Although this year’s 28th edition of the Concentus Moraviae international music festival embraces the theme Between Kroměříž and Vienna, the three-day project Island of Lutes by virtuoso lutenist and guitarist Pierre Pitzl holds a special place in its program design. From 16 to 18 June, the lute, vihuela or baroque guitar brought life to the castle grounds in Lysice and Rájec-Jestřebí with performances of works by Renaissance and early Baroque composers. The noteworthy culmination of the project was prepared by the organizers of the festival on Saturday, 17 June on the premises of the Rájce-Jestřebí Chateau. In addition to the vihuela and Baroque guitar player Pierre Pitzl, it also featured Renaissance lute player Ryosuke Sakamoto and theorbist David Bergmülller.
For the twenty-eighth year running, the Concentus Moraviae International Music Festival presents dramaturgically varied and interpretively refined evenings set not only in concert halls, but also in courtyards and chateau salons, castle halls, basilicas, churches and synagogues. The theme of this year’s 28th edition is Between Kroměříž and Vienna. Vienna, the cultural centre of Europe, served as the seat of the Habsburg emperors, while Kroměříž was the home of the archbishops of Olomouc. The dramaturgy of this year’s edition was prepared by a trio of respected experts: the Dean of the JAMU Faculty of Music, harpsichordist, organist and musicologist Barbara Maria Willi; historian, musicologist and choirmaster Vladimír Maňas; and Otto Biba, Austrian musicologist and long-time director of the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde archive.
The Brno Philharmonic’s headquarters and one of Brno’s most important historical and cultural landmarks – the Besední dům – celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Exactly on 3 April 1873, when the auditorium (great hall) of the building designed by architect Theophil von Hansen, author of the famous Musikverein in Vienna, was ceremonially opened, this magnificent building became the centre of Brno’s culture and its distinctive artistic life. A century and a half later – on Monday 1 May 2023 – an afternoon gathering and a subsequent concert entitled When Smetana First Played in Brno. . . will launch a series of concerts that pay tribute to unique milestones in the city’s cultural history.
I talked to Barbara Maria Willi, the dean of the Faculty of Music at the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts, dramaturge, teacher, populariser of classical music, harpsichordist, organist and specialist on the hammered dulcimer, about the 20th anniversary edition of the music series Barbara Maria Willi presents..., as well as about historically informed interpretation and further plans. The fact that she was actively teaching a foreign student just before our talk is the best indication of how busy her schedule is.
The latest addition to the concert series organized by the Brno-based Ensemble Opera Diversa is a chamber recital by violinist Milan Paľa and pianist Katarína Paľová entitled “Repentance”. The program, which took place on Sunday 30 October at Villa Stiassni, presented works by composers Valentin Bibik and the recently deceased Roman Berger, whose Adagio No. 2 "Repentance" (Pokánie) inspired the title of the evening.
At the penultimate concert of its tenth year jubilee staged in the Fresco Room of the Comenium Elementary School, the Olomouc Baroque Festival presented an evening with the Musica Florea ensemble. The musicians, conducted by cellist Marek Štryncl, performed a selection of compositions by forgotten classical and early romantic composers Karl Kohaut, Jan Ladislav Dusík and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. The choice of composers was not random – this year it is 210 years since Dusík’s death and 185 years since Hummel’s death. Performing with the ensemble’s core members – violinist Magdalena Malá and Simona Tydlitátová, violist Lýdie Cillerová, cellist Marek Štryncl and bass player Ondřej Štajnochra – was Petra Matějová on the fortepiano.
On 18 and 19 August, the tenth anniversary edition of the Olomouc Baroque Music Festival included a unique dramaturgical treat in its program – one of the most historically important Czech operas which, however, does not appear much on the stages of opera houses or music halls. This is Dráteník (The Tinker), the first original Czech opera composed by František Škroup to a libretto by Josef Krasoslav Chmelenský. It was directed by Kateřina Křivánková, with costumes and set by Sylva Marková and music by Marek Čermák, and performed by the Volantes Orchestra, the festival’s resident ensemble. Singing roles were taken up by Matúš Šimko (Dráteník/Škroup), Lenka Cafourková Ďuricová (Růžena), Vincenc Ignác Novotný (Vojtěch), Zuzana Badárová (Liduška), Aleš Janiga (Květenský), Jiří Miroslav Procházka (Lána), and Martin Vodrážka (Kůl). The purely dramatic roles of Chmelenský – the aforementioned author of the libretto – and Hranatý the guard were played by Martin Mihál. The reviewer visited the premiere performance.
For the seventh time, the multi-genre music festival Brno Music Marathon proved that with precise organization and a little luck, an astonishing amount of music can be packed into one long weekend. From Thursday to Sunday (11-14 August), selected music halls, squares, courtyards, and city streets were filled with the artistic creations of countless bands, ensembles, and specific musical groups of all genres and styles. Lovers of rock, world music, jazz, artistic music, folklore, and improvised music were in for a treat. However, this year’s edition differed from the previous one in one crucial respect: 2022 introduced the first ever artist in residence of the festival, the violinist, flautist, and pianist Anna Fusek.
Just like every year, the Znojmo Music Festival brought its visitors an opera of its own production. For this year's 18th edition, subtitled Returning Home and Our Guardian Angels, the organizers prepared a stage performance of Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Return of Tobias. The Old Testament story about a tested marriage and a blind father was performed by the Czech Ensemble Baroque under the baton of Roman Válek and directed by Tomáš Ondřej Pilař at the premiere on 15 July 2022 (this performance was visited by this author) in the riding hall of the Louka Monastery – the reprise and last performances will take place on the following two days. Shira Patchornik (Sarah), Lucie Kaňková (d'Azaria), Dagmar Šašková (Anna), Theodore Browne (Tobias), and Adam Plachetka (Tobit) performed the solo roles. Costumes were designed by Ivana Ševčíková Miklošková, choreography by Martin Šinták, and lighting design by Tomáš Příkrý.
This year’s 27th edition of the Concentus Moraviae Festival is history after almost a month of music. The gala closing concert at the Zlín Congress Centre presented a program of songs by Ernest Chausson, Igor Stravinsky, Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss, Leoš Janáček and Antonín Dvořák. Magdalena Kožená, mezzo-soprano and patron of the show, performed as a soloist. She was joined by pianist and conductor Sir Simon Rattle, flutist and this year’s Artist in Residence Kaspar Zehnder, violinist Giovanni Guzzo, violinist Rahel Maria Rilling, violist Amihai Grosz, cellist Dávid Adorján, and clarinettist Christopher Richards. Dvořák’s songs were specially arranged for this ensemble by the English composer and conductor Duncan Ward.