The area of the so called “Great” Brno emerged when the city centre and the surrounding villages merged together, which contributes to its specific nature. You can merely stretch out your hand, take a few steps and you find yourself in the countryside. Folk traditions are so close to the city centre that they actually feel like home there.
There are singers who have been connected with Brno for their entire career. Vladimír Tomš sang here during the first performance of the opera by Otakar Ostrčil, Honza's Kingdom, which was a major event in 1934, and then he just came back here to die. His artistic triumph and end shook hands in Brno.
Of all the Christian holidays, Christmas is the musically richest and it is usually hard on musicians. They are, however, not angry about it ; besides a certain extra income, Christmas music brings them an indefinable feeling of Christmas which takes them back to their childhood and can be experienced just once a year. Even the Bolshevik failed to eradicate this, no matter how hard he tried. Once, when there were comments from the region that members of the philharmonic organisation attend Christian churches during the holiday and serve black clericalism, the philharmonic officers voted (with calendars already full of Christmas ceremonies) that they will not even step inside a church this time – and then they watched, clenching their teeth, how their warm seats in the choir stalls were occupied by their colleagues from the opera where they did not take servility so seriously.
Jan Skácel would most resolutely protest against the presence of his person in the gallery of musical figures from Brno which this commemorative series is supposed to be. Although raised in a family of teachers in Moravian Slovakia, he had a clear idea of his (non)musicality. You cannot talk about music to me, I have no ear for music, I do not listen to music and I do not understand it. Already in kindergarten in Poštorná, he stubbornly refused to sing with the other children and looked as obstinate then as he did his whole life (Janek will have a hard life, Mrs. Skácelová used to say about her elder son, he will not know how to deal with people as well as Petr). And at the time when he was thinking about a university career as an assistant at the newly-established faculty of education, he talked about musicological education with much scornfulness.
“Mario’s” or “Ander’s” were not only visited by Brno cultural bohemians, poets; writers, painters, actors, but also by important figures from all other possible fields. In 1960 and 1970 it was almost a cult place, whose importance still awaits acknowledgement, contemporaries quickly leave this world.
On Saturday 21 March 1953 a group of players of the then Symphonic Orchestra of the Brno region with the conductor Waldhans set off to their traditional first spring walk after one of the rehearsals; they spent afternoon in the hills overlooking Královo Pole and were on their way back to Černá Pole, they made a lot of stops and tried to say goodbye many times but unsuccessfully. Finally, one of them remembered that two of their colleagues were playing in a home quartet at the Hrubeš family that evening; we rang the doorbell of their basement flat in Helfertova street before midnight and started to congratulate the famous opera singer on the first spring night. The quartet was on their way home with their instruments but Eduard found other instruments in his collection, distributed them among the new guests (Waldhans was given a wooden spoon) and he made the ensemble play the whole Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Mozart.
I used to listen to Vilém Přibyl in the Janáček Theatre as a kid and he was one of the few singers who stayed in my memory into the future. He stayed in my head despite several years of a teenage break when opera completly left my life. I am not saying that I recognised his extraordinary abilities already as a child but I did not remember him due to an unusual costume or a non-musical event, so there must have been something about him.
This November it will have been ninety years since the composition of the first of the two string quartets by Leoš Janáček. The composition, which is today a natural part of the international quartet repertoire, has a subtitle which is understood only by a few at first sight: Motivated by the Kreutzer Sonata by L. N. Tolstoy. The name of the Belgian violin virtuoso Rodolphe Kreutzer lives today in the collection of great etudes, which must be mastered by every professional violinist, and then in the said sonata, which however was not written by him, but by Beethoven – he dedicated it to him. Another Kreutzer Sonata was written by Tolstoy, not as a sonata but as a more extensive novel: In that, Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata is the literary motif of one of the characters in a love triangle, a demonic violinist, who charms a young lady, the wife of the narrator, who eventually becomes her murderer.
