Led by Semyon Bychkov, the Czech Philharmonic opens the 2018-19 SCP Orchestras series, with a concert Nov. 4 featuring violinist Alisa Weilerstein. The ensemble’s U.S. tour coincides with the centennial of Czech independence, and in this letter, Bychkov salutes the nation’s continued liberty as well as its rich musical tradition.

On Oct. 28, 2018, the Czech Republic will celebrate 100 years of independence. The significance of its liberation from the Austrian Empire’s domination is a source of inspiration, not only to its own people, but also to all nations that have experienced political, economic and cultural repression. In the fight to preserve their national identity, the courage and strength of character shown by the Czech people are a reminder that nothing and no one can ever conquer the human spirit if it refuses to surrender.

In the past century, the Czech people have experienced a gamut of different living conditions, ranging from betrayal inflicted by the Munich Agreement and destruction in World War II to decades of Soviet domination, and finally, the pride and prosperity that arrived with independence. Fifty years ago, when the Soviets rolled their tanks into the streets of Prague on Aug. 21, 1968, their attempts to bring down those who were unable to defend themselves challenged the Czech people. Yet, in spite of the adversity — and quite possibly because of it — the nation lived on to welcome the Velvet Revolution of 1989, and once again, to become a free and independent member of the world community — this time, hopefully forever.

The Czech Philharmonic shares its country’s destiny, and with equal determination, preserves the uniqueness of the Czech musical tradition and offers it to the world. It was true 100 years ago. It remains true today. How fitting it is, then, that in the year the Czech nation celebrates the centennial of its independence, its beloved orchestra performs Mahler’s Second Symphony (Resurrection) in Prague and New York, and brings the works of Smetana and Dvořák to London and various U.S. cities. These composers‘ works tell us that we are here for a reason and that nothing ever dies. The Czech Republic and its Philharmonic are living proof of this.

Semyon Bychkov
Chief conductor and music director, Czech Philharmonic