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With Ash Wednesday, which this year fell on 14/2, ended for us the period of revelry linked to it – parades, feasts and other forms of entertainment. The four-week period of Lent has begun, culminating in the celebration of Easter. The last few days before Ash Wednesday are the time of masopust, fašank, vostatek and končiny. These are all Czech local names for traditional processions and costumed celebrations. The festivities have a very long tradition of celebrating the solstice, predating Christianity and reaching far back into antiquity. They take place in various forms throughout Europe. In South Moravia there are several places where the folk tradition of the celebration of fašank has become famous thanks to its specific form. The best known of these is the village of Strání, where for the whole weekend until Tuesday’s burial of basses a Festival of Masopust Traditions takes place.
The JazzFestBrno international music festival has revealed its programme for the 17th year, which will last from 1 February to 10 May 2018. Along with the earlier announced concerts by Wynton Marsalis, Avishai Cohen, Brad Mehldau and Donny McCaslin there will also be other famous names in jazz like the big band of Christian McBride, the guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, the drummer Omar Hakim, the pianist Kenny Barron and Vincent Peirani.
Today the design team made up of Tomasz Konior (POL), Yasuhisa Toyota (US) and Petr Hrůša (Czech Republic) and the representatives of the city of Brno signed a contract for the design documentation for a building permit and the design documentation for the second stage of the Janáček Cultural Centre. This will be the new concert hall that for decades Brno has been waiting for.
At the end of November, a CD entitled Moravian Voices was released. Modest at a first glance, this album should definitely not miss out on your attention. This music carrier is a part of the Song of the Soul project, whose promoter is Jiří Plocek. Its aim was to introduce the phenomenon of Moravian singability with the example of some areas of Slovácko (Moravian Slovakia).
After more than fifty years The Queen of Spades by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is returning to the repertoire of the national Theatre Brno. The premiere on 17 February in the Mahen Theatre of the production by Martin Glaser also involves one more return for music theatre – after more than sixty years Soňa Červená will once more being treading the boards in Brno.
Music-lovers in Brno like to remember the visit Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart made to the city at the turn of 1767-68. The theme of the third subscription concert of the Brno Philharmonic from the cycle The Philharmonic at Home I was however the composer’s visit to Prague. And this was not without reason. Prague has an indisputable place in the professional career of the most significant representative of Viennese classicism. To go with the chosen theme the programme creators chose important milestones in the composer’s output that were linked to Prague and its inhabitants. The Brno Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Alexander Liebreich and the pianist was Saleem Ashkar.
The three musketeers in fact numbered four. In the same way 3fo3 (which reads as “three fotři” – a play on words since ‘fotr’ is an unflattering term for father) is made up of four members. To the founding members of Bombarďák, Michal Dalecký, Jiří Jelínek and Filip Nebřenský, Matěj Pospíšil was added as a kind of d’Artagnan. However otherwise everything has stayed the same. Bombarďák – or rather the lyricist Jiří Jelínek – speaks to kids with a dynamic language full of fashionable and modern expressions. In the space of very brief songs (on average under two minutes) they are able to tell humorous tales full of wordplay and situational humour. One song follows on from another, mostly upbeat, with speaking as well as singing, on the borders of song and theatrical sketch, but all fitting together well.
Hits like Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever or How Deep Is Your Love sung beautifully, and wonderfully constructed and danced choreography in shiny disco costumes, and three exceptional performances in the main roles. That is the currency of the new Brno musical Saturday Night Fever. The director Stanislav Moša staged it in the Municipal Theatre.
Brno is a city full of contrasts. A short walk through its centre reveals curious contrasts: the Rozkvět passage next to the House of the Lords of Lipá or the Omega department store inserted into the historic centre are clear examples. The Brno Philharmonic also bases its musical production on the contrast of old with new. More than once I have praised the fresh programmes of the concerts, which go for contrasting musical works and present combinations of compositions which are rarely heard alongside each other. In the case of the concert entitled Romantic Fairy Tales of 24 January however the programme was down to earth. There were no sudden dissonances or odd instrumental combinations and the musical language did not depart from the moderately conventional. However we do not have only the contrasts of old and new, known and unknown, but unfortunately also between quality and its absence and not last between interesting and dull.
For what is already the sixth time the National Theatre Brno has presented promising choreographers from among its own ranks. Yesterday in the Reduta Theatre there was the premiere of another year of the unusual project entitled Choreographic Studio. Nine mini productions were performed by soloists and members of the company to their own choreography.
When you mention “Greek song”, someone might think of Děti z Pirea (called Never on Sunday in English) as performed by Yvetta Simonová and Milan Chladil (or the even older version by Eva Martinová and Karel Duda). Somewhat closer to the present are Martha and Tena Elefteriadu, who are still giving concerts even in the 2018 season and what is more organising courses in Greek dance. The sisters, who alongside Greek music were also active in the field of rock and pop (and Martha’s album Kresby tuší – ‘Ink Drawings’ - is a treasure), according to the young Brno author and musician Jannis Moras “prepared the way” for a new generation of Greek interpreters. In Brno at present there are a number of active groups singing in Greek and a central figure for this community of musicians is Jannis himself, one of three musically active Moras brothers. All three play with their father in the group I Parea, Jannis plays in rebetiko style in the group Anatoli and aside from that has his own group Jannis Moras & banda. There, alongside his brothers Alexis (bass guitar) and Markos (drums) there are two young ladies – Iva Oulehlová (flute and clarinet) and Zuzana Mitrengová (vocals). While Jannis Moras & banda in their vocals, harmonies and of course lyrics in what is for us the exotic language of Greek remind us of traditional music, in reality it is a folk-rock group, which plays exclusively the songs of its leader. And at present Jannis Moras is one of Brno’s most interesting singer-songwriters.
If you went to the Brno Philharmonic’s New Year Concert expecting a serious, rigorous celebration, with measured and distinguished entertainment, most probably you left extremely disappointed. In your frustration you may have complained and muttered: what was this conducting dance creation, why did they clap to the rhythm of the Radetzky March and primarily – why were we made to sing? And the programme! Last year at least there was Smetana, but this year? Just waltzes and polkas, operettas and whipped cream! If you are not a bitter grouch, it is likely that along with the Brno Philharmonic you danced into 2018 with ease and sprightliness.