The poetic title Květy nevadnoucí (Flowers Never Fading) hides the most recent publishing achievement of Jiří Plocek. This compilation CD celebrates a quarter of a century since the establishment of the Moravian folklore series in his GNOSIS BRNO publishing house, which released fourteen albums created between 1995 and 2005. And they are not just ordinary albums. Jiří Plocek's enthusiasm and feeling for song is indisputable, but there is much more coming from the recordings – for example, it is the enthusiasm of the singers themselves, which Jiří Plocek fuelled during the recording sessions, while letting them play and sing according to their own will and mood. I must also emphasise the choice of performers themselves. The names have really become iconic by now – František Okénka, Zdeněk Kašpar, Karel Rajmic, Vlasta Grycová, Jiřina Miklošková and many others. Unfortunately, some of them have already departed from this world. Others, which we hear on the album as gifted children, are already rising to become another generations of singers – which is the case of Tomáš Beníček. I'm intentionally mentioning the singers, but the album itself also has a high musical quality. However, all the songs are performed by exceptional performers. This also gives them uniqueness in the spirit of a living folk tradition.
After almost thirty years, Brno has replaced the German capital Berlin as the main centre of the European panel of radio music publicists World Music Charts Europe (WMCE). From Berlin public radio, where the founder of this platform, Johannes Theurer, worked until 30 November 2020, the centre of WMCE's activities is moving to the Brno headquarters of Radio Proglas. Milan Tesař, one of its two current Czech members and head of the music section of Proglas, became the new secretary of the panel starting from 1 December.
Two years after the monothematic album Bleděmodré město (Pale Blue City), for which the Brno-based group Nevermore & Kosmonaut received a nomination for the genre-specific Anděl Award, the band released a new album with a mysterious name XCR-9. The subheading Písně do rakety (Songs for a Space Shuttle) reveal more. While on the last album we walked through the streets of the city of Brno together with Michal Šimíček and his band, this time the singer-songwriter, who has been using the nickname Kosmonaut for years, is taking us on a fictitious journey into space.
Tiché lodi ('Silent Ships') is not a band, but a project of the guitarist and singer René Müller, who lives in Brno. While he recorded his previous album Časy vody ('Times of Water' – 2015) working together with Roman Cipísek Cerman, his former colleague from the band Hynkovy zámky ('Hynek's Locks'), Müller is now appearing all by himself on the new album – as writer of the music and lyrics, guitarist and singer, or – in his case more precisely – narrator.
Until recently, this Brno singer with the shortest given and family names was the leader of the blues band The Weathermakers. He also led the ephemeral "tramping" group The Honzíci. However, the main thing that he attracts attention with – in addition to the guitars and other instruments that he produces under the brand Red Bird – is his original solo production. After the mature debut Město [The City] (2018), he has now made himself heard with a new album entitled Potom [After]. In the lyrics he goes down to the core again, being able to transform his personal problems into timeless stories and extraordinary poetic expressions. And even though he abandoned the blues form in most of his songs, the recording, in which Martin Kyšperský once again participated as a producer, has a blues nature by its very essence.
Those who were captivated by the introductory distinctive song with surrealistic lyrics Z ježatých hor [From the Spiky Mountains] on the previous album of the Brno group Budoár Staré dámy [Boudoir of an Old Lady] (Sůl [Salt], 2017), can rejoice. The collaboration with the contemporary poet Lubor Kasal that began only three years ago has now resulted in an entire album of his texts set to music. However, the songs on the new album Kostřičky [Little Skeletons] have one more characteristic in common: the production and arrangement contribution by the multi-instrumentalist Tomáš Vtípil.
Let us hope that Sunday's concert to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the great music band of the Brno-based Valášek Children's Ethnographic Ensemble (Dětský národopisný soubor Valášek) will not be the last event that ever-changing government regulations will allow. And even if that, God forbid, was the case, it would be a dignified farewell.
