A New Music Guide From Brno – The UNESCO Creative City Of Music

A New Music Guide From Brno – The UNESCO Creative City Of Music

To write a guide to music in Brno in the past and present means digging deep into one’s own recollections and those of others as well as into sources with varying degrees of reliability, and as far as possible not believing anything automatically but always asking “Did this really happen just like that?” And in doing so, to be very, very suspicious of one’s own memory. Two basic questions that cropped up in connection with almost every sentence were “What is it about this band or that event that makes them special? Would someone who’s never been to Brno and has no ties with the city find it interesting?”

At times Brno’s obsession with Janáček, whom it promotes as one of the few figures of world stature who lived here for a considerable length of time, really does go too far. But it’s thanks to a biennial festival devoted to his operas that ninety years after his death the city has moved into the musical big league: in April 2019 Brno was presented with a prestigious International Opera Award in the Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. Earlier, in 2017, the Moravian Autumn Festival staged a megproduction of Arseny Avraamov’s The Symphony of Sirens, whose recording on the occasion was commissioned by Bavarian Radio, which offers it to listeners on-line. So Brno’s musical activities are far from local in their impact.

Of fundamental importance for Brno is its proximity to important folklore regions, which are an endless source of fresh, creative blood. On the other hand, however, people often leave Brno for larger centres in the past mostly for Prague, but increasingly in the past thirty years for the whole outside world. This is perhaps one of the reasons why the standard musical genre in Brno is alternative; genuine pop has always had a minimal presence here. With fewer than 400,000 inhabitants, Brno isn’t really a very big city, though it’s big enough to be the Czech Republic’s second largest. Basically all the musicians in Brno know what all the other musicians are doing.

Brno is the unofficial metropolis of Moravia. It boasts a massive concentration of universities, theatres, clubs and all sorts of spaces suitable for playing music. There’s perhaps an even greater concentration of people who want to play,  and this is quite logical. Brno has more than twenty basic schools of the arts, a conservatory, the Janáček Academy of the Performing Arts, and a Department of Musicology at Masaryk University. A huge number of people with a musical education are to be found in a fairly small area. And it’s impossible to count the number of amateurs who participate enthusiastically in all genres, from choir singers through musicians in symphony orchestras to rockers and songwriters.

A basic feature of life in Brno is the way in which musicians and musical genres are interconnected through innumerable networks, something that long predates the age of the Internet. When Brno became a member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network in the field of music in 2017, it was simply a further logical step in its long development. At the moment Brno is in the first stages of preparing a bid to be named a European City of Culture in 2028.

In writing the individual chapters of this guide, a multitude of facts had to be sacrificed on the altar of brevity. The aim was to offer a general and personal view rather than an exhaustive list. For the preparation of this brochure, even the smallest bits of information and advice were always welcome: my thanks go to on-line sources and to individuals both living and dead, from nearby and afar, people known personally to me and strangers: Jura Cancák (trampskymagazin.cz), Zdeněk Černý, the Czech Theatre Encyclopedia, Jan Dalecký, David Dittrich, Martin Dohnal, encyklopedie.brna.cz, Petr Gratias, L. P. Fish, Dušan Holý, folklornet.cz, Kateřina Hnátová, kftp. cz, Vladimír Maňas, Ivo Medek, Jan Němeček, Jiří Plocek, Jan Pohunek, Irena Přibylová, Don Sparling, Milan Tesař, trampnet.sk, and myownmemory.bk. All helped to make the guide what it is.

For any shortcomings in the guide, the responsibility is mine.

About Author


Boris Klepal was born on 3 October 1966, a year and a day after the Janáček Thea- tre was opened in Brno. He probably came into this world because his parents loved each other back then.

When he was five, his mother taught him to go to the Janáček Theatre. And his grandmother started teach- ing him to play the piano, which he still considers the right thing to have done. Soon after, he saw Smetana’s The Bartered Bride with his mum. He liked the piece, though what he remembered most was Kecal, who kept singing “it’s all settled” over and over. Thanks to his mother’s habit, he then continued going to the opera regularly and gladly.

Later, his love of music led him to talk about it so much that they asked him to write an article for Literarni noviny. So he started writing, and since there was such a desperate shortage of people who could write about music, he was soon noticed by the editors of the music review Opus Musicum. Soon he also took on the technical editing, which ended up with him writing, producing and reading this distinguished periodical for several years - though of course it was far from being a one-man show. He also launched a blog called The Diary of One Who Disappeared and headed the Brno - City of Music web portal for three years.

