Gustav Brom in a nutshell on 4 CDs, with Karel Velebný as a bonus

10 June 2022, 1:00

Gustav Brom in a nutshell on 4 CDs, with Karel Velebný as a bonus

Last year’s 100th anniversary of Gustav Brom’s birth still resonates on the domestic jazz scene. At the very end of 2021, a 4-CD set entitled “Gustav Brom – 100 Years” was released, offering a cross-section of the orchestra’s repertoire, from songwriting to jazz to intersections with contemporary classical music. Alongside this, an album charting the Brom Orchestra’s long-standing collaboration with Karel Velebný has also appeared on the same label (Indies Happy Trails). Radio editor, jazz musician, and teacher Jan Dalecký was one of the producers of both albums.

The “Gustav Brom – 100 Years” set was produced together with the publisher Jaromír Kratochvíl. Were you clear from the beginning that you would arrange the recordings thematically and not chronologically?

Yes, we agreed that it would be meaningful for the collection to have a logical order and should cover all types of music that Gustav Brom and his orchestra played, and that it should be mainly “from their own ranks” in terms of composers and players. The arrangement into thematic chapters is better in my opinion. It is done chronologically in most cases, but Gustav Brom was a personality of several faces due to the changeability of the orchestra. After all, there was a vibraphone combo, a modern jazz combo, a Dixieland group, and a full big band all existing side by side.

The entire 4-CD set is framed by two versions of the Gustav Brom Orchestra’s Theme Song. The first album then opens with the track “U sta Bromů”, recorded in 1991, one of the youngest tracks of the entire collection.

This is a composition by Jaromír Hnilička with a solo by drummer Cyril Zeleňák. Gustav Brom was born in Slovakia and enjoyed a good relationship with Slovak musicians for a long time. Sometime in 1988, when the longest-serving drummer, Václav Skála, was about to retire, Brom rebuilt the rhythm section from Slovak players. It featured Peter Breiner on piano, Stano Herko on bass, and Cyril Zeleňák on drums.

After this piece comes a sharp cut, and the listener finds himself in 1960.

Yes, we tried to present some very historical recordings, and we succeeded in doing just that in the six tracks featuring Edmond Hall, a New Orleans native, a very rare guest in Czechoslovakia in his time and one of the first African-Americans in our country. He made four films with Gustav Brom for Supraphon and six for Brno Radio. We are putting these six recordings together here for the first time. Edmond Hall was a clarinetist and a long-time member of Louis Armstrong’s All Stars group, a man truly in the big leagues.

Was there any knowledge of the existence of these recordings?

Two had already been released on previous recordings sometime after 2000, but not much was known about the rest. I knew about them and the archivist who worked with us knew about them, but otherwise it was forgotten. After all, almost none of the orchestra members who accompanied Edmond Hall at the time are alive today.

The Edmond Hall recordings are the exception that proves the rule. After that, the collection really presents mainly the root composers and soloists of the orchestra.

Yes, then comes another 180-degree turn, as Jaromír Hnilička, the longest-serving composer and player of several instruments, enters. His work is not well known and not yet published in this way. So we’ve tried to present him in a few original compositions, and we’re already planning another title which should be published in about a year and which will be devoted only to him. Included here are also very serious works of a cyclic nature, which is not usual in jazz. I would just like to remind you that Jaromír Hnilička was the author of the first Czech jazz mass in the 1960s, which was written in 1969 and banned after several performances before it could be recorded.

The second disc of the set introduces other root composers...

Yes, and at the same time, these are the principal soloists of the orchestra that we so admired. They are – in order of age – baritone saxophonist Josef Audes, trombonist Mojmír Bártek, and pianist, organist and oboist Josef Blaha. However, the orchestra also had other outstanding players. Jan Formánek formed a trombone duo with Mojmír Bártek. Together they won national competitions long before they thought they would play for Gustav Brom. And tenor saxophonist Zdeněk Novák was invaluable in the orchestra. He had the best ear and later turned to a career as a musical director. In the orchestra he was able to coordinate the saxophone section to play in good tuning and breathe together as one. He could arrange very quickly. He was very valuable at a time when a program for a guest soloist needed to be prepared quickly. As a tenor saxophonist he was able to stand up to the American guests as an equal partner. Only he and Josef Blaha could do that.

