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.
Even in musical life things happen that cannot be heard even though it may seem like nonsense. But before the music resounds, something must be done for it, and in the case of an organ concert, it is mainly necessary to build the organ. In October, we published an interview with Jan Martin Bejček about the fact that there will be a new, high-quality instrument in Brno and now we return to the topic. The reason is simple – the organ is already here.
Leoš Janáček (3. June 185–12.August 1928 Ostrava) awaits his round number anniversary – he will have it in the next Year of Czech Music. The Brno opera deals with it as if unable to sell it to the audience, maybe with disdain, it is hard tell from the outside. The only result is that outside the Janáček Brno festival his work is played seldomly and in poor quality. The warning case was the abhorrently done Cunning Little Vixen as part of the Theatre World festival.
In the premises of the neo-Gothic Czech Brethren Evangelical Church of J. A. Comenius, on the fifth evening of the Moravian Autumn festival, a performance of sacred music for choir and organ took place. In addition to the choir of the same name, Martinů Voices was also dominated by the organist Linda Sítková and a four-member ensemble of French horns. All this under the direction of choirmaster Lukáš Vasilek.
The third event of this year's Moravian Autumn festival was transferred to a theatre stage. The event was made happen by Terén, which is a platform acting as a third stage of the Centre of Experimental Theatre, right after the Goose on a String and HaDivadlo theatres. And it was on this particular stage of the Goose on a String where the world premiere of a stage production of Oedipus by André Gide took place yesterday. Composer Bohuslav Martinů stands behind its equally important incidental music.
The jubilee 50th Moravian Autumn music festival started yesterday at Bobycentrum in Brno with a concert performance of the minimalist opera Einstein on the Beach by composer Philip Glass and director Robert Wilson. The concert version was created by collaboration of visual artist Germaine Kruip, Suzanne Vega and Ictus Ensemble and Collegium Vocale Gent. Although only the music remained from the previously stage show, the length of the concert itself was comparable with the opera work. Hence, the evening lasted almost four hours.
The National Theatre Brno started its new season yesterday by staging The Tales of Hoffmann, an opéra fantastique by French composer Jacques Offenbach with French libretto written by poet Jules Barbier. Directing was undertaken by the recognized artistic tandem SKUTR, consisting of Martin Kukučka and Lukáš Trpišovský. The title role was presented by Luciano Mastro, his faithful companion Nicklausse (and also the figure of the Muse at the end of the show) was performed by Markéta Cukrová. The roles of Hoffmann's sweethearts Olympia, Antonia, Giulietta and Stella have were performed by Martina Masaryková, Pavla Vykopalová, Daniela Straková-Šedrlová and Andrea Široká. The character of Hoffmann's eternal rival (Lindorf/Coppélius/Miracle/ Dappertutto) was interpreted by Ondrej Mráz. The orchestra was led by Ondrej Olos, the choir by Klára Složilová Roztočilová.
The Brno Philharmonic launched its 64th season yesterday, which is also the second season of its current Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Dennis Russell Davies. Beside him, the leading Russian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja also stood on the stage of the Brno Stadium. Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3 in E major and the Czech premiere of the composition DA.MA.SHI.E by the Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi's, connected with animated films of director Hayao Miyazaki, were chosen for the ceremonial start.
The fourteenth season of the Subscription Concert Cycle was launched yesterday evening by the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno with captivating music. A jubilant, almost festive programme was played in the Besední dům, following a performance at the St. Wenceslas Music Festival in Ostrava the previous evening. However, there were faithful and long-time spectators in Brno without whom the entire cycle would lose its meaning.
Yesterday evening at the piazzetta of the Janáček Theatre was marked by a concert to commence the 2019/2020 season of the National Theatre Brno (NdB). Promotion of the event ensured the most important thing for this music evening – hundreds of spectators who filled up the whole place. We should not forget the really wide age range, which is so much needed for future culture, especially at its lower limit (still in strollers).
Only rarely one single song is the main topic for an interview. In the case of the cellist Josef Klíč, the concert master of the National Theatre in Brno, this was offered. It does not happen every day that a Czech composer and his song reach the finals of a worldwide competition. However, there were more reasons for our talk – memories of the late Jaroslav Erik Frič, Josef's contract at the Janáček Theatre and the upcoming new album.
For the opening concert of the 20th anniversary season of the Špilberk Festival yesterday, the Brno Philharmonic chose a dramaturgy consisting of proven as well as lesser-known pieces. The subtitle Romantic Carnival immersed all evening in the carnival spirit associated with celebrations before the carnival opening. The aim of the programme was to characterize the period of merriment, celebrations and masks by compositions that tell with their mood about this period of the year. The almost full-up castle courtyard had the opportunity to enjoy an unpretentious and appealing programme, which also with its lower temperature more easily approached that cold carnival period.
