Prague Chamber Orchestra
Prague Chamber Orchestra boast a unique position not only among Czech ensembles, for similar formations are quite rare even worldwide as performing music without a conductor requires a special rapport of all orchestra members. Each relates not to the conductor’s baton but to the ensemble as a whole, assuming the role of a chamber music player even though the instrumentation is much larger, stemming from the late 18th century peak Classicist period practice. The instrumentation thus comprises a multiplied string quartet (11 violins, 4 violas, 4 violoncellos a 2 basses) supplemented with a doubled wind sextet (flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, French horns, trumpets) and timpani.
It was the initiative of the players as performers of solo parts that has been making the Prague Chamber Orchestra’s history ever since its beginnings when first players of the individual instrument sections of the Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra got together to start a smaller ensemble better suited for their new programming, then focused largely on older Bohemian music, as attested by the ensemble’s very first recording, Orchestral Quartet by Karel Stamic, cut in October 1951. The appearance at the prestigious Prague Spring Festival a year later then rocketed the orchestra among the most-demanded Czech ensembles, a status much enhanced also by the growing tendency to abolish the former practice of full instrumentation of older music.
The repertoire of this type of ensemble therefore stems mainly from the Classicist heritage (Haydn, Mozart, early Beethoven) but finds much inspiration also in the High Baroque (Bach, Händel, Vivaldi). The instrumentation practised by the orchestra, however, can be found in music of the early Romantic period (Mendelssohn, Schubert) a quite frequently in works by 20th century composers (Britten, Honegger, Prokofiev, Stravinski).