The Rudolfinum in Prague can boast what is probably one of Europe’s most beautiful concert halls. So whenever I plan a visit to the “Golden City”, I head to the legendary Dvořák Hall—where the Czech Philharmonic regularly performs—to catch an evening concert.

On one trip to Prague last February, I saw that the Rudolfinum’s concert schedule included a programme with Igor Stravinsky’s Le sacre du printemps, one of my absolute favourite pieces. The announcement was in Czech—and I must admit that I gave it but a fleeting glance. The indicated playing time of two hours did, however, give me a moment’s pause—after all, it’s well known that this piece is just a bit over 30 minutes in length. I didn’t give it much thought, though, figuring it was maybe just a printing error. Upon entering the concert hall, I noticed the many young people seated there—but even then, I didn’t suspect anything unusual. Perhaps young people in Prague were just disproportionately interested in classical music? True surprise only hit me when the orchestra members took their seats: all of the musicians were likewise young. Had I stumbled into a school performance? It was shortly thereafter that two men took the stage to enthusiastic applause and then began speaking with wild gesticulations. I couldn’t understand a single word. The orchestra then played one, two bars of the piece, whereupon the two men spoke a couple of words between them and began clapping a rhythm. Everyone joined in—as I soon did, too. It was the meter of a particular passage in the piece—and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d stumbled upon an evening devoted to explaining Le sacre du printemps: music mediation in the concert hall. The orchestra played various excerpts again and again, with the two men clapping individual bars or explaining a passage that the musicians would then repeat multiple times.

Although I had no idea of exactly what was being said, I understood it all—and stayed until the end. The evening ultimately concluded with a performance of the entire piece, which I felt like I’d never heard with such intensity as right then and there.

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