmová – Soprano
Sylva Čmugrová – Alto
Ondřej Holub – Tenor
Jaromír Nosek – Bass
Kühn Mixed Choir
Kühn Mixed Choir “has been part of the music world for 60 years”. It was founded by Pavel Kühn in 1959 by joining male voices to the originally female chamber choir, founded at the Academy of Performing Arts. The choir “became a pioneer in the performance and a cappella works of world romanticism in concert halls and recording studios”. Their voices are beautiful!
Back to Serbia
I leave Prague next week, after exhausting my 90-day EU Schengen visa. That means I can’t return to EU Schengen countries for 90 days. I considered Ukraine as my next stop and was in the process of finding a short-term apartment rental in Kiev, when I discovered a new covid entry requirement.
In addition to covid vaccination proof, you’re required to submit evidence of health insurance “acceptable to Ukraine”. Clearly, this is protection from potential covid hospitalizations. I did research and discovered that for me, the cost of such a health plan would be 4 digits per month – so I declined. Instead, I’ve decided to return to Serbia and possibly other non-Schengen countries.
While in Belgrade during May, I visited Novi Sad and fell in love with the area. With all the trees, autumn will be spectacular. There are interesting activities from hiking to performing arts and galleries. It’s a rich farming area with wineries and abundant fruit and vegetables. The University of Novi Sad is well-noted for its Agriculture Department, and the local restaurants I’ve visited were fantastic!
In May, I posted about my day trip to Sremski Karlovci and Novi Sad. Located near Mt. Fruška Gora, the spectacular area is part of the Province of Vojvodina between the Carpathians and Dinarides in northern Serbia.
I’m likely to take a day trip before leaving Prague, but since there are fewer tourists right now, many tours are cancelled until further notice. There are interesting castles and UNESCO World Heritage Sites nearby. Most are difficult to access without a car. Blog posts will follow, if there’s time.
After the concert, Prague’s cobbled streets were uncrowded, and I had a gorgeous walk along the Vltava River! Old Town is especially lovely at night. Prague is exquisite!