Canadian director Robert Carsen is among today's elite directors in the world of opera. His productions have been in the repertoire of major opera houses, such as the La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in England or the Royal Opera House Covent Garden for many years. His work is often referred to as the so-called regietheater because he usually stages operas at times and places different from the original score. Yet his productions excel in unique poetics, dramaturgical compactness and mainly in the fact that they are an emotional, lively and extremely impressive theatre. The 2016 Janáček Brno Festival will open with one of the most famous productions by Carsen, Janáček's Katya Kabanova. It will be performed by the ensemble of the Janáček Opera of the Brno National Theatre. The Brno theatre will be the first ensemble in the Czech Republic that has a production by Robert Carsen in their permanent repertoire.
A long Czech tour of the English blues guitarist Will Johns was taking place nearly all throughout September. A nephew of Eric Clapton and George Harrison and a son of famed producer Andy Johns (he worked with Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones) began touring in the early 1990s. His latest album is called Something Old, Something New... and Will Johns will also present it in Brno. His concert in the Stará Pekárna Music Club will take place on Tuesday, 13 September from 8:00 p.m. This interview with the guitarist was conducted by phone.
Dulcimer player from the Javory Band, bandleader and founder of the folk Cimbal Classic and music educator Dalibor Štrunc released his new record Malované na cimbál. Štrunc's instrumental songs on this album are played by his students from the Conservatory Anna Múčková, Kateřina Harnošová, and Barbora Jagošová. We talked to the dulcimer player and songwriter, who has just turned 50, about this piece of work and more.
Last year, soprano Martina Janková, baritone Tomáš Král and pianist Ivo Kahánek recorded an album of folk songs edited by Leoš Janáček. Visitors of the 2016 Janáček Brno Festival will also have the opportunity to experience its live performance. The only change is that Roman Hoza will perform instead of Tomáš Král at the concert in the Villa Tugendhat. Martina Janková talked about her journey from childhood with folk music to Janáček.
Songwriter and guitarist František Chaloupka switches between rock, contemporary and classical music and other genres. Besides that, he founded the Guitar Institute in 2014. We talked about guitar instruction tailored to students. And about the directions in which the Institute could develop further.
How does the Mozart effect work? Why does Mozart's music reduce epileptic discharges in the brain, while Haydn's does not? How do the brains of the audience without musical training and professional musicians perceive music? We were looking for answers with the head of the Centre for Neuroscience of the Central European Institute of Technology (CEITEC), Professor Ivan Rektor.
25-year-old guitarist Jannis Moras is a rising star on the Brno scene. The songwriter with Greek roots works with his father Trifon Moras and his two brothers in the I Parea band. With the Anatoli band that plays traditional Greek music, he recently won the South Moravian round of the Porta competition. And he has his own original project Jannis Moras a band(a) that will perform on 4 June as part of the Greek Saturday at the Veveří Castle. We talk to Jannis Moras about music that he plays and about the Greek community in Brno.
Inconspicuous concerts in high-pitched frequencies go through the city. Their centre is an area called Rumiště, the producer and DJ Snediggen Snurssla stands behind them. This week, his AVA loft sessions are being held for the fifteenth time and they will head from Rumiště to Mosilana. Furthermore, we talked about adventurous music and listening to the city.
The Brno Contemporary Orchestra was founded five years ago by conductor Pavel Šnajdr. Music by contemporary composers is nothing unusual to him, he considers it an everyday matter of course. And that is how he wants to bring it closer to the audience. The upcoming concert in Hall A at the Brno Exhibition Centre was one of the reasons for this interview about the creation of the orchestra and their plans. And about contemporary music in general.
The fates of unfortunate Queen Dido and the hero Gilgamesh will be combined in the joint performance of works by Henry Purcell and Bohuslav Martinů. The Janáček Opera is preparing the combination of the Baroque opera with music of the 20th century as the last premiere of the season. We talk to Václav Luks, a renowned interpreter of early music, the founder and conductor of Collegium 1704, mainly about the Baroque part of the performance.