The municipal council of Velká nad Veličkou decided already in mid-April that this year's Horňácké Festivities (original name: Horňácké slavnosti) would not take place on the traditional dates around the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, and their scope, previously meant to be of three to five days, would also be modified. Obviously, it was impossible to foresee the development of lockdown measures towards the third week of July, but musicians from the Horňácko district tried to come up with at least a partial alternative solution in order to maintain continuity. Eventually, two concerts were officially held on two consecutive Saturdays: On 18 July, live broadcast of a public radio recording of Czech Radio Brno under the title Hrajte že ně, hrajte aneb Horňácké trochu jinak (Play for Me, or Horňácké Festivities in a Slightly Different Fashion) took place at the Culture House in Velká nad Veličkou. A week later, at a sports complex in Javorník, a traditional competition for "the biggest expert on Horňácko peasant songs" was held under the auspices of the Horňácko Dulcimer Band of Libor Sup. Needless to say, both events have found their spectators and listeners.
The Brno-based rock band Kulturní úderka (which translates loosely as "Culture Brigade"), led by singer and guitarist Štěpán Dokoupil, did not keep its fans waiting for too long this time. While there was a fifteen-year break between their first and second albums, the new album Black Metall was released less than two years after the previous album Sarajevská Katarzija (Sarajevo Catharsis). The name of the new album must be handled with care. Úderka has never had anything to do with black metal as a music genre. And once again, we are treated not to metal, but to relatively raw rock, which in some moments is pleasantly softened by the keyboard of Omer Blentič, or the trumpet of their guest artist Jan Kozelek.
Cultural life has endeavoured to move into a sterile and "life-safe" social networking environment in an unequal struggle against the viral phantasm and government lockdown regulations. In the darkest months, music institutions competed with one another in staging recordings of memorable concerts, and major opera houses broadcast to the world those of their performances that gained the most success from spectators.
Oldřich Veselý, a Brno-based singer, composer and keyboard player, died in January 2018. In February 2019, the 10th Brno Beatfest, dedicated to his memory, took place in the Semilasso music hall. And a year later, a CD recording of this concert was released under the title Malý princ [The Little Prince], complemented by several bonus items.
On the twenty-fourth of May of this year, five days before her ninety-second birthday, Mrs. Anna Kománková passed away – and with her departed her particularly extensive songbook of ballads (not only) from the Javornicko and Horňácko districts, which she had always carried in her head. She was able to perform all the songs conserved in her memory in a distinctive and inimitable style. All her life she safeguarded the rare legacy of her ancestral heritage – all the more interestingly because she did not write down the hundreds of often complicated tunes and many dozens of verses and variants of ballads, but she knew them all by heart. Even after she reached the age of ninety, when she no longer enjoyed good health and did not perform in public, she remained in contact with the Javornický ženský sbor [Javorník Women's Choir], which she had revived and eventually led for many years. She never pushed herself forward anywhere, while at the same time she learned a lot from the skills of her ancestors: apart from singing (dozens of songs from the hymn-book and hundreds of folklore songs) she was an excellent embroiderer: She sewed and embroidered with her own hands every part of the folk costume she wore.
When pronouncing the name Jiří ‘moravský’ Brabec (1955-2018) (the name is partly a pun referring to a typical Moravian dish called "moravský vrabec", which is pork roast with braised cabbage and dumplings – translator's note), anyone, who until recently had any business concerning the Czech-Moravian folk and country scene, is reminded of the unmistakeable figure of a mighty man wearing a beard, with a strong voice and an inexhaustible source of information, and an enviable general knowledge of not only the above-mentioned music genre. We are speaking here about a complicated but deservedly respected personality who was able to surprise us with his knowledge in a number of disciplines, but also with his self-deprecating humour and unexpected physical dexterity. Unfortunately, for the last time he surprised people around him with his sudden departure, only a few days before his sixty-third birthday in June 2018, almost unnoticed by the public media, for which he had worked for so many years.
