The web portal Brno – Music Friendly City is celebrating its sixth birthday. As a symbolic present to our readers we are bringing you the first of our regular monthly contributions from the Brno dramatist, writer and screenwriter Milan Uhde. He will be sharing his memories and thoughts as well as descriptions of current events in the field of culture in Brno. His theme today is the Janáček Brno festival.
A concert organised for an exceptional event took place on Thursday at ZUŠ PhDr. Zbyňka Mrkose (a primary school specialising in music) in Brno’s Židenice district. The event was given the title Cimbálový kolaudační concert (A Cimbalom Commissioning Concert. What exactly was being commissioned? From the title it was evident the main star of the programme was a cimbalom. This big instrument with its velvet tones was not the centre of attention by accident. The item being commissioned was a new cimbalom for the musical inventory of the previously mentioned music school. The manufacturer of the instrument was the Brno company of Všianský. The actual maker Pavel Všianský, a famous musician, also personally took part, telling the participants something about the construction of this instrument.
The Brno singer and artist Dáša Ubrová has sung with a group, performs with a big-band and is close to chanson, jazz and rock. Her album, named simply after her, is important to her and not only because it is her solo debut. It is the first time she has written all the lyrics herself. The music is mainly created by her “court co-workers” and album producers, the pianist Vojtěch Svatoš and the guitarist Pavel Šmíd.
The last week full of musical events culminated in the final round of the Central European Jazz Competition organised by the “neighbouring” jazz festivals – JazzFestBrno and Poysdorf Jazz & Wine. This cross-border musical project has a promising future: the first year of the jazz competition in its final afternoon offered six half-hour blocks of the finalists, who were a surprise with their musical range and the quality of their musicianship.
The second of the accompanying folk concerts of the Janáček Brno festival took place at the Reduta Theatre. And it seems that the bar, set by the first concert, has remained high. The show, called Chodníčky k lidové písni (“Roads to folksong”) was to present one of Janáček’s favourite regions in Slovácko – Horňácko – to the audience. This job was taken on by a cimbalom band with the fitting name of Musica Folklorica.
“Beránci a vlci (“Lambs and wolves”) is my personal vision of Moravian world music,” says Marian Friedl, who is a brilliant player both on his handmade folk flutes and on the jazz bass. It was his experience with different genres, ranging from folk to free jazz, together with the cooperation with style-wise similarly open Jitka Šuranská, that led to the creation of an extraordinary kind of music with roots in the performance Z kořenů k world music (“From roots to world music”) at the Folk Holidays in Náměšť nad Oslavou. Thanks to a grant from the Ministry of Culture, the album Beránci a vlci had the participation of four musical formations of different styles (together comprising of more than twenty musicians and singers) and deservedly won the Anděl prize in the Folk category (newly including the genre of world music). In the meantime, the concert premiere of Beránci a vlci took place in the summer of 2017, again in Náměšť nad Oslavou (with the participation of album publisher Milan Páleš dressed as the sheep grandmother) and other festival performances followed – at the Hradecký slunovrat in Hradec nad Moravicí and at Colours of Ostrava. It was a small dream of Marian Friedl and all his lambs and wolves to bring this music into the aurally clean space of the Brno Sono centre, which was made possible thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign. The roughly hour-long concert was not only merely the performing of the EP, but mainly a huge celebration and maybe even a new start for the project – a new direction towards greater and greater halls.
“I play contemporary folk, without other adjectives – raging and gentle, with and without humour,” says singer-songwriter Šimon Peták of himself. He was born at the very beginning of the nineties, “a year after the old times ended” as he puts it. He comes from South Bohemia, but grew up by the Berounka, lived a short time in Prague, which apparently turned sour for him, and finally settled in Brno. “I became a dramaturge here, trained as a chimney sweep,” he continues in his verse biography, which you can find in his profile on the server Bandzone.cz. It is there that you can also not just listen to but also legally download for free Šimon’s songs from the album Homo Habitus.
In the somewhat untraditional environment of Brno’s Metro Music Bar there was a performance by the musical ensemble with the name Musica Folklorica, a group that needs little introduction for folk fans. These excellent musicians perform mainly their own arrangements of folk songs especially from Horňácko, Myjava and also Romania. They came to Brno to christen what is now their eleventh album.