Yoga became commonplace in Europe and America a long time ago and has become part of the Western world. For some, it is one of the common exercises, for others it is mainly a path to knowledge. The Wonderpark Festival strives to combine yoga and contemporary music. We talked about it with its organiser Naděžda Brzobohatá in her yoga studio. And we started with a tea.
International success and Czech quartet tradition – both refer to the ensemble that was named after composer Pavel Haas. The Pavel Haas Quartet received its first BBC Music Magazine Award a few days ago for a recording of quartets by Bedřich Smetana, and it collects awards of the Gramophone Magazine almost systematically. The Concentus Moraviae Festival was also an important topic of the interview. This year, it was thematically devoted primarily to the string quartet and Beethoven, and the Pavel Haas Quartet is the residential ensemble this year.
The band Minach with actress and chanson singer Mariana Chmelařová. Album Out Of The Blue(s) with the Indigo String Quartet. Cooperation with another singer-actress Andrea Buršová. Songs for theatrical performances. New acoustic music for the KK Band (with mandolin player Martin Krajíček). Albums of folk and "speech therapy" songs for children. The book Drakouni. The TV show Hýbánky. Albums for piano solos. This is – by no means exhaustive – a list of activities of the pianist and composer Zdeněk Král from Brno. We met on the occasion of the release of his new piano album, Nahá, but we obviously did not stop there.
Roman Dragoun, one of our best rock singers and keyboardists, will celebrate his 60th birthday on 8 April. On that occasion, he released a new album called Samota (Solitude), continuing his long-standing collaboration with lyricist Milan Princ. The solo CD is, however, only one of many current activities of the musician whose life took him from his hometown of Písek to Brno.
The Liška – Malina – Nejtek group caught the attention of the Artistic Director of the JazzFestBrno Festival Vilém Spilka as soon as he heard about it: "I actually bought a pig in a poke. I made arrangements with them a long time ago and I did not even know how they sounded. I did not care whether it would be bluegrass, or new age. "The debut album has already seen the light of day, and the visitors to this year's festival will also hear the trio live.
Electronic music, big beat and clubbing go together - but that’s only a small part of the truth. In fact electronic music was here long before clubbing, and thanks to enlightened teachers at JAMU it was doing very well indeed in Brno as early as the 1960s. That is, long before synthesizers and sequencers appeared on rock podiums, long before any old band had a computer, long before the first dance parties in glittering halls and dark cellars. Today electronic music is one of music’s most omnipresent genres: neither dance parties nor contemporary operas can do without it. Electronic big beat music has occupied reggae and swing, remixing is a daily affair, Brno artists have learned to sell instruments they built themselves to the whole world and to amplify an old knitting machine. As early as 1907 the composer Ferruccio Busoni dreamt of the future potential of electronic music, but not even his imagination and genius could have anticipated what Thaddeus Cahill’s first weird experiment with an immense electrical organ would lead to one day.
After Easter, an official statement that ruined every folklore lover's day appeared on social networks and in the media. The folklore festival in Strážnice will not take place this year. The reasons are well known to everyone. Yesterday, another wave of coronavirus lockdown easement began, and this was not the only reason why we talked to Martin Šimša, director of the National Institute of Folk Culture (NÚLK) in Strážnice. Well, is there really a reason for mourning? What can we look forward to in the immediate future? And when is the best time to visit the castle park and the open-air museum in Strážnice? These questions, and not only these, will be answered in the following interview.
Although cultural life has suffered significantly in the last two months, people's desire for an artistic experience has not faded. On the contrary – art and its role in our lives are perhaps needed even more than before. Hence, although concert halls are empty and listeners are forced to visit them only through recordings of their favourite concerts, a number of well-made music media created (not only) in the beginning of the year helps to bridge over this unfortunate period.