Electronic music, big beat and clubbing go together - but that’s only a small part of the truth. In fact electronic music was here long before clubbing, and thanks to enlightened teachers at JAMU it was doing very well indeed in Brno as early as the 1960s. That is, long before synthesizers and sequencers appeared on rock podiums, long before any old band had a computer, long before the first dance parties in glittering halls and dark cellars. Today electronic music is one of music’s most omnipresent genres: neither dance parties nor contemporary operas can do without it. Electronic big beat music has occupied reggae and swing, remixing is a daily affair, Brno artists have learned to sell instruments they built themselves to the whole world and to amplify an old knitting machine. As early as 1907 the composer Ferruccio Busoni dreamt of the future potential of electronic music, but not even his imagination and genius could have anticipated what Thaddeus Cahill’s first weird experiment with an immense electrical organ would lead to one day.
Although cultural life has suffered significantly in the last two months, people's desire for an artistic experience has not faded. On the contrary – art and its role in our lives are perhaps needed even more than before. Hence, although concert halls are empty and listeners are forced to visit them only through recordings of their favourite concerts, a number of well-made music media created (not only) in the beginning of the year helps to bridge over this unfortunate period.
Last year they were the stars of Brasil Fest Brno. This year they will be welcomed to Náměšt’ nad Oslavou, where they will perform on 25 July at the Folk Holidays as part of an evening called Poetry in Every Song. In the meantime, they have played at the WOMEX world music fair in Portugal and the sold-out spring festival Budapest Ritmo. Above all, they were awarded the prestigious prize of Songlines magazine, today’s most respected periodical in world music. They call themselves Ayom, and alongside Brazilian singer Jabu Morales, they are made up of musicians from Angola, Greece, and Italy. Our questions were answered by accordionist and composer Alberto Becucci, guitarist Pedro Bastos João, and of course the charismatic singer and drummer.
On Friday, 29 July, at the Folk Holidays in Náměšt’ nad Oslavou, the group L’Alba from Corsica will perform, combining traditional Mediterranean polyphony with the music of many nations, not only from southern Europe. Its album A Principiu, released last March, was voted by the World Music Charts Europe jury as the sixth best album from around the world in 2021. guitarist and vocalist Ghjuvanfrancescu Mattei answers our questions on behalf of L’Alba.
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.
This year's 27th edition of the Concentus Moraviae Music Festival is slowly coming to a grand finale as a joint concert by flutist and artist in residence Kaspar Zehnder, mezzo-soprano and patron of the festival Magdalena Kožená, and her husband, pianist and conductor Sir Simon Rattle. On Friday 24 June, at one of the last concerts of the culminating festival, artist-in-residence Kaspar Zehnder, together with his friends Giovanni Guzzo (violin), Rahel Maria Rilling (violin), Amihai Grosz (viola), Dávid Adorján (cello), Wolfgang Klinser (clarinet), and Anaïs Gaudemard (harp), prepared the dramaturgy of Friday's chamber concert in the library of the Náměšť Castle.
Nikol Bóková, a native of Ostrava, has long been considered a unique talent in the field of classical music. At the age of nine, she played as a solo pianist with the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, and studying at the conservatory and then at the JAMU was a matter of course. But already during her studies of classical music, another of her talents, that of composition, took shape and gradually manifested itself. Together with her trio (Nikol Bóková-piano, Martin Kocián-contrabass, Michal Wierzgoń-drums), she recorded her debut album Inner Place in 2019 and immediately established herself among the Czech (and indeed European) jazz elite. Two more projects followed during the cover – Unravel (2020) for the same named line-up and last year’s Prometheus, recorded with extraordinary commitment by a remarkable studio line-up. Out of this and several subsequent concerts (among others during JazzFest Brno last autumn) crystallized also the quite logical expansion of her trio with the versatile and empathetic guitarist David Dorůžka, the Nikol Bóková Quartet. This line-up was also the birthplace of the latest album Elements, with which a new creative phase opens for Nikol and her partner and co-creator Jan Vala.