Who was the most prolific of the orchestra’s root composers?

Jaromír Hnilička wrote at least two hundred compositions for the orchestra. Josef Audes and Josef Blaha composed about sixty each, but Mojmír Bártek composed far more than them. To this day he is the greatest composer, and his compositional zeal is evidenced by the fact that at the time when he was already an established soloist and composer, he still studied composition at the Janáček Academy. As an adult, he studied the subject, became terribly interested in composition and began to write challenging compositions, like Jaromír Hnilička before him. I coined the nickname “Brno Mozart” for Mojmír for the frequency of his works and the ease with which he composes.

brom_booklet_CD

The Gustav Brom Orchestra’s significance went far beyond the borders of our country. Which period was the most significant in this respect?

In my opinion, it was from the arrival of Josef Blaha in 1965 and it ended with his untimely death in 1973, when he was the only victim of the only crash of a Brom bus in 55 years.

As the 1970s progressed, had normalization already intervened in the life of the orchestra?

Mainly the opportunities for pure jazz programs were diminishing. Gustav Brom was a private entrepreneur, and his orchestra had to make a living. He wasn’t connected to radio or the theater and had to really find work for his thirteen people and for guest singers. So he had to accept lighter songs into the repertoire, which were only a seasonal thing.

The third disc of the collection features other names we haven’t mentioned yet.

Among the orchestra’s players, there is another group of composers who, though not as prolific, also left behind some interesting pieces. These were, for example, bassist Jan Hubáček, pianist Milan Vidlák, and saxophonist Miloslav Petr. They all contributed valuable jazz compositions to the repertoire. By the way, I was pleased to have the opportunity to consult with some of the still living members of the orchestra. In particular, Milan Vidlák himself chose the 1975 composition “Kdyby”, in which he plays Hammond organ and maybe even some synthesizer.

How did the Brom Orchestra actually use synthesizers?

From today’s point of view it’s nothing miraculous, but we have to remember that we’re talking about recordings that are more than 30 years old. Gustav Brom’s orchestra had the advantage of having acquired a Hammond organ as a gift in connection with a guest appearance by the Swiss singer Sonja Salvis, whose husband was a wealthy businessman. This was no small thing; even today the instrument costs around three quarters of a million. And it fell into their laps just for making a record with this singer. Otherwise, synthesizers are just ancillary devices that mustn’t dominate the sound. They have to add color. Once it turns into a solo instrument, it kills the music.

Let’s go back to the third CD of the collection. Its second half is again different in genre.

Yes, it shows us that Gustav Brom didn’t shy away from what was happening in classical music. At the time, Brno was an important center of contemporary composition. There was the creative “Group A” headed by Josef Berg. Important composers were Miloš Štědroň, Arnošt Parsch, and Pavel Blatný, and they are represented by the third CD of our collection. We’ve added Alexey Fried, who, although he soon left for Prague, never lost touch with Brno and Gustav Brom and wrote a number of very substantial long and demanding compositions in the 1970s and 1980s.

Disc 4 contains both recordings of the orchestra’s Prague guests, such as Karel Velebný, Josef Vejvoda, Emil Viklický, Karel Růžička, and Per Kořínek, as well as recordings with the singers. Here we come to one exception. While the whole set of 4 CDs contains recordings from Brno radio, only the song Už jedou vozy s bílou slámou with Jiří Štědron on vocals was released on Supraphon. Why did you include it?

Jiří Štědroň was overlooked and even discriminated against for many years. He made dozens of recordings for Brno Radio and they disappeared somewhere. There was only one left, and it didn’t fit into our selection. So that’s really the only recording where we reached into the Supraphon archive.

One of the aforementioned Prague guests of the orchestra was Karel Velebný. You came back to him later on a separately released CD Karel Velebný – Seven Stops with Gustav Brom. What can we find on this album?