”It’s a long journey to the West, / Pointless, fruitless is the longing,” began the first cowboy song recording issued by R. A. Dvorský’s publishing house in 1939. The theme and tone reflect the “tramping” movement, with its idealized vision of “America” and its unspoiled “nature”, which led Czechs to take to the woods, where they hiked, met round campfires and sang songs modelled on American folk songs and country music. So widespread was the tramping phenomenon that it made its way into popular music, where it long remained. Over time, the romance of the cowboy and the idea of a free life on the Great Plains found their way not only into songs sung by such late twenti- eth-century stars as Karel Gott, Helena Vondráčková and Waldemar Matuška but into social life itself: very few countries in Europe have such liberal laws when it comes to sleeping overnight, or even setting up camp, in the woods. In the past young people in Brno could choose whether to be “city slickers” hooked on discotheques or “wander- ers”, who would head for the main train station every Friday afternoon or Saturday and from there set out on the first train for wherever in the countryside it was heading to.
Bands that have been present on the scene for several decades have two options: Either they make a living from their own substance, and therefore from hits of the past. Or they are still trying to come up with something new, sometimes with the wishes of conservative fans in spite of it. The "Brno-based" group Poutníci (meaning Pilgrims in Czech), who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, are somewhere halfway in between. They still play Panenka [The Doll], which the audience demands, but fortunately they didn't get stuck and – maybe after a long time, but still – they come up with a new serial album, which should not pass unbeknown to the fans of Czech country and bluegrass.
The double album Hrubá Hudba, which was jointly created by producer Jiří Hradil (Lesní zvěř, Tata Bojs, Kafka Band and others) and the Horňácká muzika band of Petr Mička, is an extraordinary musical achievement that puts together genuine Horňácko singing (the CD Hlasy starého světa [Voices of the Old World]) and folklore shifted to modern musical expression (the CD Hrubá hudba [Rough Music]). In an extensive two-part interview, we talked to the two fathers of the project, Jiří Hradil and Petr Mička, about their long-term cooperation, their path to Hrubá Hudba and finally about the double album itself and the possible continuation of the project.
The Czech Radio Brno folklore section decided that it did not want to idle during the isolation that affected almost the entire world. In addition to "home" broadcasting taking place directly at editors' homes, it also announced a challenge. Listeners can now submit their music recordings to the radio editors; these recordings will eventually be broadcast on air.
“Every theatre is a madhouse, but opera is the ward for the incurable,” claimed Franz von Dingelstedt, the first director of the Court Opera House in Vienna. And he was right, for once someone’s fallen in love with opera, that’s it. Opera’s a stepchild of the Renaissance, with a Baroque wet nurse: it was on the cusp between these two great eras that the idea of purely sung theatre saw the light of day. Step by step, composers taught the art of singing to classical gods and brave women, Christian heroes and pagan enchantresses, a Seville barber, a Babylonian king and the Czech Mařenka and Jeník. But it was only here in Brno, thanks to Leoš Janáček, that truly psychological musical drama was born, drama that sees into a person’s heart. Today the Brno opera company has its home in a theatre named after Janáček, mounts a major festival devoted to the city’s most famous composer every two years, and has set its sights very high. “The more opera is dead, the more it flourishes,” pronounced the philosopher Slavoj Žižek when speaking of this fanatically loved but just as fanatically rejected genre. By this measure, opera in Brno these days must have been dead at least a dozen times.
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?”
Trumpet player Jiří Kotača is the leader of a young, but very interesting and healthily ambitious big band named Cotatcha Orchestra. While this Brno-based orchestra is still waiting for its first album, Kotača recently released a CD with his smaller ensemble – the international Alf Carlsson/Jiří Kotača Quartet. The album is entitled Journeys.