The Bakalas were an unusual couple. He looked at every moment – perhaps even at home in his pyjamas – like the chief conductor of a large orchestra, especially when his hair began to create a distinctive silver aureole in his mature years; he maintained his aristocratic restraint not only as a conductor but also in social and personal contact, he did not move rapidly, he did not raise his voice; we also never heard of him being on first-name terms with anyone and even musicians who had played under him for fifteen years were not sure if he knew their names. No so Mrs. Marie; wherever she came, she was just everywhere, she had something to talk about with everyone and – what was important – one felt that her warmth was genuine. She did not hide her love and admiration for her husband even though she, as a Brno native, referred to him as that boss of yours; it was characteristic that the orchestra referred to him exclusively as Bakala, while to her as Mařenka.
In the first post war year, my older colleague from the student quartet and I came from Kroměříž to Brno very briefly: he was trying for admission to the conservatory and I quietly envied him. Back then, the conservatory was already housed in its current building, a former German Teachers Institute; Ferda left me waiting in front of it and went in for information with some papers. After a while, he appeared in the company of a dignified-looking man in glasses, to whom he was saying something vehemently; without them noticing me, like peripatetic philosophers they headed towards Lužánky and disappeared around the corner. Ferda returned just in time when I was already determined to go to catch a train back to Kroměříž. He looked a little distracted.
The intersection of human and artistic field lines is something that belongs to the Alfa Passage. Ženíšek's bookstore, HaDivadlo and Metro Music Bar form a triangle to which other specific spaces and activities are attached. This Christmas, they will be joined by the performance of the Czech Christmas Mass by Jan Jakub Ryba for the seventh time. This year's performance's final rehearsal has already taken place; the performance begins today at 10 p.m. The event is organised by HaDivadlo in cooperation with the neighbouring and partnering Švanda café, the actual performance is attended by a wide community of friends. The specific magic of the secular midnight mass in a functionalist church, where the choir stalls are replaced by a gallery, lies in this folksiness and openness. And what is missing in terms of musical perfection is easily compensated for by spontaneity – the spirit of Christmas is apparently revealed here even to non-believers.
The Brno group Hrozně slowly approach forty years of age – they started to give concerts in 1982. After several cassettes and unofficial recordings, they released a CD with their debut album Už není čas [There Is No Time Left] in 2013. Their new album named Ticho [Silence], which the band was working on over the last two years in the Indies studio, brings a surprise with its cleaner sound and clearly audible tension in the structure of the songs.
Over the four years that divide the release of the first album Záhir, and the second one entitled O Písni [About the Song], Lee Band virtually moved on (previously they stated Adamov as their domicile, now it is Jedovnice), they got on a "wild card" to the Porta festival semifinals in Řevnice, and above all, they advanced slightly in their musical style. While the debut album was more about a folk-rock mainstream, benefiting from the sound of an electric guitar, the new album is dominated by acoustic guitars, often in combination with mandolin and other acoustic instruments.
This year’s eighteenth JazzFest Brno will exceptionally not close with a concert, but rather a unique (though not unusual for world festivals) series of musical and dance workshops, centred on children. On Saturday 4 May, in the pleasant environment of Café Práh, near Vaňkovka, the children students will be taken on board by the significant young personalities of the jazz scene: Beata Hlavenková (pianist and composition lecturer), Dano Šoltis (leader of the drum class) and the multi-instrumentalists Jiří Slavík and Marian Friedl (conductors of Wandering on Jazz Paths), who will be accompanied by Kateřina Hanzlíková with the Tancohraní lectures. With the exception of composition, where it is necessary for the participants to be older than twelve, all the other “classes” are open to everyone, including the youngest. We asked the co-author of the idea of the children’s workshop and director of JazzFest Brno, Vilém Spilka, for further information.
The musical Nine, based on the legendary film 8½ by director Frederico Fellini, was prepared under director Stanislav Moša as the penultimate premiere of the season at the Brno City Theatre. They prepared an at places almost erotic show, led by interesting scenography, well-made costumes, brilliant musical preparation and the energy of the female acting. The sensuality of some of the dance parts thankfully did not overshadow the central theme of the hero’s crises: mid-life, art and relationship.
This year's JazzFestBrno festival had several highlights – of course, it depended on each visitor's personal taste, their expectations, and of course on how many shows they managed to visit. For the author of this article, one of the highlights the evening with bassist Stanley Clark on 23 April, varied in genre and arrangement, as well as the last but one concert of the festival, the performance of "the other" Avishai Cohen in the Husa na provázku Theatre on 28 April. It was a musically pure essence of jazz with a message – imperative, heartbreaking and poetic.
