Czech National Symphony Orchestra

14-27 May 2024

Conductor: Steven Mercurio
Soloists: Chloe Hanslip (violin), Mark Bebbington (piano)


Over the past 30 years, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra has grown to become one of the leading Czech ensembles, and currently ranks among the most highly sought after orchestras in Europe. Its glowing reputation can be attributed to the members’ versatility to perform a wide range of genres spanning classical, film music, jazz as well as musicals which see audiences flock to hear them both locally and internationally.

Notable conductors, composers and film directors who have been collaborating with the orchestra or who worked with the orchestra at concerts and in the CNSO Studio in Prague include Lalo Schifrin, Pino Donaggio, Giuliano Taviani, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, James Newton Howard, Quentin Tarantino, Vince Mendoza, Giuseppe Tornatore, Carl Davis, Steven Mercurio, Marcello Rota, Vladimir Cosma, Christian Lindberg and Chick Corea.
Special attention has to go to the longstanding collaboration with the legendary, and recently deceased, Ennio Morricone including studio recordings as well as a series of concerts as part of a great many European tours.

When it comes to studio work, the orchestra has recorded a wealth of fantastic music including a Christmas album with the acclaimed tenors Plácido Domingo and Vittorio Grigolo as well as music for Tarantino’s western “The Hateful Eight”. Based on the aforementioned concert collaboration, the composer Ennio Morricone also booked the Czech National Symphony Orchestra for a recording, and they subsequently created a truly exceptional soundtrack together at London’s famous Abbey Road studio. Morricone‘s music went on to scoop up a number of awards from a Golden Globe, BAFTA, not to mention an Oscar.

In recent years, artists to have performed repeatedly with the orchestra include Andrea Bocelli, Rolando Villazón, José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Jonas Kaufmann as well as Piotr Beczala, while in the field of pop collaborations include top names such as Sting, George Michael, Natalie Cole, Dianne Reeves, Angélique Kidjo, Denise Donatelli, Ute Lemper, as well as the instrumentalists James Morrison, Branford & Wynton Marsalis, Bobby Shew, Joe Lovano, John Abercrombie, John Patitucci, Dave Weckl, Chick Corea and many more.

Since 2005 Prague Proms, o. p. s. has been organizing the International Music Festival Prague Proms and the CNSO is its residential orchestra. In addition to its subscription series concerts the orchestra also travels abroad for international tours. Alongside almost all countries in Europe, the CNSO has performed in places as far flung as the United States, Japan, Australia, South Korea, China, Dubai, Oman, Canada and Mexico.

In the spring of 2016, the orchestra completed a concert tour of the United States of America, where (after a successful concert at the Prague Proms 2015 festival) it performed a spectacular Disney Fantasia show.
2017 saw the orchestra head on a month-long European tour with film composers Ennio Morricone and James Newton Howard.

This was followed in 2018 by an interesting opportunity for the orchestra to tour Europe with the acclaimed musical La La Land, but above all as part of the Symphonic Cinema project, a nearly two-month tour of the UK featuring a programme of box office Hollywood evergreens, under the baton of conductor Ben Palmer.

In 2019, the orchestra went on a promising extended tour of the United States, but at the beginning of 2020 it was forced to scale back its concert activities due to the global pandemic. However, the orchestra responded quickly to the changing landscape by arranging its live performances online. NetConcert: the new internet platform is being launched in these days.

The orchestra‘s artistic pursuits are now back running at the standard pace. After accompanying Plácido Domingo at his performance in the Czech Republic during the summer of 2021, it accepted a collaboration with the world-famous writer and composer Dan Brown performing his Wild Symphony in Prague.

The orchestra is currently based at the aforementioned recording Studio No. 1, otherwise known as the „Gallery“ where it boasts several gold CDs for the sale of more than 30,000 media, the Gustav Mahler Prize for the interpretation of his works and, in particular, a prestigious contract with IMG Artists London and Columbia Artists New York.

A long-term recording project in cooperation with the Japanese publishing house JVC Victor Entertainment stands out as yet another significant achievement, so far resulting in fifty CDs and 8 DVDs.

The imaginary peak for the CNSO is winning the Grammy Music Award in the category of best arrangement, instruments and singing in April 2022. The award was given for the composition “To The Edge of Longing” from Vince Mendoza‘s record “Freedom Over Everything”. Vince Mendoza was nominated twice for two different tracks from this album which was recorded together with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in the CNSO recording Studio No. 1. Moreover, director of orchestra Jan Hasenöhrl was also the initiator of the project and the producer of the record.

