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Fresh start for Philharmonic

THE SLOVAK Philharmonic opened its 56th season last week with two concerts under the new leadership of general director Marian Lapšanský and chief conductor Vladimír Válek. Alterations in the programme structure reflected this change at the top.

The 2004/2005 season will introduce a new cycle by the Bohdan Warchal Slovak Chamber Orchestra, while retaining the traditional repetoire of the institution's ensembles - the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, early-music ensemble Musica Aeterna, and the Moyzes Quartet.

Marian Lapšanský, a piano virtuoso, will grace the stage twice, and Vladimír Válek will lead the orchestra five times. The programme will include the premieres of several Slovak compositions, see guest appearances by renowned soloists, and further develop ties with musicians from the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.

"I noticed that previously there were few Polish and Hungarian artists included in the programme. We have to try to work with these countries in order to gain Visegrad funds," the director said.

Lapšanský, who keeps the position he was temporarily assigned in June, would like the orchestra to regain the position he feels it has lost in recent years.

Apart from renewing contacts with Slovakia's neighbours, he wants to record new works, get other ensembles and orchestras to perform in Bratislava, and hold concerts in the Slovak regions. The most important factor in achieving all this was to appoint a new chief conductor.

A Czech, Vladimír Válek's career includes a 12-year stint with the Prague Symphonic Orchestra. Since 1985 he has led the Czech Radio Symphonic Orchestra, and since 1996 he has conducted the Czech Philharmonic. Two seasons ago he was named the main guest conductor of the Osaka Symphony Orchestra. Válek has organised his numerous activities so he can fully meet his contract commitments to the Slovak Philharmonic.

"It is a great orchestra. I never thought that one day I might become its chief conductor. But when I was asked, I was very happy," said Válek, who has worked with the orchestra in the past.

The conductor has signed a contract for three years during which he plans to develop the orchestra's programme set by his predecessors; he thinks that one day a Slovak should conduct the orchestra.

"I should find my successor from among the young Slovak conductors. I will do what I can," he promised.

As is now usual, Válek has to be able to conduct everything. The repertoire he is preparing in cooperation with the orchestra is wide, which, in his opinion, means an interesting experience for listeners. By presenting popular works and bringing famous stars to attract a wide audience, he wants to "smuggle out" lesser known works.

He also plans to introduce more Slovak composers, who he thinks are undervalued in Slovakia.

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