One of the musical highlights of last week was the concert of the Malina Brothers with two unique guest musicians, Kateřina García and Charlie McCoy in the Sono Centre in Brno. And because the performance was recorded on a professional video for the band’s first live DVD, the evening itself was extraordinary both in its length and quality.
Letošní ročník festivalu Jazzfest Brno nabízí nepřeberné množství rozmanitých crossoverů , žánrových směsic a fúzí. V duchu tohoto stylového spektra v rekonstruovaném (akusticky významně vylepšeném) sále Janáčkova divadla nabídl svůj vyhlášený osobitý nadžánrový sound klasik jazz fusion a britský kytarista John McLaughlin se svou formací The 4th Dimension. V Brně se představil vůbec poprvé.
On Palm Sunday a concert with the subtitle Nova et Vetera opened the 28th Easter Festival of Sacred Music with the theme Ceremony/It is Good to Celebrate the Lord. Aside from Gregorian Chant for Holy Week performed by the ensemble Schola Gregoriana Pragensis, which opened yesterday’s concert, there was also the world premiere of So Shall He Descend by the Estonian composer Toivo Tulev as performed by the soprano Ivana Rusko, the mezzosoprano Bettina Schneebeli, tenor Jaroslav Březina, baritone Jiří Hájek, choristers Aneta Bendová Podracka, Jana Vondrů and Pavla Radostová, the choir Ars Brunensis under choirmaster Dan Kalousek and the Brno Philharmonic under the baton of its principal conductor Denis Russell Davies. The work was written to a commission from the festival and was intended for the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul.
This year, the JazzFestBrno festival has expanded its offer to include an "electronic" programme line named Tension. Within that series, the bands Zabelov Group and HRTL Spaghetti Ensemble appeared in the Praha space in Brno on 28 March. However, the two-hour concert, which took place on 5 April in the sold-out Sono Centre, was also ideologically close to this new series. The Manchester-based trio GoGo Penguin perhaps uses an instrumental layout of a jazz piano trio vetted by decades, but still oscillates around electronic music as a starting point in its albums and concerts.
Even though the audience's attention is generally focused on music ensembles that have already been vetted by time, yesterday's concert of the newly formed Camerata Brunensis ensemble in the Historical Hall of the Brno Bishop's Court proved that even young blood can offer a remarkable artistic experience. The concert was programmed in cooperation with the Moravian Regional Museum and the Academy of Early Music at Masaryk University, which the Camerata Brunensis‘ artists attend. The ensemble consists of soprano Veronika Vojířová, who performed for example with ensembles like Collegium Marianum, Collegium Floreum, Capella Regia Prague or Cappella Mariana, and the flutist Michaela Durajová, who could be listened to by audiences with the Orchestral Academy of the Brno Philharmonic, the Moravian Philharmonic Olomouc, the Czech Virtuosi orchestra or with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Also, the double bassist and violonist Matyáš Berdych regularly appears with important music ensembles such as Musica Florea, Collegium Marianum and Czech Ensemble Baroque. The backbone of the ensemble is formed by the harpsichordist Jan Hajič, who works as a répétiteur for the Prague choir Vagantes, accompanies concerts and master classes at the Prague Conservatory, and works as a backup organist at the Prague Academic Parish under the guidance of Robert Hugo.
Filip Míšek and Ema Brabcová have worked together for as many as twenty years already. They met each other back in 1999 in the group Roe-Deer, as part of which they created their own project called Khoiba. Under this name they released their albums Nice Traps (2004) and Mellow Drama (2007), shone on the domestic scene and drew attention to themselves in neighbouring Germany, but then each of the protagonists set out on their own paths – Filip came up with the solo project Dikolson and Ema was active first in the group Luno and later became part of The Antagonists under the leadership of Jan P. Muchow. Only in January 2019 did the resurrected Khoiba draw attention to itself – first with the single Log and two months later with the album Khoiba. As part of an intensive spring concert the duo is also coming to perform in Brno. The concert will take place in Kabinet múz on 24 April and supporting Khoiba will be Jan Boroš with Čáry života [Life Lines], this year’s winner of the Apollo award.