Trumpet player Jan Hasenöhrl set up The Czech National Symphony Orchestra in 1993 along with the legendary conductor Zdeněk Košler, and led to a fantastic ten years of success under the direction of the American conductor Paul Freeman (1996–2006).

From 2007 the orchestra was led by chief conductor Libor Pešek, marking an exceptional period of collaboration, both as part of the subscription series as well as huge successes on five tours around Great Britain. These concerts have earned the CNSO an enviable reputation with British audiences, and it regularly returns there.
One particularly noteworthy historic achievement is the recording marathon, which took place between 2007 and 2017, when, together with Libor Pešek, the CNSO managed the feat of recording a set of Gustav Mahler‘s symphonies.

In the spring of 2019, following the departure of Libor Pešek it was announced that he would be replaced by the American conductor Steven Mercurio. This outstanding musician, a pupil of Leonard Bernstein, has been working with the orchestra for several years, and this collaboration promises to deliver a number of exceptional projects.

Apollo 13 in Concert poster

Steven Mercurio, conductor

Maestro Steven Mercurio is an internationally acclaimed conductor and composer who is currently the Music Director of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra. Notably, Mercurio also served as Music Director of the Spoleto Festival for five years and Principal Conductor for the Opera Company of Philadelphia.  A sought after collaborator for many award winning recordings, arrangements and film projects, he received his masters from the Juilliard School.

For the stage, he has conducted more than sixty different operas in seven different languages. His engagements have taken him to many of the world’s best loved opera houses including the Teatro dell’Opera, Roma; Teatro Bellini, Catania; Teatro Filarmonico, Verona; Teatro Reggio, Torino; Teatro Verdi, Trieste; Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Bonn Opera, Teatro Massimo, Palermo, English National Opera as well as the American opera companies of San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia, Seattle, Detroit, Opera Pacific, Florida Grand, Pittsburgh, Dallas and Cincinnati. In addition to Maestro Mercurio’s operatic repertoire, his symphonic appearances have spanned the globe appearing throughout Europe and the United Kingdom, with numerous Italian orchestras, Australia, the Far East and broadly throughout the United States.

Maestro Mercurio has conducted countless operatic and symphonic television broadcasts including the internationally acclaimed, ”Christmas in Vienna” series highlighted by the best-selling “Three Tenors” (Carreras – Domingo – Pavarotti). In addition to several now classic PBS broadcast specials (“American Dream – Andrea Bocelli’s Statue of Liberty concert”) Maestro Mercurio also led the 20th Anniversary Richard Tucker Opera Gala with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Maestro Mercurio also played a lead role in creating the stage show for the worldwide tour and DVD recording of Sting’s “Symphonicities” (“Live from Berlin” Deutsche Grammophon). Other distinguished telecasts have included Maestro Mercurio conducting the RAI’s production of “Christmas from the Church of San Francesco in Assisi,” and “La Boheme” from Cagliari, the Spoleto Festival performances of Berlioz’s “Requiem,” Scriabin’s “Prometheus,” Mahler’s “Second Symphony,” an evening featuring the music of Chick Corea and Mozart with the Youth Orchestra of Santa Cecilia and in June 2020, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 with his own Czech National Symphony Orchestra for ARTE in commemoration of the global orchestral Beethoven 250th Anniversary celebration.

Maestro Mercurio recently released Strauss’ “Death and Transfiguration and Metamorphosen,” on Audiophile Recordings with the Czech National Symphony.  His recording of “A Grateful Tail,” the only symphonic tribute to dogs and people who love them, which he scored and produced for large orchestra, chorus and a singing actor was released in 2013 and featured Academy Award winning actor F. Murray Abraham.  Operatic recordings by Maestro Mercurio include “Il Trovatore,” “Pagliacci,” and “Cavalleria Rusticana” for Decca Records and “Manon Lescaut” with the Teatro de la Maestranza, Seville.  He has conducted and produced many acclaimed vocal collections including “Verdi Arias” with soprano Daniela Dessi, “Romanze e Canzoni” an homage to Gigli with tenor Fabio Armiliato and, three albums with tenor Marcello Giordani.  Mercurio’s own original recording of vocal songs, “Many Voices,” was recorded with the Prague Philharmonia  for SONY Classics.  Maestro Mercurio’s relationship with SONY Classical has also led him to collaborate on a great number of recordings including“Storyteller,” featuring compositions by Wynton Marsalis, Patrick Doyle and Edgar Meyer, three violin concertos with the composer-violinist Mark O’Connor and a Grammy Award winning CD with Chick Corea.

