- Hans Weber
- November 29, 2023
INTERVIEW: Prague-based orchestra heads to NJPAC
The Czech National Symphony Orchestra, under the leadership of Maestro Steven Mercurio, is making a stop at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) on February 19th, as part of its ongoing tour of the United States. The concert, which marks the orchestra’s 30th anniversary, will feature a selection of classical music masterpieces, including Dvořák’s “Czech Suite in D Major, Op. 39 — Finale (Furiant)”, Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67” and a violin concerto by Brahms, with Robert McDuffie on solo violin.
Mercurio, an American conductor and composer, has been at the helm of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra for the past four years. He has previously served as musical director in various locations, including Italy, Philadelphia, and Charleston, South Carolina, and is equally comfortable conducting operas or orchestras.
Hollywood Soapbox recently interviewed Mercurio about the upcoming concert at NJPAC. When asked why he chose these particular pieces, he explained that the Dvořák piece was a fitting choice for the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, as the composer is one of the most beloved Czech composers and had a strong relationship with the United States. The Brahms concerto was selected because the featured violinist, Robert McDuffie, wanted to perform it. The Beethoven symphony was chosen because the orchestra had previously performed it during a pandemic-era concert in Prague, which was broadcast live throughout Europe.
Mercurio explained that Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5” requires maximum focus from the players, as there is really no place to rest. It demands a technical and emotional commitment from each player, and tells a story that shifts between the dramatic, passionate, melancholy, and victorious. He attributes the continued success of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra to its diverse programming, which keeps audiences entertained and the orchestra invigorated by the variety and challenges of different musical genres.
Working with Robert McDuffie, according to Mercurio, is a joy, as their relationship dates back 30 years to when McDuffie was a guest at the Spoleto Festival where Mercurio was music director. They are both grateful for the opportunity to collaborate again and are confident that the concerts will be musically exciting.
Mercurio believes that classical music has the power to transcend divisions in a global world, as music is a language in and of itself that provides a sense of togetherness regardless of background or beliefs. Although he is based in the United States, Mercurio considers Prague a second home, and feels that there are no challenges in his role as music director of the orchestra.
In conclusion, the concert at NJPAC is a celebration of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra’s 30th anniversary and is set to be a musical extravaganza featuring a selection of classical music masterpieces. The performance, under the leadership of Maestro Steven Mercurio, is sure to be an unforgettable experience for audiences.
Article by Prague Forum