Each premiere from the Ondráš Military Art Ensemble is an event that sparks great interest from folk fans. It was no different on Thursday in the slightly cramped quarters of the Divadlo Bolka Polívky theatre. The concert carrying the title Through the Landscape of Time had already been sold out a month ahead.
Yesterday’s concert from the Principal Conductor’s series of the Brno Philharmonic presented Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphonic Orchestra, in an intimately conceived programme. Together with the principal conductor of the Brno philharmonic, Dennis Russel Davies, she performed several classical and contemporary works composed for violin and piano. In this, the Brno audience had a chance to see the soloist before she plays tomorrow together with the Brno Philharmonic.
In an almost four-hour long programme, both audience and performers celebrated the 80th birthday of Horňácko folk legend Martin Hrbáč in Veselí nad Moravou. The concert that took place on Sunday 24 March, and was not only historic in its length but more importantly in the range of folk legends appearing on stage.
Greek Saturday at Veveří Castle enters its 9th season. The music scene will be represented by Musica Balkanika, Mydros, Martha and Tena Elefteriadu or Prometheus. In addition, there will be costume dance shows, dance workshops, an exhibition named "The Greeks in the Area of the Danube Monarchy", a theatrical performance and a programme for children. Through this event, the organizers want to convey to the public the cultural traditions and historical ties between Moravia and Greece.
As part of the final concert of the Bach on Mozart! cycle we will hear Baroque music by F. X. Richter in the St. Johns' Church. The Czech Ensemble Baroque will end the 7th season of the cycle with three rediscovered compositions by this distinguished Baroque composer, which have never been played over the last twenty five years. The concert will be conducted by the founder of the ensemble, Roman Válek.
The festival "with no fences and no admission fees" will be held in the Brno Lužánky Park this year as well. Over fifty events will take place on total of five The Stage s over the weekend. The programme includes musical performances, theatrical shows, film screenings, workshops and author readings. The music scene is represented by names such as Arve Henriksen and David Kollar, Dorota Barová and Jiří Šimek, The BladderStones, Brünnwerk or Songs From Utopia.
420 primary artistic schools got involved in this year's ZUŠ Open nationwide happening organized by the Magdalena Kožená Endowment. Children and young artists will spread music, dance, theatre and fine arts in public space. In several places of the Czech Republic, they will also head to retirement homes or nursery and primary schools. The Brno part of this event will be launched by the announcement of the results of the Brno-wide competition This Is a Talent on Dominikánské Square. It will be followed by performances of sixteen primary artistic schools of the city of Brno. The meeting in Brno will be concluded by a performance of the biggest Brno choir, which will be formed for this particular occasion and will sing together Proč bychom se netěšili [Why Should We Not Rejoice], a choral piece from the opera The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana.
For the upcoming summer, the Ondráš Military Art Ensemble is preparing a charity cycle called Evenings with Ondráš. Two evenings at Špilberk Castle will bring a repeated run of their new show, Krajinou času a Ondrášovské putování [Through the Landscape of Time and Wandering with Ondráš] in which the whole ensemble performs. The programme also includes a fairy-tale show for children.
For the first time ever, the artistic ensemble Kafka Band will bring its music and literature performance entitled Amerika to Brno. The project has been inspired by fragments of the unfinished novel of the same name by Franz Kafka. The seven-member line-up of the ensemble, headed by Jaroslav Rudiš and Jaromír Švejdík, will also present twelve brand new compositions in the Fléda music club.
The Schola Artist dance school offers dance classes of various styles under the guidance of professional dancers, champions of the world and of the Czech Republic and certified tutors. Their roster features pole dance, classical ballet, contemporary dance and more. This year, the school will be celebrating its 2nd birthday with a gala evening in the studio on Hybešova Street.
Brno Philharmonic and Free Radicals. The last concert of the Classically and Modernly subscription series
Free Radicals (Böse Zellen) is the title of a piano concerto by Thomas Larcher (1963), which will be played next week in Besední dům in Czech premiere. When composing it, the author was inspired by a film of the same name by the Austrian director Barbara Albert. The concert is conducted by Nicholas Milton. The work of Thomas Larcher will be heard twice, and a meeting with the dramaturge Vítězslav Mikeš will take place before both concerts, introducing the audience to the world of the upcoming compositions.