Prague Philharmonic Choir


Active: 1935
The Prague Philharmonic Choir is an independent and self-governing chorus operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic. It is very active in international touring and recording, and performs with a variety of orchestras.

A strong choral tradition arose at the churches and court of Prague when the city was the capitol of the Holy Roman Empire from 1356 to 1620. Religious warfare prompted the re-location of the capitol to Vienna, following which there was a marked decline in the level of musical activities. The rise of opera and private music-making in the last half of the eighteenth century revived choral singing. Rivalry between Czech- and German-speaking populations caused the formation of two opera houses, the German Opera and the (Czech) National Theater. What would become the country's major orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, was formed in 1894 from the orchestra of the (Czech) National Theater.

During the brief period of Czechoslovak independence between the World Wars, the opera singer Jan Kühn (1891 - 1958) founded the Czech Choir on behalf of the Czechoslovak Radio in 1935. It frequently sang with the Symphony Orchestra of Czechoslovak Radio. The Nazi occupation silenced virtually all musical activities, German as well as Czech.

However, the Czech Choir re-emerged after the War. Though Czechoslovakia became nominally independent in 1945, it fell firmly under Communist rule by 1948. Cultural life was organized along Soviet lines. In 1953, the re-named Prague Philharmonic Choir was officially made the choral organization attached to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, both of which were run by the Communist-controlled Culture Ministry and their musicians' and composers' unions. The Choir reestablished its tradition of choral concerts under its own music director and came to be known as one of the finest in the country. After Kühn's death in 1958, Josef Veselka (1910 - 1992) began a long directorship. He stepped down in 1981, naming as his replacement his pupil Lubomír Mátl (b. 1941).

In what is known as the "velvet revolution," Communist government ended in 1989. On January 1, 1990, the Prague Philharmonic Choir was detached from the Czech Philharmonic and is an entirely separate musical organization, though attached to the Ministry of Culture. Another Veselka pupil, Pavel Kühn (b. 1938), son of the choir's founder, was appointed its conductor, and in 1996 yet another Veselka-trained choral conductor, Jaroslav Brych (b. 1964) became chief choir conductor.

Since its independence from the Czech Philharmonic, the Prague Philharmonic Choir has enlarged its efforts in contemporary music. During its lifetime it has sung for some of the great conductors and frequently toured. The group has made guest appearances with great European orchestras, and participates in numerous international opera and concert festivals, including the Mahler-fest Amsterdam, the Salzburg Festival, the Vienna Festwoche, and the Rossini Opera Festival Pesaro. It often appears with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Vienna Philharmonic.

There are 15 Prague Philharmonic Choir recordings available.

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