Maestro Mercurio has conducted a wide range of premieres including the U.S. premiere of Zemlinsky’s “Der Zwerg,” for the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, performed and recorded Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” at the Teatro de la Maestranza in Seville and with the Teatro Verdi in Trieste, gave the world premiere and recording of Zandonai’s “I Cavalieri di Ekebu.”  For the Spoleto Festival in Italy, he performed Menotti’s opera, “Goya” (recorded for Nuova Era), Puccini’s “Il Trittico,” Berg’s “Wozzeck,” Korngold’s “Die Tote Stadt,” Shostakovich’s “The Nose” and John Corigliano’s “Symphony No.1.” Among his accomplishments was the highly acclaimed Italian premiere of the complete version of Zemlinsky’s “Der Zwerg,” for the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Italian premiere of Andre Previn’s, “Streetcar Named Desire,” in Torino and the Italian premiere of Kurt Weill’s “Lady in the Dark” in Palermo and Rome. He conducted a new production of Verdi’s “La Traviata” for the Staatsoper Bonn, and London’s English National Opera, Puccini’s “La Boheme” and Offenbach’s “Les Contes d’Hoffman” for the San Francisco Opera.

As a composer, Maestro Mercurio’s compositions include songs, chamber works, and pieces for large orchestra. His large scale orchestral work, ”For Lost Loved Ones,” was given its world premiere by Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. “Mercurial Overture,” was given its world premiere by the Oslo Philharmonic in a live concert telecast honoring the Nobel Peace Prize winners, Médicins sans Frontières. Maestro Mercurio’s symphony, “A Grateful Tail,” is based on American playwright Eugene O’Neill’s “Last Will and Testament of Silverdene Emblem O’Neill” and premiered in Prague in 2013.

Maestro Mercurio is an acclaimed and sought after arranger and collaborator and has created arrangements for a wide array of performers across multiple genres including Sting and Chick Corea. Most recently, he served as arranger, conductor and producer for Andrea Bocelli’s best-selling recording “Believe.” In 2022, he produced, arranged and conducted superstar crossover cellist HAUSER’s new recording for Sony Masterworks, “The Player.”

Apollo 13 in Concert poster

Chloë Hanslip, violin

Chloë Hanslip established herself as an artist of distinction on the international stage as a teenager, making her BBC Proms debut at fourteen and her US concerto debut at fifteen. She has gone on to perform at major venues in the UK (Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall) and Europe (Vienna Musikverein, Hamburg Laeiszhalle, Paris Louvre and Salle Gaveau, St Petersburg Hermitage), as well as Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Arts Space in Tokyo and Seoul Arts Centre.

Highlights of the 23–24 season include concertos with London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Singapore Symphony, Gävle Symphony and Czech National Symphony Orchestras. She also records lesser-known concertos by Robert Russell Bennett and Vernon Duke for Chandos Records, with Singapore Symphony and conductor Andrew Litton, and tours the UK with Czech National Symphony. She returns to the Wigmore Hall twice alongside regular duo partner Danny Driver, including a BBC Radio 3 live broadcast.

Hanslip’s musical curiosity covers the entire concerto repertoire from Britten and Delius to Barber and Bernstein. She has a particular passion for contemporary music, championing works by John Adams, Philip Glass, John Corigliano, Michael Nyman, Huw Watkins, Michael Berkeley, Peter Maxwell Davies and Brett Dean. This broad range is also represented by an extensive discography, her latest releases including the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas on Rubicon Classics with Danny Driver.

A committed chamber musician, Hanslip is a regular participant at festivals across Europe, including Båstad, West Cork, Prussia Cove and Kutna Hora with recital partners including Angela Hewitt, Danny Driver and Charles Owen. Alongside her performing career, Chloë is a Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music and an Ambassador for the charity Future Talent.

Hanslip studied with Russian pedagogue Zakhar Bron and has also worked with Christian Tetzlaff, Robert Masters, Ida Haendel, Salvatore Accardo and Gerhard Schulz. She plays a Nicol  Amati violin kindly loaned to her through the Beare’s International Violin Society by a generous sponsor.

