Something about Brno music III

1 August 2014, 1:00
Something about Brno music III

Another part of the series of articles by Leoš Janáček about Brno singer associations is dedicated to the Slavonic singer association of Brno technicians “Zora”.

We often find various associations behaving like singer unions. What is the position of these unions in artistic society? Many say that if the union is not based on an artistic background, it is not good to take into consideration just the artistic measure. However, my opinion is the following: if the singer union is founded, the activity of the union is set; the incentive for founding is also the purpose; entertainment – singing. However, this can be based only on the simple interest in connection between musical and poetic beauty. With that said, if the union should fulfil its role, it must be in the field of art foremost. I will add musical; because otherwise it should express the condition, based on which the singer union could entertain the association community by any old rubbish. For this, I conclude, the association should thank its union appropriately. The difference between singer union and singer association is the generality; the latter is required, if it wants to survive, to have strength, but the former is not a subject to this notion and it survives whether successful or unsuccessful. If the latter wants to remain, it should have classicality as an ideal and it should strive for it; the former has this responsibility, if it has material, strength. On the contrary: any union which does not have anything as a source of creativity strives for perfection and artistic appeal, however. Previously, we spoke about Vesna, now let’s turn to a singers’ association called Zora when performing actively. They are singing the song Skřivánek (The Lark), a humorous choral by Dr. Javůrek: a gentle composition, which needs to be gently performed. Let’s be honest with ourselves: all the smoothness, ease at use, gentleness of expression, singing adapted to words – that was all missing.

And the laughter! It was like the evil rejoicing of wicked spirits, not like the naïve laughter of a lover. The main cause was the disproportionate cast of voices. They wanted to see a devil, a joke with the words of J.S. and music by Karel Hák. We want every contemporary composer to choose real poetic beauty when using words for their compositions, which can be ludicrous, but it should never become a patchwork of gross and uncouth jokes and expressions. The author of the words must have thought about strange company when composing the words – definitely not the one which gathered, however small it was, on the Saturday. That is the main reason why the composition did not make the impression people expected.

And the music? We admit that the composer was very persistent and diligent and proved that he was artful in using musical forms. However, we regret all the work and effort; as it did not match the words: the style of Offenbach would probably have better effect. The second main fault was the immense fragmentation of the composition; each part had a different motif, different style, different key, different way of timing – a basic theme, which would unite and join the composition, was absolutely missing.

Only the story here contributed to unity, without the plot there would be an impression similar to a multi-coloured Chinese picture. – I find it easy to prove it, however, it does not belong here. I am willing to talk about it personally, though. The melodies, and also the accompaniment remind us often of similar scenes from other compositions; I do not hold this against the composer. It is a truly natural phenomenon for which the author cannot be blamed; nonetheless, I believe that it should be mentioned. I do not want to talk about the impression as it is subjective and personal.


Dvě písně (Two Songs) composed František Budík using Hálek’s lyrics. I keep reminding myself that if we compose a song and we had already chosen the lyrics, we show by that choice that the poetic beauty revealed to us in the words is the main element. The music should then, if possible when two beauties are put together, be subordinate to the other element. In the first song the composer tried to comply with it, even though it was a bit awkward, the cause of awkwardness probably was the strange choice of the quintet style, too rich for such light flowing lyrics appearing in the song. The second song is absolutely wrong from the point of view of harmony between the two elements. Mere improvisation in various but not peculiar or original harmony, which flow calmly and which are homophonic. When listening to these songs we perceive two lines of ideas and images which do not correspond with each other with respect to aesthetics, i.e. to get the liking from the harmony, the images absolutely do not correspond; that is why the lyrics and the music fail, which makes an unpleasant impression. It is absolutely justifiable to say that the music is not suitable for the poems used. We shall observe the music itself; then we claim that the composition is good with respect to the melody and harmony, as well as the distribution, conclusion and methods are concerned. We, however, miss variety, which is the sticking point of these compositions. Monotony prevails: in the melody because the melody is represented by a tenor only, although in the case of other voices it is a mere result of harmonic composition; in harmony because one cannot speak about harmonic richness and variety. Novelty is important: what we hear every day and in every composition becomes ordinary and uninteresting; colourful monotony occurred due to the incessant lead of all four or five voices. Variety is missing in both compositions; it is not a fanciful idea which is proven by the impression: is there anyone who was fascinated, impressed or enthusiastic? There is yet another thing I would like to say about the distribution and conclusion of both compositions. The first one ends and we have no idea why and what for. A balanced and satisfactory music ending does not necessarily coincide with the end of the poem: it is missing in both compositions. The conclusion, i.e. the whole part of the composition moves in one basic style (key) and in this way the composition is balanced, is not performed flawlessly in either song; that is why one cannot be satisfied with the conclusion. Finally, there is one piece of advice – the composer should revise both poems and work them differently: surely he will then succeed.

Zkoření Jericha by Mazánek was sung well, which is proof of diligent work and endeavour of the choir master Budík. Now, the question remains: why so much words about a mere dance party? In order to explain my point of view, this will no longer be done to make further analysis. Zora is apparently gaining strength, which brings about a satisfactory impression. However, it should be demanded that the singer association is aware of the fact that pure art is the most important and that their duty is to do their best to contribute to artistic activities in Brno.