As a UNESCO-listed city of music, Brno has had four festival days full of music and dance. Tens of concerts and performances with hundreds of performers took place at twenty-two music venues. Music in the streets sounded on every corner, but most attention this year was attracted by four rooms by the artist Kateřina Šedá, in which artists of different genres and nationalities took turns. Another attraction was the performances of the British Motionhouse and No Fit State Circus, who repeatedly enchanted the Náměstí Svobody Square with their acrobatic pieces and breathtaking performances. Two large stages were also set up – Dominik Stage on Dominikánské Square and Django Stage on Malinovského Square, on which appeared artists such as Jana Kirschner, Monika Bagárová, minus123minutes or Jan P. Muchow & The Antagonists. Traditionally, the festival was accompanied by the sound of barrel organs whose players met in Brno as part of their 10th international meeting. This year, singer and multi-instrumentalist Tinatin Tsereteli (Hannover) and violinist Nicola Manzan (Bologna) as artists from UNESCO partner cities of music also premiered at the Brno Music Marathon. The atmosphere of the festival is captured in the video below.
Folkové prázdniny [Folk Holidays] in Náměšť nad Oslavou is a festival standing out with its dramaturgy, structure and atmosphere. Every season has its own theme, every evening has its own theme, and even some individual performances have their own themes. The long-time programme director Michal Schmidt managed this year to excellently balance Czech premiéres and truly extraordinary projects with reappearances and sure bets. This year's theme of Folkové prázdniny was About the Soul; however, this week-long event has its soul every year.
The group Nebeztebe (a pun containing both "Not without You" and "Heaven from You) literally shone in the Brno scene a few years ago. The five-member line-up, with its marked rhythms, seemingly above styles, celebrated victory at Porta and headed for the giant multi-genre festivals. Under bandleader Štěpán Hulc seemingly the band went to sleep and only returned this year with a brand new, three-member line-up. The new Nebeztebe is made up of guitar, violin and mandolin and has not given up on taking a multi-genre approach. Once more they are giving concerts and are coming out with the concept album Zásobování duše (which might be translated as Supplying the Soul).
One of the musicians who will appear at Folkové prázdniny [Folk Holidays] in Náměšť nad Oslavou as part of a special programme called Harfy nad Oslavou [Harps upon Oslava], is the Colombian harpist Edmar Castañeda. In Náměšť, he will also give a solo recital as part of an evening called O duši s lehkostí i naléhavostí [About Soul with Lightness and Urgency]. In our telephone conversation – we called him to New York where he lives – we talked to Edmar Castañeda, for example, about a harp specially constructed according to his requirements, or about his cooperation with the Czech singer Marta Töpferová.
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 musical Mamma Mia!, which has achieved great success on world stages including Broadway, is heading to Brno. MdB will introduce it under the direction of Petr Gazdík. Donna will be performed by Alena Antalová, Markéta Sedláčková or Ivana Vaňková. Furthermore, Dagmar Křížová, Barbora Remišová or Petra Šimberová. Men's roles will be represented by Martin Havelka, Igor Ondříček or Viktor Skála and many others.
The 23rd Plus 2019 New Music Meeting international music festival is dedicated to contemporary acoustic and electronic music and multimedia projects. This season will be opened by an expert in the interpretation of contemporary music – the Belgian pianist Daan Vandewalle. The festival programme also features a gala concert to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gideon Klein or the Czech premiere of the Force Field multimedia project. The festival is organized by the Music Faculty of JAMU.
Ensemble Opera Diversa is preparing a joint concert with flute player Michaela Koudelková. Works by the authors of the 20th century will be played and the premiere will take place of the composition Quasi lontano, which the ensemble commissioned from Petra Čtveráčková. The concert will take place at the Convent of Merciful Brothers in Brno under the baton of Gabriela Tardonová.
Concerts in the new season 2019/2020 are promising a varied range of genres. For example, Vlasta Redl, who will start the season, will perform as part of the musical evenings at the Brno National Theater. He will be followed by Vladimír Mišík & ETC, Věra Martinová, Anna K., Petr Bende, Bára Zmeková and many others.
Fifteen years ago, the second theater building of the Brno City Theater was opened with ceremonial premieres of the musical Hair. The ensemble had been involved in musical production already since the nineteen-nineties, but at times it bounced the walls of the technical shortcomings of the building. The foundation stones arrived to Brno from Dolní Věstonice and from Broadway, NYC, and were laid on 17 November 2001. The theater is preparing to celebrate the anniversary with two major concerts that will commemorate all the productions presented so far. The celebratory programme is being created under the direction of Igor Ondříček. The progamme will feature stars such as Dušan Vitázek, Markéta Sedláčková, Jana Musilová, Petr Štěpán, Viktória Matušovová, Petr Gazdík and others. The Brno City Theater Orchestra will be conducted by Dan Kalousek.
The premiere of a new programme called Step by Step is dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the military artistic ensemble VUS Ondráš. The programme is inspired by folklore material of Czech, Moravian and Slovak regions. The plot is the story of man from his first precarious steps, through the peak period of vitality, to the stage where his steps lose confidence. Year after year, all of his life. Alžběta Burianová took on the direction. The musical accompaniment was created by Jiří Slavík.