On 22 June, the Ensemble Opera Diversa visited the atrium of the Faculty of Arts at Masaryk University on Arne Novák Street with the program Dances in the Gardens, which continued the series of outdoor projects started last year. Bassoonist Pavel Horák and marimba player Martin Švec performed as soloists. The concert was conducted by conductor Patrik Červák, who stood in front of the Ensemble Opera Diversa string orchestra for the very first time.
The abbey in old Brno where Gregor Johann Mendel worked until his death hides several beautiful areas behind its walls. One of them is the Paradise Court, which is entered through an inconspicuous entrance next to the Basilica of the Assumption. On Thursday 16 June, the stone walls of this ancient space hosted the opening concert of the Brno and its churches project.
On Friday 17 June, Catalan singer-songwriter Magalí Sare will perform in Brno as part of the Ibérica festival. Her current album Eponja reached number six on the prestigious World Music Charts Europe in June 2022, compiled by 45 European radio publicists from albums around the world. As an invitation to the concert, we bring you a review of this album.
After the first successful concert of the Concentus Moraviae festival’s resident ensemble at the castle in Slavkov, the ensemble led by violinist Pavel Fischer expanded to include pianist Katya Apekisheva and on Sunday, 12 June, in the Great Hall of Mikulov Castle, presented an unknown face of the musical language of Hungarian composer Béla Bartók with his Piano Quintet in C Major. Along with Fischer and Apekisheva, the concert also featured violinist Markéta Janoušková, violist Diede Verpoest, and cellist Erich Oskar Hütter.
Last year’s 100th anniversary of Gustav Brom’s birth still resonates on the domestic jazz scene. At the very end of 2021, a 4-CD set entitled “Gustav Brom – 100 Years” was released, offering a cross-section of the orchestra’s repertoire, from songwriting to jazz to intersections with contemporary classical music. Alongside this, an album charting the Brom Orchestra’s long-standing collaboration with Karel Velebný has also appeared on the same label (Indies Happy Trails). Radio editor, jazz musician, and teacher Jan Dalecký was one of the producers of both albums.
In its twenty-seven years of existence, the Concentus Moraviae International Music Festival has been held in a number of unusual and unique places. Sunday's program Homo Sapiens – The Story of Rhythm in Velké Meziříčí has the potential to be one of the most memorable concerts of the festival. On June 5, OK Percussion Duo musicians Martin Opršál and Martin Kleibl, together with guests and students Tomáš Javora and Kryštof Vašíček performed in the normally inaccessible premises of the New Synagogue, which has served as a center of affordable shopping for years. The concert was held in cooperation with the European Festival of Philosophy, the Jewish Community of Brno, and the town of Velké Meziříčí. At the same time, it was part of the project From the Shopping Center to the Cultural Community.
This year’s 27th edition of the international music festival Concentus Moraviae is still at the beginning of its almost month-long program, yet in terms of dramaturgy it is not holding back at all. After the opening featuring Argentinian and Uruguayan tango in Boskovice and Balkan music in Ivančice, the festival brought the Arcadia String Quartet to the atrium of the town hall in Kyjov on Thursday 2 June, where they performed the String Octet in C Major by Romanian composer George Enescu together with their friends from the Transylvanian Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition to the members of the quartet (violinists Ana Török, Răsvan Dumitru, violist Traian Boală and cellist Zsolt Török), there were also violinists Vlad Răceu, Valentin Șerban, violist Mihai Oșvat and cellist Ștefan Cazacu. The concert was held under the auspices of the Ambassador of Romania to the Czech Republic, H.E. Antoaneta Barta.
We met violinist Pavel Fischer at the Budějovická metro station in Prague, and on the way to the Dobeška Theater we managed to discuss his holiday in Italy. At the time, we were already working out the subtitle of this year's Concentus Moraviae festival “From Roots to the Future”. Next to Dobeška, where the Sklep Theater plays, is what we call the “woodshed”, where the Škampa Quartet has been rehearsing for thirty-five years. Pavel Fischer was a founding member of the ensemble which he left at a time when it was enjoying one international success after another. As he says, he was attracted by greater musical freedom and a quieter life. At Dobeška, after our interview, he had a concert with cellist Olin Nejezchleba and guitarist Norbi Kovács. We started with him, although our main topic was Fischer's residency at this year's Concentus Moraviae.
