Some stars will shine in Autumn
Wayne Shorter, Rufus Wainwright headline Strings of Autumn
Posted: September 18, 2013
While the Strings of Autumn festival may be relatively small in the number of events, it throws a wide musical net and has stars from several genres involved in sometimes atypical projects.
The 10 main events include jazz legend Wayne Shorter, multitalented singer Rufus Wainwright, violinist Daniel Hope and more obscure acts such as the Albanian Iso-Polyphonic Choir, among others. Venues range from the Estates Theater to Barrandov Film Studios.
The festival opens Sept. 23 with soprano Barbara Hannigan not only singing but conducting and acting. She will appear with the Prague Philharmonia in works by Rossini, Mozart, Ligeti, Shostakovich and Nono. "I love working with conductors and consider myself very fortunate to have the colleagues I have. … [Conducting] is an expansion of the leadership I have been feeling as a soloist. Conducting is for me a way of working in direct dialogue with the orchestra," Hannigan said in an interview provided by the festival.
She has made a name fro herself not only with her voice, but also by her approach to acting in operas, adding ballet and acrobatics when roles call for it and donning risqué costumes. "Opera is, for me, the marriage of theater and music. Anything I have done onstage has been to serve that art form."
When: Sept. 23-Nov. 9
Where: State Opera, Estates Theater, Prague Crossroads and other venues
Tickets: up to 2,200 Kč
The second event also should pique the interest of classical music aficionados. Vivaldi's The Four Seasons has been so overperformed that just seeing the title can make some people cross the street to avoid it. Violinist Daniel Hope has been playing a reinvented version of the piece that was written recently by British modern composer Max Richter. The evening will also include the original Vivaldi version, but Hope is such a virtuoso he makes that sound fresh as well.
Hope was in on the creation of the new piece from the start. "When I was first contacted by Max Richter, he said he wanted to recompose The Four Seasons and I said, well, 'What's wrong with the original?' He said … 'Wherever I look and whenever I listen I hear it. I hear it in elevators. I hear it on the phone … and what I want to do is give a new frame to The Four Seasons, to present it in a new world, a new light.' And that to me sounded really interesting," Hope said. He will be performing with the orchestra L'Arte del Mondo from Germany. The group uses both period and modern instruments.
Rufus Wainwright is probably best-known for his version of Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelijah," which was featured on the Shrek soundtrack. But he is a composer as well, and has written an opera. He will be appearing Oct. 21in the Estates Theater, a grand opera house where Mozart once conducted. Wainwright will be appearing with some guests for a concert.
While he will not be performing his opera, he did comment on his love of the medium. "Going to the opera for me is the equivalent of going to church. It's a place where I can totally let go and trust in a higher power. The incredible combination of drama, music, live performance and fantastic venues is earth shattering," he said, adding that it can also be boring. His love of opera began when he was 13 years old.
The final big name in the schedule is Wayne Shorter, an 80-year-old legend who formed his first jazz band in 1949. He has the final spot on the schedule, save for the afterparty. Shorter played with Czech bassist Miroslav Vitouš in the band Weather Report from 1970 to '73. "I remember these meetings with Czech artists as being very professional and very informative as to the desire for freedom of expression," he said.
This festival appearance isn't his first in Prague. "The performance in 1995 was more than just another concert on the tour. I can say that to this day Prague remains to my mind one of the most beautiful cities in the world," he said.
This time, his quartet, which he formed in 2000, will perform Nov. 6 with the Prague Philharmonia at Lucerna's Velký sál. "I hope that our performance in Prague will demonstrate a variety of interactions which seek to play music without borders," he said.
The rest of the schedule is quite ambitious, even if the acts lack superstar name recognition. Polish pianist Leszek Możdżer blends jazz with classical influences including Chopin. He was named Musician of the Year four times by the magazine Jazz Forum. He plays Oct. 8 in a trio at Hybernia.
A native of Catalonia, Jordí Savall has studied early music. He and three other musicians will be exploring the interaction of East and West from the years 1200 to 1700 in a program called Orient-Occident. The venue for the Oct. 10 show is Prague Crossroads, a former church with historical ties to the Crusades - between 1232 and 1313 the Knights Templar used it.
Albania is one of the least-known corners of Europe. The Albanian Iso-Polyphonic Choir will showcase unusual harmonies from the southern part of the country Oct. 15 at the Czech Museum of music.
Festival goers also have a chance to see inside Barrandov Studios for a three-day run of Schubert's song cycle Winterreise, with a staging directed by Jiří Heřman, who has experience from opera. The Oct. 23-25 performances are the realization of a long-term dream for Heřman.
Fans of Latin American rhythms will want to catch singer and guitarist Vinicius Cantuária playing Brazilian music Oct. 30 at Prague Crossroads. He is credited with bringing bossa nova into the 21st century.
An afterparty takes place Nov. 9 at Roxy NoD with Andreya Triana, Go Go Penguin and others.
The festival also includes program fro children that takes place Oct. 18-20 at divadlo Minor.
Raymond Johnston can be reached at