This is a very rare collection made up of individual pieces that took place in 1969-81. Karel Velebný would come to Brno once in a while with scores and a vibraphone. On each of these visits the orchestra played two of his compositions, arranged to his specifications. It should be mentioned here that the Gustav Brom Orchestra was a so-called economic or medium big band. It didn’t have five saxophones, four trombones, and four trumpets, but there was one less player in each section. Karel Velebný always recorded two of his compositions with the orchestra, which happened seven times in total. Fourteen compositions were created in this way. Then there are four more, which he composed for the Bromo Orchestra, but he is no longer a soloist in them. These are compositions that he sent, and the orchestra recorded them in their normal scoring, i.e. without vibraphone. All of this together forms a totally consistent and complete collection that has never appeared together in this form before.

Comments

Reply

No comment added yet..

After the first successful concert of the Concentus Moraviae festival’s resident ensemble at the castle in Slavkov, the ensemble led by violinist Pavel Fischer expanded to include pianist Katya Apekisheva and on Sunday, 12 June, in the Great Hall of Mikulov Castle, presented an unknown face of the musical language of Hungarian composer Béla Bartók with his Piano Quintet in C Major. Along with Fischer and Apekisheva, the concert also featured violinist Markéta Janoušková, violist Diede Verpoest, and cellist Erich Oskar Hüttermore

Last year’s 100th anniversary of Gustav Brom’s birth still resonates on the domestic jazz scene. At the very end of 2021, a 4-CD set entitled “Gustav Brom – 100 Years” was released, offering a cross-section of the orchestra’s repertoire, from songwriting to jazz to intersections with contemporary classical music. Alongside this, an album charting the Brom Orchestra’s long-standing collaboration with Karel Velebný has also appeared on the same label (Indies Happy Trails). Radio editor, jazz musician, and teacher Jan Dalecký was one of the producers of both albums.  more

In its twenty-seven years of existence, the Concentus Moraviae International Music Festival has been held in a number of unusual and unique places. Sunday's program Homo Sapiens – The Story of Rhythm in Velké Meziříčí has the potential to be one of the most memorable concerts of the festival. On June 5, OK Percussion Duo musicians Martin Opršál and Martin Kleibl, together with guests and students Tomáš Javora and Kryštof Vašíček performed in the normally inaccessible premises of the New Synagogue, which has served as a center of affordable shopping for years. The concert was held in cooperation with the European Festival of Philosophy, the Jewish Community of Brno, and the town of Velké Meziříčí. At the same time, it was part of the project From the Shopping Center to the Cultural Communitymore

This year’s 27th edition of the international music festival Concentus Moraviae is still at the beginning of its almost month-long program, yet in terms of dramaturgy it is not holding back at all. After the opening featuring Argentinian and Uruguayan tango in Boskovice and Balkan music in Ivančice, the festival brought the Arcadia String Quartet to the atrium of the town hall in Kyjov on Thursday 2 June, where they performed the String Octet in C Major by Romanian composer George Enescu together with their friends from the Transylvanian Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition to the members of the quartet (violinists Ana TörökRăsvan Dumitru, violist Traian Boală and cellist Zsolt Török), there were also violinists Vlad RăceuValentin Șerban, violist Mihai Oșvat and cellist Ștefan Cazacu. The concert was held under the auspices of the Ambassador of Romania to the Czech Republic, H.E. Antoaneta Barta.  more

We met violinist Pavel Fischer at the Budějovická metro station in Prague, and on the way to the Dobeška Theater we managed to discuss his holiday in Italy. At the time, we were already working out the subtitle of this year's Concentus Moraviae festival “From Roots to the Future”. Next to Dobeška, where the Sklep Theater plays, is what we call the “woodshed”, where the Škampa Quartet has been rehearsing for thirty-five years. Pavel Fischer was a founding member of the ensemble which he left at a time when it was enjoying one international success after another. As he says, he was attracted by greater musical freedom and a quieter life. At Dobeška, after our interview, he had a concert with cellist Olin Nejezchleba and guitarist Norbi Kovács. We started with him, although our main topic was Fischer's residency at this year's Concentus Moraviae.  more

Brno musicians are talented in various genres, and they’re generally long-lived and vital individuals. This was resoundingly clear during the jubilee celebration of Mojmír Bártek, a teacher, composer, arranger, and above all a virtuoso trombone player. The jubilee concert, dubbed Mojda Bártek 80, was prepared by his friends under the direction of B-Side Band trumpeter and bandleader Josef Buchta. Despite the birthday boy’s open and (sometimes emotional) enjoyment of the two and a half hour program, he still remained an active participant of the entire musical production except for brief moments of rest. He performed as the author of many compositions, but above all as a player, trombone in hand and fully committed.  more