The Slovak group Kiero Grande, two Polish bands and the Brno musician Jan Fic with his solo project progressed from the competition Blues Aperitiv to the international festival Blues Alive in Šumperk. Jan, or Honza as he is informally called, who under the label Red Bird Instruments makes cigar box guitars and other instruments, is otherwise known as the frontman of The Weathermakers, playing their raw blues even at Porta. And in several festivals he appeared as leader of the mock country group The Honzíci. The interview that follows took place on the occasion of the release of the solo album Město (City), which Jan Fic together with the producer Martin Kyšperský officially presented on 17 December in Brno’s Stereo – Vinyl Culture Shop.  more

The last week full of musical events culminated in the final round of the Central European Jazz Competition organised by the “neighbouring” jazz festivals – JazzFestBrno and Poysdorf Jazz & Wine. This cross-border musical project has a promising future: the first year of the jazz competition in its final afternoon offered six half-hour blocks of the finalists, who were a surprise with their musical range and the quality of their musicianship.  more

The main programme focus of this year’s Janáček Brno 2018 international festival is the performance of all of the composer’s musical-dramatic works. After the popular success of Káťa Kabanová and the precisely staged The Makropulos Affair yesterday it was the turn of the Polish ensemble Teatr Wielki from Poznan with a performance of Jenůfa, a work which, twelve years after its Brno premiere in 1904 opened the doors to the international musical scene to Leoš Janáček.  more

Many diverse and qualitatively varied opera performances were heard at the festival Janáček Brno 2018. Every now and then a production appears that divides Brno audiences into two irreconcilable camps, one overjoyed by the innovativeness, many non-musical references and bold direction, while the others lament the illogical symbolism, departures from the libretto, seeing it even as a slap in the face of the composer. The song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared from the Belgian ensemble Muziektheater Transparant as directed by Ivo van Hove and with compositional annotations by Annelies Van Parys is controversial in the true sense of the word. The scenographer Jan Versweyveld, the costume designer An D’Huys and the dramaturge Krystian Lada also took part in this new stage form. The solo roles were taken by Ed Lyon, Marie Hamard and Hugo Koolschijn, accompanied on the piano by Lada Valešová and the choral academy De Munt/La Monnaie also took part in the production. The Diary of One Who Disappeared was performed yesterday in the hall of the Mahen Theatre.  more

The second of the accompanying folk concerts of the Janáček Brno festival took place at the Reduta Theatre. And it seems that the bar, set by the first concert, has remained high. The show, called Chodníčky k lidové písni (“Roads to folksong”) was to present one of Janáček’s favourite regions in Slovácko – Horňácko – to the audience. This job was taken on by a cimbalom band with the fitting name of Musica Folklorica.  more

Two servings of first class musical mastery and each one different. One was musical show that was demanding for its audience, where only informed listeners perceived it as a reminder of tragic events. And the second was a lighter dance-like evening with songs that could be sung by the whole of the hall at the Sono Centre. The organisers of JazzFest Brno have shown that no two jazz quintets are alike. Both of the leaders in the last two concerts of this year’s festival rightly got the stormy applause they deserved. At the same time you could hardly see on stage two such different musicians as Terence Blanchard and Richard Bona.  more

On Tuesday the tones of folk song resounded in the courtyard of the Rectorate of Brno University of Technology on Antonínská street in Brno. The first folk accompanying programme of the festival Janáček Brno 2018 carried the poetic name Kvítí milodějné (which might translate as Merciful Flowers), borrowed from the composer’s eponymous arrangements from a unique song cycle of Moravian folk poetry. The entire programme had an interesting and attractive concept, in which there were performances of three versions of folk material from the collections of Leoš Janáček. All three were close not only to the composer himself but were also generally popular.  more

The international music festival Janáček Brno 2018 yesterday opened its sixth year with a new production of the opera The Cunning Little Vixen. The performance was directed by the artistic director of the Brno Opera Jiří Heřman, the stage sets were designed by Dragan Stojčevski, the costumes by Alexandra Grusková and the lighting was by Daniel Tesař. The role of Bystrouška was taken by Jana Šrejma Kačírková, the forester was Svatopluk Sem, Zlatohřbítek was played by Václava Krejčí Housková, Schoolmaster/Mosquito by Ondřej Koplík, Priest/Badger by Jan Šťáva and Harašta by Roman Hoza. The orchestra of the National Theatre in Brno performed under its chief conductor Marko Ivanović, who was also responsible for the musical production of the work.  more

The Cameroonian musician Richard Bona is returning to Brno after a year and a half. While last year the audience in the Janáček Theatre had their breath taken away by his Afro-Cuban project Heritage, this time he is coming with his international group Richard Bona Group. When on 25 November in the Sono Centre we are admiring Bono’s virtuoso guitar playing, it would be good to be aware while he may have inherited his sense of rhythm and general relationship to music from his ancestors, his current level is the result of his hard work. At least this was something he emphasised in our interview, in which we also covered Bono’s love of flamenco and for his club, which he recently opened not far from Paris.  more