The first few notes of the first and last songs tell us the most important things about the new album from the group Poletíme? Beginning with sharp guitars, a rock roar and lyrics about how “we sat with the boys backstage” and “we’re good, so we probably need a hit”. At the end a waltz with accordion, sloppy vocals and words about a disgruntled band, of homelessness and of a car “that carries sheep”. Songs full of rock energy of course are part of Poletíme? and this group has a whole range of hits. Nonetheless the move from sharp rock and roll to a comfortable little waltz shows the band with Rudolf Brančovský exactly how I see them after these years: Despite all their efforts to be tough guys they are at their best when telling an ordinary story, with interesting observed details (like that of the sheep in the car) and in an ordinary song. And it is also about the humour which again abounds on the new album. And I have the feeling that this time more than before Rudolf has managed to keep the balance outside the area of awkwardness.
In the course of four days the Brno Music Marathon offered some 150 concerts with more than 500 participants. The festival brought together local artists and guests from abroad. The Jazz Evening in the Sono Centre opened with Brno’s Marek Kotača Trio, followed by Yaron Herman from Israel and Kenny Garrett from the USA, while on the stage at Špilberk Castle the local hip-hop legends Chaozz and the crossover and world music Dog Eat Dog got the audience moving. The Adicts from England together with the Prague group The Fialky took care of the rock evening at Fléda, while in the Sono Centre it was the Dutch Physical Graffiti paying tribute to Led Zeppelin. Brno was full of rock, with the British alt-J also performing on Sunday evening.
After reconstruction the building of Czech Radio Brno has a new studio. Studio VII was figuratively baptised with the concert Living Notes from the series of folk concerts On a Moravian Note on Czech Radio Brno and Zlin. The musical dedication was made by the Horňácko group of Petr Mička, whose bandmaster is also one of the radio station’s editors. As guests they introduced the very talented young singers Anička Mičková and Janíček Pavlík and the Horňácko folk legend Martin Hrbáč. You can see the whole more than hour-long programme on the Czech Radio YouTube channel.
The temperament and emotion of Roma music are well known. In 2016 the recording studio Amaro records was set up with the same verve and positive energy. The entire voluntary project was set up with support and guarantees from the IQ Roma servis organisation. The guiding spirit and person responsible is Petra Borovičková, herself an excellent singer and member of several bands. The originator of the idea was Gejza Horváth, a top Roma musician who earlier ran courses for young Roma musicians. He saw huge potential in them.
The group Billy Barman from Slovakia ended its Czech-Slovak tour at Brno’s Fleda. This series of concerts was interesting not only its purely acoustic form but especially for bringing together five singers from SĹUK (the Slovak Folk Artists’ Collective). This fusion of pop music and folk was originally created for the Tatra Flowers festival. Its unprecedented success, however, made the musicians decide to expand their repertoire and perform not only in the Slovak Republic, but also for their Czech neighbours.
On Saturday 14 April, Dělnický dům in Brno-Židenice hosted the traditional performance of the Javorník ensemble and its guests. The Olšava ensemble from Uherský Brod was their guest. The history of these double concerts dates back to 2003, and from that time thirteen folk ensembles have performed on the stage.
On the first Sunday in Advent in Veselí nad Moravou there will be a concert to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Brno Radio Orchestra of Folk Instruments (abbreviated to BROLN in Czech). For many this ensemble is an inseparable twin of Czech Radio Brno. The orchestra was set up in 1952 for the needs of the radio for two reasons: to create an archive of quality musical recordings and to give live concerts around the world. The recordings of BROLN on old LP discs were for many folk music fans one of their first encounters with this art form. BROLN produced artistically valuable arrangements of folk songs and began a trend that has continued to this day.
The Olomouc Baroque Festival has begun. In the local Jesuit Convent the seventh year of the festival opened with the modern premiere of the serenata Il tribunale di Giove by the Austrian composer Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf. The work was first performed at the birthday celebrations for the Prussian King Frederick the Great on 27 January 1775 and after a repeat in Wroclaw in 1777 it fell into oblivion. The Ensemble Damian decided to reverse this unfortunate fate, and led by the ensemble’s artistic director and director Tomáš Hanzlík they attempted to revive the work. Appearing in the solo roles were Leandro Lafont (Fate and Apollo), Kristýna Vylíčilová (the Genius of Europe and Minerva), Lucie Kaňková (Time and Fortune), Monika Jägerová (Jupiter) and Jakub Rousek (Mars). The costumes and backdrops were designed by the director Hanzlík.
The Slunce [Sun] Festival in Strážnice will be held for the twentieth time this year. Especially lovers of folk music and classical big beat have marked the dates of 12th and 13th July in their calendars. We talked to the director of the Slunce Festival Pavel Kopřiva about the history of the festival, its top moments and hardships, as well as what this year's festival season will be like.
