The long-delayed premiere of the composition The Basement Sketches by composer Michal Nejtek, whose performance was planned for June 2020 and which was commissioned by the Brno Philharmonic, was finally performed on Thursday 25 November at the Community Hall (Besední dům) venue. Together with the Cellar Sketches, the Variations on a Theme by Haydn in B flat major, Op. 56a by Johannes Brahms and Cello Concerto Op. 22 by Samuel Barber were played. In addition to Brno Philharmonic players, cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Nikol Bóková also performed. The dramaturgically varied evening, consisting of three distinctly different musical pieces of work and period contexts, was led by the ensemble’s chief conductor Dennis Russell Davies.
On Monday 22 November, the second concert of the Brno Contemporary Orchestra’s festive tenth season, entitled Kamenné mantry (Stone Mantras), presented compositions by Fausto Romitelli, Michal Rataj, Miloslav Ištvan and the recently deceased (well known to Brno audiences) Lithuanian composer Bronius Kutavičius. In addition to the orchestra itself, there were also soprano singer Irena Troupová, marimba player Martin Opršál and reciter Pavel Zajíc, who replaced Otakar Blaha in the programme. The concert, organised in cooperation with the Moravian Museum, was conducted by the artistic director of the ensemble Pavel Šnajdr.
The work by the British composer Benjamin Britten forms an essential part of contemporary opera production. Worldwide, he is even the most frequently staged author born in the 20th century. Peter Grimes, with a libretto by Montagu Slater based on a poem by George Crabbe, became the opera that set the course for Britten's next musical-dramatic works. And it is with the title Peter Grimes that the Brno National Theatre has opened the opera part of the 2021/2022 season. The story of a rough and tumble fisherman, whose two young apprentices die soon after each other and who as a result sails out to sea, where he sinks his boat and himself with it, had its Czechoslovak premiere in Brno in June 1947. Almost 75 years after, the story of a fishing village, resentment, cruelty and gossip is now coming to life again in the Janáček Theatre, directed by David Radok and with a musical score by Marko Ivanović. The title role was played by tenor Joachim Bäckström and the widowed teacher Ellen Orford, who found affection in Grimes, was portrayed by soprano Jana Šrejma Kačírková. This is not the first time that these two have met on stage together – it was with Mark Ivanović and David Radok that they had previously joined forces for the play Juliette / Lidský hlas (Juliette/The Human Voice). Jana Hrochová (Auntie), Andrea Široká (Niece), Tereza Kyzlinková (Niece), Svatopluk Sem (Balstrode), Jitka Sapara-Fischerová (Mrs. Nabob Sedley), Jan Št'áva (Swallow), Vít Nosek (Bob Boles), Petr Levíček (Horace Adams), David Nykl (Hobson), Jiří Hájek (Ned Keene) and Ivo Šiler (Dr. Crabbe) were also featured, along with the others.
Under the “cipher” 29/2 (reads as “Twenty-ninth February”) there is a band that was created for a bit of fun. They used compositional techniques that should not work in songwriting at all. It has united musicians who, by definition, perhaps can never understand each other. And yet the result is an album of very strong songs that, despite all the experimentalism, makes sense and works as a whole.
Yesterday, Visitors to the Brno City Theatre experienced the Czech premiere of the Broadway musical hit Pretty Woman. Directed by Stanislav Moša, this theatrical adaptation of the famous blockbuster highlighted the strengths of the movie. Until the break, the viewer is mostly laughing royally and having fun in this tale of a modern Cinderella, and then in the second half the impressiveness and lyricism of the whole title is especially pronounced.
One of the biggest attractions of this year's Olomouc Baroque Festival was the performance of the oratorio David by the Austrian composer Karl Ditters. It was the perfect opportunity to do so, after all – this year the work celebrates 250 years since its creation. Ditters composed the oratorio to a text by Ignazio Pinto in 1771 and in the same year it had its premiere at the castle of Bishop Philipp Gotthard Schaffgotsch of Wrocław on the Jánský Vrch (John´s Hill) near Javorník. In the musical production of violinist and artistic director of Volantes Orchestra Veronika Manová and conductor Ema Mikešová the oratorio was first performed in concert in Brno at the Church of St. Johns (4 August), then on 7 August in Podzámecká zahrada – a garden of the Archbishop’s Chateau in Kroměříž, and, finally, on 12–14 August in the Ambit and Basilica of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary on the Svatý Kopeček (Holy Hill) near Olomouc. The event of 12 August was the performance I visited. In addition to Volantes Orchestra, there were members of other ensembles – Arte dei Suonatori (PL), Il Cuore Barocco (SK), Musica Aeterna (HU) and Societas Incognitorum (CZ). In this aspect, this is another event from the series of concerts organised under the auspices of the festival which bring together musical ensembles from the Visegrad Four. However, there are also performers from other countries – Slovenia, Northern Macedonia and Great Britain. The solo roles were performed by: Doubravka Součková (David), Aco Bišćević (Saul, King of Israel), Helena Hozová (Jonathan, son of Saul), Jiří Miroslav Procházka (Abner, warlord) and Aneta Petrasová (Eliab, David’s brother). The concert was directed by Rocc; the choreography was designed by Sanja Nešković Peršin and costumes were rendered by Borjan Litovski.
Traditions, costumes, songs and often special food. This is the basis of folk culture, which is strongly rooted in Moravia. Interest in it has been growing recently – the Czech Republic is taking it as one of the bases of its promotion for domestic and foreign tourists. What is folklore actually about? Are young people coming back to it? And what makes it interesting? We interviewed Marie Hvozdecká, a music editor focusing on folklore at Czech Radio and also a long-time programmer of the folklore scene at the Brno Music Marathon Festival. As she says, “having an interest in folk music is a good thing. However, in order to remake it into a new form, one must know its origin and meaning, otherwise it becomes a mockery.”