Due to the impact of extraordinary measures taken because of the Covid-19 pandemic on stakeholders of the cultural and creative industries in Brno, Brno leaders and the Department of Culture of the Brno City Municipality are working intensively on a set of precautions for minimizing the damages. At the same time, communication is conducted on all levels of public administration, predominantly in collaboration with the Institut umění – Divadelní ústav [Arts and Theatre Institute], which is mapping the situation on the nationwide level. Until 22 March 2020 you can help assess the current situation by means of an online survey (the link is provided below). Further steps will be taken according to the results of the survey.
The fourth subscription evening prepared by the Brno Philharmonic for the chief conductor's series called Philharmonic at Stadion and Janáček Theatre is an exceptional dramaturgical feat. The programme entitled "Pictures at an Exhibition", based on Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky's initial composition, combines additional works originated in and inspired by painting: The Frescoes of Piero della Francesca by Bohuslav Martinů, and Mathis der Maler, a symphony by Paul Hindemith. Sounding painting is accompanied by unique, music-illustrated visualisations of Cori O’Lan in collaboration with Ars Electronica. This week's difficult situation, not only for cultural institutions, was managed by the Brno Philharmonic promptly and with a great acclaim. Much like Cirk La Putyka on the day before, the Philharmonic decided not to cancel the performance at the Janáček Theatre and to broadcast the music and visualisations on 12 March from the Besední dům live on the web and on social networks.
The story of fateful love of the beautiful courtesan Marguerite and her sweetheart Armand, as we know it from the autobiographical prose The Lady of the Camellias by Alexander Dumas Jr., need not be largely introduced. One of the most famous novels of the 19th century has already been subject to a number of remakes, and now the National Theatre Brno ballet ensemble also came up with a new modern concept of this story of pain, passion and self-sacrifice.
Last year, after several years of stagnation, Brno's folklore enthusiasts woke up again and began organizing gatherings with dulcimer music, folklore parties, etc. at several different venues. This is certainly gratifying. However, motivation, experiences and concepts differ. One of them is We <3 folklore in the Metro music bar.
Besední dům is coming back to life, with concerts returning there. A project called End of Streaming. We're playing live again! will offer a grand total of eight concerts in four days, starting next Tuesday. Every day, from Tuesday to Friday, there will be two concerts with the same programme: one in the afternoon and the other in the evening. All with a chamber line-up, without wind instruments and for a maximum of 130 listeners.
PonavaFest is entering its fifth season. This year, however, it will take place as a series of smaller concerts on one stage only. Concerts are scheduled to take place from May to August; the organisers will also be streaming some of them online. The first part of the festival, with the subtitle Eine kleine Nachtmusik, will be taking place already this weekend. Tomáš Vtípil, Irena and Vojtěch Havel and others will be featured.
The Czech Ensemble Baroque is once again organising the Summer School of Baroque Music in Holešov, which focuses on authentic interpretation of early music. The 18th season bears the subtitle The Spiritual versus Secular in the Works of J. S. Bach; the guest for this season is the world-famous countertenor Andreas Scholl. The registration deadline is 1 June 2020.
Today, April 30, is International Jazz Day. In response to the current coronavirus crisis, UNESCO music cities, among which Brno is also included, will celebrate this day with a live online streaming of a concert. This event, to be held as part of the Enjoy Jazz festival, will provide support to freelance artists. The concert will be transmitted live from the Ella & Louis Jazz Club in Mannheim, which also holds the title of UNESCO City of Music. Performers include artists such as Nicole Metzger, Juliana Blumenschein, Bernhard Vanecek, Alexandra Lehmler and Olaf Schönborn, TC Debus, Claus Kiesselbach and other local artists. Spectators all around the world can support the artists by purchasing online tickets before the concert or even during the viewing of it.
The Brno-based music project Bartleby brings together the Czech Slam poetry champion Ondřej Hrabal (aka TKCR, rap) and double bassist Jakub Nožička (ex-Ponk). Their joint album features guests such as Michal Grombiřík, Michal Procházka, Matěj Štefík and Marek Kotača. The final mix and mastering of the album named #happiness was done in the studio of Jiří Topol Novotný.