Another in a series of themed “anniversary” orchestral concepts by Jiří Kotača for his big band, this one commemorates the centenary of the birth of Canadian-American jazz pianist, composer, bandleader, and above all, genius arranger Gil Evans and his successful collaboration with legendary trumpeter Miles Davis in the late 1950s.
As part of the bicentenary celebrations of Gregor Mendel’s birth in July, the Brno Contemporary Orchestra will also join in the congratulations. On Wednesday at St. Augustine’s Church, the orchestra will play several pieces by composers whose initials of their names have been transformed into a secret cipher. The concert will be conducted by Pavel Šnajdr.
The Olomouc Baroque Festival will offer a program full of music from the Baroque to early Romantic. It includes 11 unique projects that will take place throughout Olomouc. The festival will also visit the pilgrimage church in Dub nad Moravou. The festival’s resident ensemble this year is the Volantes Orchestra. Musica Figuralis, Societas Incognitorum, Musica Florea, Arte dei Suonatori, and others will also perform.
Tomorrow, the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra is already looking forward to an extraordinary concert – both in terms of its program and the many ways it can reach the audience. As part of the Mendel 2022 festival, the orchestra will play Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass and, in a world premiere, present a piece that Armenian composer Tigran Mansuryan composed on commission for the Philharmonic and the festival. Mansurjan will be present in person for the first performance of his work entitled Orhnerg – Navapet Bari (Hymn – The Good Captain).
Ensemble Opera Diversa will perform two operas today to mark the 200th anniversary of Mendel’s birth
The Brno Ensemble Opera Diversa will perform two chamber operas by Miloš Štědron this afternoon. Magnum mysterium will be performed in its world premiere, and Palackého truchlivý konec will be performed in a revival (it was premiered in 2013). The ensemble will perform both works in the Old Brno Monastery on Mendel Square as part of the Mendel 2022 Festival. The performance will be directed by Gabriela Tardonová.
The Vaňkovka Fest is a multi-genre festival that traditionally takes place in the former crane track between the Vaňkovka Gallery and Fait Gallery. The summer festival this year attracts concerts by artists such as Lenka Dusilová featuring Květy, Mucha, Budoár staré dámy, and Dan Bárta and Illustratosphere. There will also be an evening of stand-up comedy.
The Mendel22 Festival will celebrate the 200th anniversary of Gregor Mendel’s birth. And since music was important for Abbot Mendel himself, and for the entire Augustinian Order, it will also play a crucial role in the festival program. Music will be performed in several places that are inextricably linked to Mendel and the Augustinians in Brno. The Brno Contemporary Orchestra, the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra and the Czech Philharmonic Choir under the direction of chief conductor Dennis Russell Davies, Ensemble Opera Diversa and Musica Figuralis will all perform. The festival will also include the premiere of Mendel’s opera Magnum Mystérium by Miloš Štědroň.
Guitarist David Dorůžka, Polish pianist Piotr Wyleżoł, and American drummer Jeff Ballard have known each other for years, but it wasn’t until last spring that they came together for the first time to record a new album. The band’s sound relies primarily on analogue electronic instruments, simple melodies, and complex grooves. The album launch, entitled Andromeda’s Mystery, will take place at the Husa na provázku Theater in Brno at the Syncopation Festival.
The Znojmo Music Festival has more than thirty concerts and accompanying events on its program, and this year it takes place for the eighteenth time. This year’s edition, subtitled Guardian Angels and Homecomings, will take place at various locations in Znojmo and in its surroundings – in the countryside and in castles and churches. The festival will present the premiere of a stage production of Joseph Haydn’s oratorio The Return of Tobias in its own production. Adam Plachetka will perform the title role.