The end of the first school-holiday week was carried in the spirit of celebrations. The 7th of July in fact falls on the birthday of Alena Veselá, a prominent Brno organist and a professor at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU), who celebrated an impressive age of 96 years on that day. The concert, organised particularly for this jubilee, was also the final event of the 39th Brno Organ Festival and as a celebration of the birthday of its founder (and now patron of the whole show), it already has a strong position in the festival programme.
Last weekend, the 74th Strážnice International Folklore Festival 2019 as well as the 37th Strážnice Children's Folklore Festival were held in the South Moravian Mecca of folklore. The biggest folklore festival in the Czech Republic enjoys great interest and it wasn't any different this year either, despite tropical temperatures, with tens of thousands of people coming back to Strážnice again.
On the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet Jiří Orten, the company ProArt prepared a multi-genre project called Ohnice – Where the Wind Is Dancing in the former Brno penitentiary on Cejl Street. The poetic production with verses of the young poet, which reflected his hard and short life, was premiered on 25 June.
The twenty-fourth season of the Concentus Moraviae international music festival came to an end after almost a month of rich musical experiences. Musical works, thematically labelled as the Concert of Nations, guided the festival visitors around thirteen picturesque Moravian towns and gave them a taste of key musical works of (not only) European nations. All this was moreover served in the interpretation of more than twenty world-famous ensembles. With the conscious transnational, cross-border concept overreaching the Czech border, the festival organizers chose the Golden Hall of the renowned Musikverein Concert House as a suitable venue for the closing evening. The extraordinary finals of the 24th season opened thus a series of Concerts of Czech-Austrian Partnership and at the same time announced the celebration of the festival's quarter of a century to be celebrated next year. In accordance with this symbolic overture of the concert, the main star of the festival was the patron of the festival and famous singer Magdalena Kožená, accompanied by the no less famous Collegium 1704 orchestra led by Václav Luks.
One of the biggest promises of the 24th Concentus Moraviae international festival was yesterday’s concert of the legendary Borodin Quartet, whose unique sound is the result not only of hard work but also collaboration with the composer Dmitri Shostakovich. This personal and interpretive trail still influences the group and is passed on to each new member. The programme took place in the library of the castle in Náměšť nad Oslavou , where in the 18th and 19th centuries it was the residence music-loving Haugwitz family. The music of Sergei Prokofiev, Joseph Haydn and Dmitri Shostakovich could be heard by the audience in a venue that was more than merely dignified.
In the summer months Špilberk Castle’s courtyard often resounds to the sound of music. Until September it is possible to combine a tour of the castle with a cultural experience. The organizers have tried to prepare a programme across genres that has something for everyone. Yesterday it was the turn of folk music. Despite the adverse weather the stage was dominated by the Military Art Ensemble Ondráš.
The last premiere of the Brno opera season for the first time ever and rather unusually combined two works. The Janáček Theatre presented the surrealist opera Three Fragments of Juliette by Bohuslav Martinů along with the small opera work The Human Voice by Francis Poulenc. The composed evening, with direction and stage design by David Radok, brought together two almost absurd worlds. And this connection was indeed remarkable dramaturgically, visually but also interpretatively.
The Polish ensemble Szymanowski Quartet at the Concentus Moraviae Festival presented works by their compatriots Karol Szymanowski, Stanisław Moniuszko and Gražyna Bacewicz in the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Řeznovice yesterday. The concert was part of worldwide celebrations of the two-hundredth anniversary of birth of Stanisław Moniuszko, which is considered by many to be the founder of Polish national music. The evening was held under the auspices of the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the Czech Republic, HE Barbara Ćwioro.
Visitors to concerts meet quite often with quartet compositions written by masters of European music. Haydn's string quartets are perennial stars in the repertoire of a number of ensembles and attention is also paid to works of contemporary European composers. Only exceptionally, however, can listeners take a peek into the musical cuisine of Asian or South American nations. Cuarteto Q-Arte decided to fill this blank space and dedicated itself to the works of Latin American authors. The programme, which they presented yesterday at the chateau in Slavkov u Brna (Austerlitz), consisted of works by Silvestre Revueltas, Alberto Ginastera and Astor Piazzolla. All these three composers combine elements of domestic culture with European training and influences or impulses of different genres.