Brno City Theatre has come out with another premiere of a Czech musical in the form of Big. This musical novelty, taken from the film of the same name, will entertain children, adolescents and their parents. This musical tale is truly for all the generations. Big is a family comedy, in places also a fantasy spectacle, in others a romantic sweet piece about love or an exciting story of an impatient little boy, in which however all ends well.  more

On Friday 19 October the big band Cotatcha Orchestra performed in HaDivadlo with an important foreign guest: the trombonist, composer and arranger Ilja Reijngoud. After the review of the concert we are now also bringing you an interview with this Dutch jazzman, holder of a Latin Grammy and other significant awards. Reijngoud answered our questions shortly before the Brno concert.  more

The promising developing contemporary Czech jazz scene, which includes well-functioning festivals and two universities with the teaching of jazz (in Brno and in Prague), is creating the background not just for little ensembles, but also for large orchestras. In Prague there is the excellent Concept Art Orchestra, which under the leadership of the trumpeter Štěpánka Balcarová focuses on the work of contemporary Czech authors in the middle and younger generation (the so-called Prague Six). In Brno the B-Side Band, led by the trumpeter Josef Buchta, sells out big halls and plays at major festivals, cooperating with the popular Vojtěch Dyk, but has not given up on its original jazz repertoire and also cooperates with foreign stars of the calibre of Kurt Elling. Another Brno big band, the Cotatcha Orchestra, under the leadership of (yet another trumpeter) Jiří Kotač, has not yet met with such great success. Despite this the ensemble, put together from students and teachers of the jazz department at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts, is fiercely and healthily making progress in our scene and given the quality of the musicians it has at its centre, I believe that it will in the coming years win a unique place for itself.  more

The jubilee 25th year of Olomouc’s Autumn Festival of Sacred Music is drawing to a close. Before the finale with Verdi’s Requiem yesterday there was a concert from the Brno chamber group Ensemble Versus under Vladimír Maňas with an ensemble of renaissance wind instruments accompanied by the continuo provided by Capella Ornamentata under the artistic leadership of its founder Richard Šeda in Olomouc’s Church of the Annunciation (Kostel Zvěstování Páně). Both bodies are mainly concerned with the interpretation of the religious music of the 16th and 17th centuries and have engaged in many other joint projects. In 2017 this cooperation led to a CD of the works of the late renaissance composer Nicolaus Zangius, whose works were heard at Sunday’s concert.  more

The Exposition of New Music festival has been confronting Brno listeners with contemporary Czech and world music for thirty-one years. Over this time, the festival’s concerts have gained a devoted audience wishing to experience the non-traditional musical works and experiments themselves. The autumn part of this years’ festival begun yesterday with the vocal cycle Canti del Capricorno by the Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi, performed by solo soprano Lore Lixenberg.  more

This week in Prague and Brno the English singer Chris Norman, founding and long-time member of the popular band Smokie, will be performing. His concert in the Brno DRFG Arena will be on Saturday 6 October and he will perform at the Prague Forum Karlín two days earlier.  more


Jakub Hrůša will become the fifth Chief Conductor and the musical director of the prominent German orchestra the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra Players – the Bavarian State Philharmonic Orchestra (Bamberger Symphoniker – Bayerische Staatsphilharmonie) in the 2016/2017 season. It was announced today during the morning ceremony, which was attended by Jakub Hrůša himself, by Bavaria’ Minister of Culture Dr. Ludwig Spaenle together with Marcus Rudolf Axt, Chief Executive.  more

The choir at VUT in Brno is seeking new vocal talent. The audition will take place next week.  more

The 21st edition of this competition is being organized by the Musical faculty of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. The competition focusing on young artists playing the violin and on string quartets is being held in cooperation with the Leoš Janáček Foundation.  more

The club, which is starting its 25th concert season, has been reconstructed and is now reopening to jazz musicians from both the domestic and foreign scene. The season will introduce bands as well as individuals such as Ostrich Quartet, Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert Balzar Trio, Vilém Spilka Quartet or Nuf Said.  more

The current 17th year of the festival is divided into two parts. The first part, called Intake of Breath, will take place during October and it will be the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Filigrán dance ensemble. The other part, called Exhalation, will introduce international guests and dance themed movies in November.  more

Old buildings are seemingly silent, but they resonate with memories and lives vanished long ago; this is where they get their distinctive atmosphere from. Watch the video recording of a concert in the former MEZ factory hall in Židenice.  more

The winner of the solo violin category is Amalia Hall from New Zealand while the winner of the string quartet category is a Slovak ensemble called the Mucha Quartet.  more

The new operetta Studio Brno presents the operetta The Cousin from Batavia by Eduard Künneke for the first time.  more

The Brno vocal group Megafon has recorded a debut album full of successful hits and authorial compositions.  more

The Makropulos Affair opera record directed by David Radok and with music production by Marek Ivanovič won two awards at the International Television Festival Golden Prague which took place last night. The recordings won the Foundation VIZE 97 prize and a prize in the category of Performing Arts. The premiere of the opera was on 21 November 2014 during the Janáček Brno festival.  more