Performances have included with Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Beethoven Orchester Bonn, Bern Symphony Orchestra, Bremen Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Lahti Symphony, Moscow State Symphony, Norwegian Radio, Real Filharmonia Galicia, Vienna Tonkünstler Orchester, Hamburg Symfoniker, Czech National Symphony, Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, Orchestra Regionale Toscana, Helsingborg

Symphony, Royal Flemish Philharmonic and the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, Malaysia Philharmonic, Adelaide Symphony, Auckland Philharmonina and Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

Hanslip has collaborated with conductors such as Sir Andrew Davis, Mariss Jansons, Paavo Järvi, Charles Dutoit, Giordano Bellincampi, Jakub Hrusa, Pietari Inkinen, Susanna Mälkki, Gianandrea Noseda, Tadaaki Otaka, Vasily Petrenko, Vassily Sinaisky, Dmitri Slobodeniouk, Alexander Vedernikov, Juraj Valcuha and Xian Zhang.

Previous recordings include concertos by John Adams with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Slatkin and Bruch Concertos with the London Symphony Orchestra on Warner Classics, for which she won a Classical BRIT, as well as recital discs on Hyperion (York Bowen, Medtner) and concertos by Vieuxtemps, Schoeck and Glazunov.

Apollo 13 in Concert poster

Mark Bebbington, piano

The critical plaudits which have greeted Mark Bebbington’s performances and recordings have singled him out as a British pianist of the rarest refinement and maturity (“Bebbington is without doubt one of Britain’s finest pianists.” wrote Michel Fleury recently in Classica).

Internationally recognised as a champion of British music, in particular, Mark has recorded extensively for the Somm label to critical acclaim, with no fewer than nine of his recent CDs awarded 5* by BBC Music Magazine. Recent CDs include three British Piano Concertos with the City of

Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, an all-Gershwin album with Leon Botstein and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (‘Recording of the Month’ from MusicWeb International). A CD of Concertos by Grieg (including the premiere of his sketches for a Second Piano Concerto, edited by Robert Matthew- Walker) and Delius with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Jan Latham-Koenig was released in April 2018 and became ‘CD of the Week’ in The Times and Mail on Sunday. Most recently, Mark’s new recordings on Resonus Classics of works by Francis Poulenc with conductor Jan Latham-Koenig and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (featuring Poulenc’s Piano Concerto, the rarely-recorded piano version of the Concert champêtre, the Trio for Piano, Oboe & Bassoon, and the Sonata for Oboe & Piano) have received glowing reviews and a short-listed nomination for a Gramophone award.

Mark’s premiere recordings include an Arnold Bax’s Piano Concertino coupled with John Ireland’s Piano Concerto and Legend, and premieres of Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia and William Mathias’s first two Piano Concertos (Ulster Orchestra). In addition to concerto recordings, Mark completed his John Ireland and Frank Bridge solo piano series and released a CD of piano works by William Alwyn in 2017.

As well as his BBC Music Magazine success, he has won Gramophone Magazine’s ‘Editor’s Choice’ International Record Review’s ‘Outstanding’ accolade and many others. International Piano Magazine wrote of him, “Bebbington’s revivals of British piano music are second to none; he could well be dubbed the concert pianists’ Richard Hickox. Bebbington has almost single-handedly demonstrated that 20th-century British piano scores have an exciting role to play in the concert hall and recording studio”.

Over recent seasons Mark has toured throughout Central and Northern Europe and in the United States (both as recitalist and as soloist with some of the world’s leading orchestras), as well as the Far East and North Africa. In 2017 he made his Carnegie Hall debut with Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra and also appeared with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra and on tour with the Israel Camerata and Czech National Orchestra. Within the UK, he has appeared in concertos with the London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia Orchestras, Flanders Symphony Orchestra, the London Mozart Players, Orchestra of the Swan and BBC Concert Orchestra. He has featured both as soloist and recitalist on BBC Television and Radio and also on major European Television and Radio networks.

Mark studied at the Royal College of Music where he was a recipient of numerous international awards and prizes, including a Leverhulme Scholarship, a Winston Churchill Fellowship and the Ivan Sutton Recording Prize – the latter awarded to the one outstanding graduate of the combined London Music Colleges. He later studied in Italy with the legendary Aldo Ciccolini.

Mark’s programming demonstrates a commitment to the music of our time and he regularly includes contemporary composers as diverse as Takemitsu, Julian Anderson, John McCabe, David Matthews, Pierre Boulez and Elliot Carter in his recital series.

Apollo 13 in Concert poster



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