Why be one of the many average bands when we can be a unique band? The ten-year history of the Brno group Kupodivu could be squeezed into this motto. In 2009, saxophonist Jaroslav Pilný and keyboard player Petr Šašinka first talked about forming a band. In 2019, the band Kupodivu [Surprisingly Enough] is releasing its first full-length album. Exactly in the middle of this ten-year period, in 2014, an important change took place when the original folk band was transformed into an interesting shape with keyboards, saxophone and bass, but without a guitar. The line-up, which resembles rather jazz bands in recent years, has scored at a lot of folk festivals in recent years. Kupodivu won the Porta award for authors, the Rada Notování [Council of Notation] award, won the Moravský vrabec [Moravian Sparrow], and won second place at the Mohelnický dostavník [Mohelnice Stagecoach]. At all these venues they performed music that rather than campfires fits into city clubs, and by far not only folk ones. The album Živočišné pudy [Animal Instincts] summarizes the band's work so far in a dignified way, underlined by the quality sound from the Zlín Studio V.
The Jerusalem Quartet is one of the world's leading quartet performers for many years and is currently one of the most cited chamber music ensembles. At the Concentus Moraviae festival, violinists Alexander Pavlovsky, Sergei Bresler, violist Ori Kam and cellist Kyril Zlotnikov performed in the Great Chateau of Mikulov Castle with a programme stretching in time from Joseph Haydn up to Béla Bartók. The concert was held under the auspices of the Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic, HE Daniel Meron.
Man does not live by classical music alone, as the Epoque Quartet, consisting of violinists David Pokorný, Vladimír Klánský, violist Vladimír Kroupa and cellist Vít Petrášek has been convincing us for twenty years already. For their Saturday concert, staged as part of the Concentus Moraviae festival, which took place in the foyer of the Pasáž theatre in Třebíč, the musicians also invited bass clarinettist Petr Valášek, pianist Karel Košárek and percussionist Oleg Sokolov. The programme of the evening consisted entirely of works by contemporary authors flirting in their compositions not only with musical minimalism, but also with jazz and other popular genres.
Znojmo Music Festival enters its 15th season this year. The programme includes concerts, opera performances, gastronomy and a programme for children. The opening concert, performed by the patron of the festival Pavel Šporcl and the PKF - Prague Philharmonia under the baton of Derek Gleeson, is dedicated to the reminder of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The culmination of the festival is the premiere of the scenic oratorio Saul by G. F. Handel. The title roles will be performed by Andreas Scholl and Adam Plachetka. The show will be directed by Tomáš Pilař.
The 165th anniversary of the birth of Leoš Janáček falls on today, Wednesday 3 July 2019. Janáček is one of our opera composers most frequently played abroad. TIC Brno dedicated a tram to him for his birthday this year, with the main characters from his operas graphically rendered by Brno artist Vendulka Chalánková. Janáček also has his own website, an educational trail, a memorial and an opera festival.
The autumn program of the Fléda music club in Brno contains big names of the music world. The August visit of Jon Hopkins', who will appear at the Brno Marathon of Music festival is already at its imaginary beginning. The autumn season officially opens with a September dance party featuring GusGus from Iceland. This will be followed by concerts of Hooverphonic with a new singer, Jan Blomqvist & Band with their complete Disconnected project or the Berlin legend DJ Hell with his Zukunftmusic composition. Rockers De Staat will bring their novelty titled The Bubble Gum, Movits! their most hip-hop record so far – the double album V, Kadebostany in turn will bring their album Monumental. Last but not least, Vitalic with Rebeka Warrior will also be featured presenting their KCompromat project.
The album collects folklore tunes and songs from the Moravian meadows. After several years of work on the Anthology of Moravian Folk Music, the Indies Scope label decided to continue with a new series of folklore recordings called Malovaná truhla [Painted Chest]. One of them is the album Kosecké písně [Mowers' Songs]. The album features Kubíci dulcimer music band from Horňácko, Women's Choir of Hrubá Vrbka, Chotár male choir from Horňácko and others.
Traditionally, the beginning of the summer holidays is accompanied by the festival Boskovice – for the Jewish Quarter. This year's 27th edition will be launched by the Les Bubbey Mayse quartet from France, inspired by Klezmer and traditional Yiddish songs. The musical program also features concerts of bands such as Neurobeat, Khoiba, Kittchen & Aid Kid with Tomáš Neuwerth or Panenské plameny.
The Kamenka Open multi-genre festival will revive the meadow in the Kamenná kolonie neighbourhood in Brno for the tenth time already. This year's guests include Funky Pappa, Jamiroquai Tribute Band and Pleasure Portable. Theatres will be represented by the Hysterie Theatre, Koráb Theatre or the Bez Pravidel Theatre.