Prague Sounds brings Yo-Yo Ma to the Rudolfinum and four more acts to the Vltava

A prelude to the Strings of Autumn festival will offer international and Czech talent across several genres.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 26.05.2021 08:03 (updated on 26.05.2021)

With the easing of restrictions, international acts are starting to return to Prague. One of the biggest names announced so far is cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who will appear at the Rudolfinum on Sept. 4 as part of Prague Sounds.

The rest of that festival, which runs Sept. 2–8, will be on a floating stage in the Vltava near Slovanský ostrov. Internationals acts are jazz musician Brad Mehldau and tenor Ian Bostridge performing together on Sept. 7, and gospel singer Lizz Wright on Sept. 8. Czech music will be represented by musical icon Jiří Suchý on Sept. 2 and multi instrumentalist Jiří Slavík with folk ensemble VUS Ondráš on Sept. 6.

Prague Sounds is a special event as part of the 25th anniversary of the Strings of Autumn (Struny podzimu) festival, which will take place in a full version in October and November.

“The Prague Sounds project was created last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This year, it becomes an open air festival to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Strings of Autumn, a holiday of live music performed by artists who have indelibly entered the history of the festival,” festival founder Marek Vrabec said.

Last year, violinist Daniel Hope appeared on the Vltava in an evening called Hope for Prague.

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Yo-Yo Ma was a child prodigy who played for U.S. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. As an adult he entertained Barack Obama and Václav Havel. During his career he has earned 18 Grammy Awards. Yo-Yo Ma decided to collaborate with the Prague Sounds festival to bring the Bach Project, a series of six solo cello suites, to the Czech Republic.

“This concert is one stop on the way to sharing this music with people seeking balance and comfort in a moment of unprecedented change. I share this music that has helped shape my life, hoping to stimulate a conversation about culture as the source of the solution we need,” Yo-Yo Ma said.

“Bach's cello suites are my constant musical companions. For almost six decades, they have provided me with energy, comfort, and joy in times of stress, celebration, and loss. How powerful is this music that even today, after 300 years, it helps us to go through troubled times?” he said.

Jazz pianist Brad Mehldau likes to expand beyond boundaries, and won a 2020 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for the very atypical Finding Gabriel. Ian Bostridge is one of the best current British lyrical tenors, and has also won Grammys. In 2015, Mehldau and Bostridge met by chance at Schloss Elmau in Germany, and found common creative ground. They will perform from their song cycle The Folly of Desire. It uses the poetry of Shakespeare, e.e. cummings, Brecht, Yeats, Goethe, Blake, and others set to original music.

Lizz Wright has been involved in gospel music all of her life, since her father was a choirmaster in Georgia. Today, she blends gospel with folk, blues, jazz, and R´n´B. Her vocal styles has been compared to Norah Jones.

Jiří Suchý has been a part of the Czech cultural scene since the 1950s in various capacities, and was one of the founders of the both the Na Zábradlí and Semafor theaters. He wrote scripts for many well-loved films and also appeared in some of them. He will be singing some of the popular songs from across his career in an evening titled “Árie měsíce” (Aria of the Moon), after one of the tunes he co-wrote with the late Jiří Šlitr.

Jiří Slavík blends Moravian folklore and contemporary music. He will be appearing with folklore ensemble VUS Ondráš. The evening will include music from the album Mateřština (Mother Tongue) and the show kRok za kRokem (Step by Step). The title of the latter is a pun, as “rok” means year. Folk instrument player Marian Friedl is also part of the evening.

There will also be a side program on Sept. 8 and 9 at DOX, featuring Franck Vigroux.

For more information, visit the festival website or Facebook page.

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