After a covid break, the streets of Brno were once again filled with costumes from various parts of Moravia as well as other European countries. On the first day of September, the International Folklore Festival Brno began. Like the vast majority of festivals and regular events that could not take place in the last two years, the IFF also had a break due to government measures. And that is why this year’s festival chose the telling subtitle “We Live”. This time BROLN provided the opening concert in the courtyard of the New Town Hall, and there were two special reasons for this.
The first reason was the jubilee anniversary of the ensemble. Jaroslav Jurášek and his radio colleagues founded BROLN in 1952, exactly seventy years ago. To mark the occasion, the orchestra released a double album with new songs as well as old legendary hits. To mark this anniversary, there will be one more special concert on 8 September in Besední dům. Since it is a truly respectable anniversary, it was also commemorated at the appointed show.
The second (and for the opening night of the festival the main) reason for BROLN’s performance was the centenary of the birth of a personality as intrinsically linked to radio as the orchestra. This was the long-time editor, musical visionary, dulcimer player, composer, and occasional singer Jaromír Nečas.
The programme overwhelmingly used his orchestral arrangements of folk songs, which he had composed for BROLN in the past, and which were used in the group’s heyday from the 1960s to the 1980s. This meant that they were often originally intended for an even larger instrumentation than BROLN currently has.
The show was hosted by Nečas’ radio colleague and friend Jiří Plocek.
Jaromír Nečas studied composition at the conservatory, so he had the appropriate training for musical arrangements. Perhaps that is why some of them are more demanding for the listener. These are works composed in fine detail. In particular, we could hear, for example, the dramatic Na uherskej straně, Ej, križu, križu, Zasela som bazaličku, Hodonín je pěkné mesto, and other legendary compositions by Jaromír Nečas.
The current line-up of BROLN with the principal singer Petr Varmuža mastered them perfectly. As well as the invited singers – Václav Kovářík, Aleš Smutný, who even sang the songs of the sick Michal Janosek perfectly. Then there was the Podlucha diva Kamila Tomšejová, Anna Urbaničová and the former orchestra leader František Černý. I can’t help but praise the performance of the latter. He managed to add a folkloric spark to the often academic interpretations, which the outdoor concert dearly needed.
Considering the difficulty of the individual pieces, I would have preferred the interior of a more intimate concert hall. Alternatively, I would intersperse them with pieces by other arrangers. Certainly it was possible to find in the BROLN repertoire those that are connected with the person of Jaromír Nečas in other ways than just compositional.
The choice of Jiří Plocek as moderator was quite clear. He is a musical explorer of the same untimely origin, connected with Jaromír, for example, by the fact that he did not grow up in folklore, but found his way to it later in life. His intimate recollections are always a great pleasure for me personally. However, in such a dramaturgically conceived programme, they would suit a slightly different setting. I can imagine Jiří Plocek much better in a debate or a discussion, where his ideas could be discussed in more depth.
The festive atmosphere of this concert was perfect for the beginning of the festival. But on the following days I expect a little more folk and a little less of that academic playing. So maybe I’ll see you at the Besední dům.