At present, he writes for the daily Hospodářské noviny, Aktualně.cz and HIS Voice, collaborates with the Czech Philharmonic and the weekly magazine Respekt, and works as the editor-in-chief of the Magazine of the Academy of Classical Music and Opus musicum. He has to write quite a lot, which he considers divine retribution for all the essays he didn’t hand in at secondary school. He’s a co-founder of the Trochu nižši C4 prize, which is given annually for the best piece of contemporary Czech music and has so far been awarded twice.



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For the twenty-eighth year running, the Concentus Moraviae International Music Festival presents dramaturgically varied and interpretively refined evenings set not only in concert halls, but also in courtyards and chateau salons, castle halls, basilicas, churches and synagogues. The theme of this year’s 28th edition is Between Kroměříž and Vienna. Vienna, the cultural centre of Europe, served as the seat of the Habsburg emperors, while Kroměříž was the home of the archbishops of Olomouc. The dramaturgy of this year’s edition was prepared by a trio of respected experts: the Dean of the JAMU Faculty of Music, harpsichordist, organist and musicologist Barbara Maria Willi; historian, musicologist and choirmaster Vladimír Maňas; and Otto Biba, Austrian musicologist and long-time director of the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde archive.  more

The celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Brno’s Besední dům, which take place within its premises and elsewhere, have an interesting and distinguished dramaturgy that manages to transport the audience to the early days of this concert venue. Two concerts took place on 4 and 5 May and were entitled “Janáček” and “Horňácká muzika”. I took part in the first one; it was a truly momentous experience prepared by the Brno Philharmonic and Petr Mička’s Horňácká muzika. Friday’s repeat of the concert was broadcast by Czech Television. Both nights were sold out and standing tickets were even added to the sale.  more

The Brno Philharmonic’s headquarters and one of Brno’s most important historical and cultural landmarks – the Besední dům – celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Exactly on 3 April 1873, when the auditorium (great hall) of the building designed by architect Theophil von Hansen, author of the famous Musikverein in Vienna, was ceremonially opened, this magnificent building became the centre of Brno’s culture and its distinctive artistic life. A century and a half later – on Monday 1 May 2023 – an afternoon gathering and a subsequent concert entitled When Smetana First Played in Brno. . . will launch a series of concerts that pay tribute to unique milestones in the city’s cultural history.  more

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I talked to Barbara Maria Willi, the dean of the Faculty of Music at the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts, dramaturge, teacher, populariser of classical music, harpsichordist, organist and specialist on the hammered dulcimer, about the 20th anniversary edition of the music series Barbara Maria Willi presents..., as well as about historically informed interpretation and further plans. The fact that she was actively teaching a foreign student just before our talk is the best indication of how busy her schedule is.  more

The end of the Lenten season culminates in the Passover week with the commemoration of Christ’s Passion, whose motif was also the main dramaturgical idea of the Ensemble Opera Diversa concert entitled Lamento. The Wednesday evening of 29 March was devoted to works on lamentations by Czech and British composers. Conveniently, the ensemble chose for this concert the Baroque Hall of the Convent of the Merciful Brothers, which enhanced the Lenten atmosphere.  more

Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan has long been dedicated to either his own work or to the inspiration of Armenian folklore. It wasn't until his tenth album, StandArt, that he decided to work with jazz standards, compositions that work for most jazz musicians as basic preparation and as material that players from all over the world agree on when jamming together. The pianist will present his current album on Friday 24 March 2023 at the Sono Centre in Brno as part of the JazzFestBrno festival.  more

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La Cantiga de la Serena is a trio from southern Italy, focusing on the music of the Mediterranean, seen as a bridge between the West and the East. The ensemble's repertoire consists of medieval dances and songs, sacred songs including pilgrim songs, medieval secular songs, and songs of the Sephardic Jews who had to leave what is now Spain and Portugal at the end of the 15th century. In 2021, the group released its third and most recent album to date, La Mar, and in the summer of 2022 performed in Brno at the Maraton Hudby festival. You can even recall the concert thanks to this interview. Our questions are answered by Fabrizio Piepoli, who sings and plays the Italian battente chitarra, as well as Giorgia Santoro, who plays a variety of flutes and whistles, including the Indian bansuri and Irish tin whistle, and the Celtic harp. Finally, the third member is Adolfo La Volpe, who plays the Arabic lute, classical guitar and Irish bouzouki.  more

The concert with subtitle “Comradeship, Cooperation, Subversion and a Big Battle at the End”, directed by the Brno Contemporary Orchestra (BCO), offered a remarkable programme of contemporary music. It consisted of three Czech and one world premiere, performed at the Besední dům on 27 February under the baton of the tribal conductor Pavel Šnajdr. The choice of the concert hall was anything but random. The Besední dům is celebrating 150 years since its opening this year, and the ensemble held an annual community concert to mark the important anniversary.  more