The Brno Music Marathon Festival will include a world music scene for the first time this year. In addition to the award-winning Bosnian singer-songwriter Damir Imamović and the female vocal group Kata from the exotic Faroe Islands, the group Spilar from Belgium will perform in the Biskupský dvůr venue on Saturday 14 August. Its first album Stormweere reached number eight on the World Music Charts Europe, the official partner of the scene and compiled by leading radio music writers from across Europe, last November. We interviewed Maarten Decombel, one of the founders of the group.
American singer-songwriter Leyla McCalla is claiming her Haitian roots. She lives in Louisiana and connects the traditional musical genres of the U.S. South with the culture of the island where her ancestors came from. On Tuesday, 27 July, we will be able to hear her voice and songs live at the festival of Folkové prázdniny (Folk Holidays) in Náměšt' nad Oslavou.
You will read in the media about the impact of coronavirus on the level of teaching in compulsory schools. There is less talk of art schools. Yet a quarter of a million children attend primary art schools (PAS). What do these bring to us and to children? What makes them special? I put these and not only these questions to Pavel Borský, cellist of Indigo Quartet (a string ensemble), programmer of the musical scene of the Brno Music Marathon Festival, teacher at the Faculty of Theatre of JAMU and at V. Kaprálové PAS Brno as well as regional coordinator of the ZUŠ Open festival. As he himself pointed out, the exact impact of distance learning on art school students is yet to be seen, but the online environment has taught many children how to communicate better using modern technology.
How challenging is it to make it as a composer in this day and age? And does it require more than just musical knowledge and talent? We had a conversation with a renowned composer of many genres, a pianist and comedian in his own way. This is what Zdeněk Král is – a native of Nový Bor and the programmer of the Brno Music Marathon Festival, he has already performed at the show three times, and this year he added a whole dramaturgy of one stage called Humour in Music to his performance. As he himself says, “I want to show that even in the field of so-called classical music there can be room for humour and comedy.”
Thirty-one years. It has been exactly that long since the founding of the Brno-based Indies label, which has released hundreds of albums of Czech music during its existence. PR Manager Přemysl Štěpánek takes care of the promotion of one of the current successors, the Indies Scope label. Apart from the current state of the label, we also discussed the way of promoting Czech artists, his dramaturgical plan for the Brno Music Marathon Festival and the representation of the Hungarian Sziget Festival in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Yesterday's concert, which took place as part of the Concentus Moraviae festival, entitled Scarlet Venice and featuring violinist, flute and piano player Anna Fusek along with lute and theorbo player Gianluca Geremia, was among the very first evenings indoors that classical music lovers were able to attend after the long, pandemic-forced pause. The chronologically compiled agenda presented those who paid a visit to the Church of All Saints, Moravský Krumlov, with works by early 16th century composers, the origins of the new style and compositions by late Baroque masters.
On this very day (19 May) an event will start in Valašské Meziříčí which all the dulcimer players from almost all over the world have been looking forward to for two years. It is the 14th International Dulcimer Festival, which has been held in this town every odd year since 1995. This year, it is sure to be rather modest due to the pandemic situation; the organizers are going to stream some of the concerts, while others will be broadcast on the Czech Radio stations Vltava and Brno. This year, Michal Grombiřík, a dulcimer player, became the first ever such musician admitted to the Jazz Music Interpretation Department of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU). What is the path from a traditional folk song, through classical music to jazz music, and what exactly is Michal going to do at the aforementioned dulcimer festival? We covered all these topics in our conversation.
This year marks the 1100th anniversary of the death of St. Ludmila, an important personality of Czech history and patroness of the Czech lands. To mark the occasion, the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno is preparing a concert at the venue of the Community Hall (Besední dům), featuring an oratorio by composer Petr Fiala, The Baptism of Saint Ludmila, set to a text by poet Zuzana Nováková-Renčová. Together with the Choir and the Czech Virtuosi orchestra, actress Simona Postlerová will perform.
Brno Contemporary Orchestra will once again perform in a non-traditional space. This time they will play under the direction of conductor Pavel Šnajdr at Anthropos in Brno. They will present spectacular compositions by Italian composer Fausto Romitelli, a post-modern chamber cantata by Miloslav Ištvan, the work entitled Hours of the Past by the recently deceased Lithuanian composer Bronius Kutavičius and a composition by Michal Rataj, composed directly for BCO.
The International Biennial Percussion Instrument Festival returns to the Orlí Street Theatre, but only after three years due to last year’s pandemic situation. Students from music schools in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland will meet in Brno to exchange experiences. The event offers five concerts for the public over three days, a gala opening of a photographic exhibition and the opportunity to try out various percussion instruments as part of the “PerkuSeanse” project. Students are then invited to workshops with well-known percussionists.
UNESCO and the ZUŠ Open festival prepared the exceptional benefit concert. The song recital will take place on Monday, 13 December at 7 p.m. in Brno's Besední dům and will also be available as a live video broadcast. The purpose of the evening is to support and raise the profile of the unique Czech system of Primary Art Schools (ZUŠ).
The 21st annual jazz festival is characterized by big bands and connecting world-renowned musicians with Czech ones. Among the performers will be Maria Schneider’s Orchestra, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra in conjunction with Dan Bárta, pianist Brad Mehldau in a Bach-based programme with the Brno Philharmonic, double bass player Christian McBride’s quintet and guitarist Lionel Loueke, both solo and in a project with his Czech musical guests.