Prague Mixed Choir has long been one of the top Czech non-professional choirs. It has enjoyed much success at home and abroad and has won several awards at prestigious choral competitions, including the international competition Praga Cantat. In addition to its domestic concerts, the choir proudly performs Czech music on foreign concert tours, of which it has completed more than sixty to date. These include visits to most European countries, the United States, Canada, Japan, Israel, China, and Egypt.
The choir’s repertoire includes a wide range of sacred and secular works by many of the world’s composers, from the baroque masters (Schütz, Vivaldi) to the leading representatives of the Classicism period (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven), and composers of the 19th and 20th centuries (Schubert, Verdi, Brahms, Mahler). However, the greatest emphasis is placed on Czech works, in particular the classics of Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák, 20th -century masters Leoš Janáček and Bohuslav Martinů, and modern composers Antonín Tučapský, Zdeněk Lukáš, and Petr Eben. The choir often performs Russian Orthodox songs and Czech, Moravian, and Slovak folk songs.
It collaborates with important professional orchestras, soloists, and conductors (North Czech Philharmonic Teplice, Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice, Band of the Castle Guard and Police of the Czech Republic, Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, Jaroslav Svěcený, Vladimír Válek, Vratislav Kříž, František Zahradníček), performs in prestigious concert venues (Rudolfinum, Municipal House, Prague Castle), and presents on important media outlets (Czech Television). It performs in around 20 concerts at home and abroad each year and has recorded several CDs.
Among the most important activities of the Prague Mixed Choir in recent concert seasons were a number of foreign tours: Japan (2012), Serbia (2013), Latvia (2014), China (2015), Austria (2016), Germany and Poland (2017), and Canada and Lithuania (2018).
The choir’s greatest domestic achievements include performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem in Prague’s Municipal House and St. Vitus Cathedral on the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth (2013), three ceremonial concerts for the Year of Czech Music in cooperation with the Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice (2014), and the organization of a concert in honor of Miroslav Košler’s memory with the performance of Brahms’s German Requiem (2017).
The Prague Mixed Choir was also invited to perform at the prestigious Smetanova Litomyšl (2015), Mene Tekel (2017), and Dvořák Prague (2018) festivals, and Martinů Fest in Polička (2018). In 2016, the choir had the honor of performing the world premiere of an unknown original version of Bohuslav Martinů’s Field Mass cantata.
In 2019, with great acclaim, the choir began the traditional Days of Sacred Music in Prachatice and performed at the Prague Festival of Orthodox Music Archaion Kallos. In October of this year, as part of a trip to Poland in collaboration with the Subcarpathian Philharmonic Orchestra of Rzeszów, the choir performed Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2. During the 2019/20 season, the choir is actively preparing for a traditional Christmas concert and a ceremonial concert for the 75th anniversary of its founding, to take place in June 2020 at the Czech Museum of Music. On this anniversary, its CD with compositions by A. Dvořák, V. Novák, B. Martinů, and Z. Lukáš will also be released.
HISTORY OF THE CHOIR
The choir was founded in 1945, under the name Perun. It had nine founding members and was initially an all-male choir. Soon thereafter, women were also brought into the ensemble, creating a mixed choir offering wider repertoire possibilities. Until 1957, Miroslav Hroněk was the chief choirmaster, but in 1951, 20-year-old Miroslav Košler began working with the choir. As a result of the change in the political situation in 1948, the choir was forcibly placed under the patronage of the ČKD Stalingrad company and had to change its name to the ČKD Stalingrad Ensemble. At this time, the choir already had about 60 members. However, the need to operate under the “banner” of a large state enterprise also had a silver lining: economic security and the possibility of trips abroad, where the ensemble participated in a number of choral competitions. Among its most important achievements of this time were winning in the mixed choir category at the first international choral olympics in Paris and participation in the international choir competition in Berlin, where out of forty-eight choirs from all over the world it won 2nd place. In 1951, the choir was awarded the second-degree State prize for years of successful work in the cultural field.
In 1960, the choir was transferred to the union of the ČKD Praha corporate company club and was again renamed, this time the ČKD Praha Art Ensemble. In cooperation with the Academy of Performing Arts, the ČKD Praha Symphony Orchestra was also founded with conductor Vladimír Válek, and the two artistic ensembles worked in close cooperation until the dissolution of the orchestra six years later. Among other activities, they went on two tours to the then German Democratic Republic. In 1965, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of its founding, the choir initiated the organization of a national choir competition, in which many choral groups from all over Czechoslovakia participated. The choir first performed here, winning first prize, under another new name, the ČKD Praha Choir, by which it was known for another thirty-four years.
1970s and 1980s
In the 70s and 80s the choir saw a sharp increase in quality and expansion of its repertoire. Choirmaster Miroslav Košler had a crucial influence on this development, which shaped the performance orientation of the ensemble towards an a capella repertoire of music of the second half of the 20th century. Its personal friendly relations with leading figures of the Czech composers of that time played an important role in this. This applies mainly to Petr Eben, Zdeněk Lukáš, and later Antonín Tučapský, who directly dedicated some of their compositions to the choir and Miroslav Košler, then performed them with “their” choir at the world premiere.
Political and social changes in 1989 made foreign tours easier than before. In the first five years after the Velvet Revolution, a total of eleven concert tours were organized, to places including Japan, the United States, Belgium, France, and Italy. However, the new circumstances had negative consequences for the choir’s economic situation, especially after the privatization of long-time patron ČKD, in 1999. In new millennium, the choir was already performing independently, under its current name, Prague Mixed Choir. In 2010, after almost 60 years, there was a change in choirmaster. Miroslav Košler handed the choir over to his pupil, conductor Jiří Petrdlík, who is carefully continuing the legacy of Košler’s great example in his work with the choir.