Last year’s album Morytáty a romance by Brno singer-songwriter and TV dramaturge Ivo Cicvárek scores points in annual polls beyond the pure folk genre. Ivo recorded his big project with his renamed band, which he now calls Živo, and a number of guests. In the interview he explains what is behind the songs of the album and talks about his future plans.  more

Naloučany is a small village on the Oslava River in the Vysočina region. The village has its own photographer, and his portraits of the village locals have found their way to the American Library of Congress and have become part of the largest collection of this medium since its beginnings. This is naturally a source of pride for nearly two hundred of the village’s inhabitants. That’s why they all joined forces to give their native photographer an event that would be remembered not only by them and by the photographer himself, but also by all the other visitors who took the trip through the snowy rolling landscape to the village’s community centre.  more

Folklore enthusiasts from all over Moravia met in the reconstructed hall of the largest Czech Sokol Hall on Kounicova Street in Brno. The traditional seventy-first ball was organised by the Slovácký krúžek Brno Club on Saturday 21 January. Two associations with a deep First Republic tradition were thus connected, and it seemed that they had shared a natural common bond all that time.  more

The Brno City Theatre has launched the Czech premiere of the musical “Matilda” based on the famous book of the same name by Roald Dahl, one of the world’s best-selling authors. Directed by Petr Gazdík, the family show aspires to be a spectacle for the auditorium for all ages. On stage, however, it is the children who win in this demanding production, led by the lead actress Maruška Juráčková. Her performance inspires respect beyond the quantity of text, the quality of her singing, and her command of movement. To be fair, however, the children’s roles are alternated three times, and these performers have undergone the same training.  more

Noam Vazana, performing under the name Nani, is an Israeli singer who performs songs in the Jewish language Ladino. For her 2017 album “Andalusian Brew”, she collected folk songs, some of which she heard as a child from her grandmother. In 2021, she recorded her first original album of songs in Ladino, entitled “Ke Haber”. In autumn 2022, she performed in Brno at the Music Lab club in a duo with Brno percussionist Jakub Škrha. The following interview was conducted before the concert.  more


The 28th edition of the Concentus Moraviae Festival will remind us of the musical life between Kroměříž and Vienna in the 17th and 18th centuries. Concerts are traditionally held in the courtyards and salons of chateaux, in castle halls, and in the pews of basilicas, churches and synagogues. The legendary Viennese ensemble Concentus Musicus Wien has accepted the position of ensemble in residence. Today’s opening concert will feature this ensemble under the direction of Czech conductor Tomáš Netopil.  more

Tomorrow, that is Thursday, 1 June 2023, an International Children’s Day celebration will take place on the piazzetta in front of the Janáček Theatre. The event is for children ages 4 and up.  more

The Czech Ensemble Baroque will present a Czech program today at the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul, the last concert of the 11th season of the Bach to Mozart series! The main guest of the evening will be the world-renowned countertenor Andreas Scholl. The motets by the Czech conductor František Ignác Tůma, whose work will be performed by Scholl for the first time in his career, will be showcased in a modern world premiere.  more

A new project titled the European Dance Competition Brno 2023 is being developed at the Brno National Theatre - an international dance competition for students of dance conservatories and professional ballet schools from all over Europe from ages 12 years to graduation. The aim of the competition is to become a platform for discovering, supporting and promoting new promising dance talents.  more

The celebration of International Dance Day will take place on the piazzetta in front of the Janáček Theatre. The evening programme will end with a gala evening of the NdB Ballet with international participation.   more

The National Theatre in Brno (NdB) commemorates the 115th anniversary of the birth of dancer, choreographer, and leading personality of the Brno Ballet Ivo Váňa Psota with an e-exhibition mapping his life and work.   more

The Year of Czech Music will present unjustly neglected composers, monumental symphonies, and commemorations of important anniversaries during the season. The Brno Philharmonic presents its 68th season, which continues its long-standing concepts and brings news for subscribers. The orchestra will enter the new season on September 14 with Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection”, conducted by Principal Conductor Dennis Russell Davies.   more

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Today, 7 May 2023, the opera singer and actress Soňa Červená died. Her operatic beginnings are associated with the Brno Opera, where she also returned in recent years.   more

The Pop Messe festival is expanding its line-up for 2023. Artists such as Spiritualized, Gilla Band, Tommy Cash, Kokoko!, Clark, Mareux, Kode9, Tim Reaper, Fvck Kvlt, Berlin Manson, Kalle, and many more will be visiting the third edition of the festival in Brno.   more