Who or what inspired you to take up conducting and pursue a career in music?
There were lots of influences. Examples of many famous and less famous conductors. Among all, I’d mention the American Leonard Bernstein and in my own country Jiří Bělohlávek, whose conducting I could observe personally. It happened when I was a teenager. I found out for myself then that I wanted MUSIC to be a central point of my life. My psyche and specific talents somehow indicated conducting would be the best path, although at that time I could imagine to go into many other professions.
Who or what were the most important influences on your musical life and career?
Definitely my parents and grandparents at first (even though no one in my family is a professional musician), then my music teachers (especially my trombone and other brass instruments teacher at a primary art school Jiří Vrtek who was also a very skilled and passionate leader of many sorts of wind bands in which I played already as a kid), then the conductor of my student symphony orchestra in Brno Tomáš Krejčí who gave me my first, highly desired conducting opportunities and found me a conducting teacher – and finally aforementioned Jiří Bělohlávek with whom I studied at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague after I had graduated from what we call “gymnasium” (a grammar school in English). And obviously a lot of splendid (and less splendid) recordings – LPs, cassettes, later CDs.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
There is a lot of details which I cannot mention. Difficult to choose. Some of my “jump-in” experiences (Carmen or La bohème without rehearsals), some of the difficult operas, even if rehearsed (Mihalovici’s Krapp or The Last Tape, for example), some of the contemporary premieres (lately Olga Neuwirth’s percussion concerto Zero-Zone, for instance), first Le Sacre also wasn’t as easy. These particularities shouldn’t cover the substantial challenge, though: to find the most direct and inspirational way how to communicate with every orchestra one leads so that both the players and the audiences are enriched and happy…
Which performance/recordings are you most proud of?
I think both Má vlast recordings I’ve made so far – the first with The Prague Philharmonia, taken live in 2010 at the Prague Spring Festival, and the second the brand new now with the Bamberg Symphony – are both quite representative. That’s as for recordings. I cannot say about the performances. There were too many (and too many details!) which I really loved. I was rather proud as I graduated ambitiously from the Academy in 2004, performing my beloved Asrael Symphony by Suk by heart. I kind of tasted where my abilities could go.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
Works with great intelligence and highly emotional contents.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
It’s always a complex decision. I’m personally putting a great deal of new pieces for me to learn each season, to make progress in my knowledge (and enjoyment) of a wide repertoire. “My” orchestras (such as Bamberg now) have their own portfolios with which I’m working closely and sensibly. As soon as the main focuses are clear, I’m also trying to enable myself (and my orchestra[s]) to get deeper in the pieces – and that means repeating them, also at various places. And I have been trying to find the right balance for years now between orchestral stuff and opera. Some seasons are more operatic, some less. (I think my programmes are very well balanced in terms of Czech/Slavic/European/international music now. The same for all possible styles, even if, roughly put, years 1750–1950 prevail.)
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Several of them. I would definitely mention some of the older halls in Europe and America, above all my national “home” at Rudolfinum in Prague, Musikverein in Vienna, Concertgebouw in Amsterdam or Severance Hall in Cleveland. And then some of the newer marvels: Suntory Hall in Tokyo and the Symphony Hall in Osaka, Philharmonie in Berlin, Gewandhaus in Leipzig, the new Helsinki Music Centre, the Los Angeles Walt Disney Concert Hall… I like my professional home in Bamberg, too. And I’m looking forward to performing at the Philharmonie in Paris where I haven’t been on stage yet. I liked it in the audience a lot.
Who are your favourite musicians?
So many that it wouldn’t fit on one page.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Never to stop working hard – but in a relaxed manner. And to be personal – without wilfulness.
What about your new position at Bamberg excites you the most?
The amazing and open-minded musicality of the players there – combined with great characters (in playing/music and in psychology). And the city’s devotion to culture.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A complete balance – of mind (brain), emotions and spiritual connections, of work and doing nothing, of pleasing myself meaningfully and serving others, of Dionysian and Apollonian……And that also accompanied by sounds of blissful music.
Born in the Czech Republic and described by Gramophone as ‘on the verge of greatness’, Jakub Hrůša is Chief Conductor of Bamberg Symphony, Permanent Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, Principal Guest Conductor of Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra (TMSO), and served as Music Director and Chief Conductor of PKF–Prague Philharmonia from 2009 to 2015.
He is a regular guest with many of the world’s greatest orchestras. Recent highlights have included Bohemian Legends and The Mighty Five – two major series specially devised for the Philharmonia Orchestra; a two-week focus on Martinů and Roussel for Orchestra Philharmonique de Radio France; and performances with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, DSO Berlin, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Last season, he made his débuts with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Filarmonica della Scala.