Find an unused, forgotten factory, write a concert customised to it and go elsewhere. The project Ztichlé budovy (Quiet Buildings) was founded by several students of art schools in Brno, the first year performed in the hall of the former MEZ factory in Židenice. This year, they will return once again, but next time they should be moving on. We talked to several members of the creative and organisational community in the Zastávka Café in Židenice about the beginnings, present and future of Ztichlé budovy. We got to talk to Anna Laborová, Petra Čtveráčková, Kristýna Uhrová, Magdalena Dostálová and Filip Dufka. This year, the MEZ building will be full of music on 28 April.
The string quartet Nostalgia Quartet was founded a quarter century ago by the players of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra but they focus on jazz. We talked about the history and present of the ensemble with its founding member, violoncellist Radan Vach. The current line-up consists of Jakub Výborný (first violin), Bohumír Strnad (second violin) and Otakar Salajka (viola).
He has been playing the violin since childhood, he toured the entire world with Ida Kelarová. Violinist Milan Horváth is in charge of the jazz band The Harmonic Play and a dulcimer band. With the first one, they will accompany the screening of the silent film Bewitching Eyes in the Moravian Library. And they will also release a new album in the Museum of Roma Culture on 7 April.
The ongoing Itch My Ha Ha Ha Festival focuses on music ranging from electronic experiments to rap and contemporary pop. The deformator of tape loops William Basinski, energetic Young Fathers and the lone singing preacher Richard Youngs found their place in the programme. The common denominator for the various performers could be that their performances resemble a musical ceremony. That may be another reason why the band Ospalý pohyb led by Slovak composer Martin Burlas fits so naturally into the festival programme. Their performance was part of an art birthday celebration on 17 January.
The Powder Her Face opera will premiere on Friday in the Brno Reduta Theatre. The love life and divorce of the Duchess of Argyll is, however, not the essential topic of the work by British composer Thomas Adès. Composer and chief conductor of the Janáček Opera Marko Ivanović is in charge of the musical arrangement of the first production of Adès' opera on the Czech scene. We talked not only about the work itself, but also about the music of Thomas Adès and performing contemporary operas on the Brno scene. And we also touched on the Excursions of Mr. Brouček directed by Jan Švankmajer.
Music accompanies people in the folk tradition from birth to death, in all ritual and personal contexts. An anthology of Moravian folk music started to be released four years ago. It was intended to provide a complete picture of folklore as it can be really experienced in Moravia. Two parts were added to the first five parts this autumn. Six of the current seven albums were compiled by music publicist Helena Bretfeldová.
We met with conductor Gabriela Tardonová in Kabinet Múz where the Ensemble Opera Diversa used to sometimes play in their nomadic times. However, we were not really discussing the history of one of her home ensembles. Rather, we talked about its near and more distant future. We started, of course, with Miloš Štědroň's opera Chameleon, the premiere of which is approaching. We did, however, not forget about the Young Symphony Orchestra of Brno led by Gabriela Tardonová or her own ambitions and wishes.
Astronautalis is almost at home both in Europe and the Czech Republic, with concert tours of the singer from Minneapolis coming to us very often. So far it does not seem that anyone would be tired of him, something unexpected can be expected on every album and at every concert. This Friday, Astronautalis will stop by at the Itch My Hahaha Festival, and then two days later in the Lucerna Music Bar in Prague.
The Israeli composer and double bassist Avishai Cohen is one of the jazz world's most popular musicians of today. He has stopped in the Czech Republic several times, twice at the JazzFestBrno and most recently at this year's Colours of Ostrava. At the end of November, he will perform in Brno again, but this time it is an exceptional event. The concert is part of Cohen's first tour with the symphony orchestra, so in addition to the usual trio the Brno Philharmonic will also be on the stage in Bobycentrum. Before the Brno performance, we managed to get a few modest answers to several immodest questions from Avishai Cohen.
The Vienna State Opera will present its first production of the Makropulos Affair. Not only that the opera of Leoš Janáček will be introduced to this famous opera house but Jakub Hrůša will conduct there for the first time as well. We met two days before the rehearsal started and apart from the upcoming production we talked about working in opera in general. But we also talked about the position of the principal conductor of the Bamberg Symphony, which Jakub Hrůša will occupy starting from next season, and about getting from Brno grammar school to a world famous career as a conductor and finally we talked a bit about dress coats and other clothes. We did not talk about the Sir Charles Mackerras Award, which Jakub Hrůša received from the Leoš Janáček Foundation, but we congratulate him nonetheless!
Zenový čaj is not a band in the traditional sense of the word, but is a changing project in which anyone can participate at any appropriate moment. Half of the permanent members consist of the multi-instrumentalist and didgeridoo player Dalibor Neuwirt and the first album First Flush was made along with several famous musicians on the Czech scene.
The debut of tenor Pavel Černoch in Brno was rather inconspicuous. A part of the children Kantilena is hardly remembered by the audience and the side roles in the Magic Flute are also not world shattering. But that was several years back, Pavel Černoch is a regular part of the world opera scene and he would like to conquer the Metropolitan Opera in major roles. This December he will return to Brno with his first great gala concert of his career.
He likes solitude in the middle of nature as well as a city atmosphere; he went on the path from a rock band to a symphonic orchestra. The guest of this year’s Moravian Autumn festival is the Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tüür. When we were arranging the schedule of the telephone interview, we both forgot to take into consideration the different time zones and nearly missed each other. But in the end we found one other - after all everything is connected nowadays, as he too mentioned.
The Janáček Theatre will celebrate its fiftieth anniversary on Friday by performing the premiere of Leoš Janáček’s opera Jenufa. The director of the performance is the current director of the National Theatre Brno – Martin Glaser. We spoke together about his production as well as the changes the theatre has gone through under his management and where the festivals Theatre World and Janáček Brno were heading.
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.