On Thursday 24 March, a Brno audience experienced a truly special evening. Director Břetislav Rychlík and his wife prepared a concert on the music stage of the Brno Municipal Theatre in support of Ukrainian artists who fled their country to escape the war. The evening was entitled “Common Roots” and sought to closer acquaint the audience with the similarities between the folk cultures of Ukraine and Moravia. During the evening's program, I could feel the general musical parallels in particular. Exceptional artists are able to pass such beauty onwards anywhere in the world.  more

The original programme of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra’s third subscription concert, as part of the Philharmonic Orchestra series in Theatre II, promised to continue the originally scheduled Dvořák-Brahms dramaturgy line as interpreted by Elisabeth Leonská. However, of the intended programme for the evening of Dvořák & Brahms II, only Dvořák’s Symphony No. 4 remained. Because Elisabeth Leonská fell ill for the concerts on the 25th and 26th of February at The National Theatre Brno - Janáček Theatre, her place was filled by pianist Alexander Ullman with a performance of The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in A minor by Edvard Hagerup Grieg. The orchestra was led by head conductor of the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra Dennis Russell Davies.  more

The long-delayed premiere of the composition The Basement Sketches by composer Michal Nejtek, whose performance was planned for June 2020 and which was commissioned by the Brno Philharmonic, was finally performed on Thursday 25 November at the Community Hall (Besední dům) venue. Together with the Cellar Sketches, the Variations on a Theme by Haydn in B flat major, Op. 56a by Johannes Brahms and Cello Concerto Op. 22 by Samuel Barber were played. In addition to Brno Philharmonic players, cellist Matt Haimovitz and pianist Nikol Bóková also performed. The dramaturgically varied evening, consisting of three distinctly different musical pieces of work and period contexts, was led by the ensemble’s chief conductor Dennis Russell Daviesmore

On Monday 22 November, the second concert of the Brno Contemporary Orchestra’s festive tenth season, entitled Kamenné mantry (Stone Mantras), presented compositions by Fausto Romitelli, Michal Rataj, Miloslav Ištvan and the recently deceased (well known to Brno audiences) Lithuanian composer Bronius Kutavičius. In addition to the orchestra itself, there were also soprano singer Irena Troupová, marimba player Martin Opršál and reciter Pavel Zajíc, who replaced Otakar Blaha in the programme. The concert, organised in cooperation with the Moravian Museum, was conducted by the artistic director of the ensemble Pavel Šnajdrmore

The work by the British composer Benjamin Britten forms an essential part of contemporary opera production. Worldwide, he is even the most frequently staged author born in the 20th century.  Peter Grimes, with a libretto by Montagu Slater based on a poem by George Crabbe, became the opera that set the course for Britten's next musical-dramatic works. And it is with the title Peter Grimes that the Brno National Theatre has opened the opera part of the 2021/2022 season. The story of a rough and tumble fisherman, whose two young apprentices die soon after each other and who as a result sails out to sea, where he sinks his boat and himself with it, had its Czechoslovak premiere in Brno in June 1947. Almost 75 years after, the story of a fishing village, resentment, cruelty and gossip is now coming to life again in the Janáček Theatre, directed by David Radok and with a musical score by Marko Ivanović. The title role was played by tenor Joachim Bäckström and the widowed teacher Ellen Orford, who found affection in Grimes, was portrayed by soprano Jana Šrejma Kačírková. This is not the first time that these two have met on stage together – it was with Mark Ivanović and David Radok that they had previously joined forces for the play Juliette / Lidský hlas (Juliette/The Human Voice). Jana Hrochová (Auntie), Andrea Široká (Niece), Tereza Kyzlinková (Niece), Svatopluk Sem (Balstrode), Jitka Sapara-Fischerová (Mrs. Nabob Sedley), Jan Št'áva (Swallow), Vít Nosek (Bob Boles), Petr Levíček (Horace Adams), David Nykl (Hobson), Jiří Hájek (Ned Keene) and Ivo Šiler (Dr. Crabbe) were also featured, along with the others.  more

Under the “cipher” 29/2 (reads as “Twenty-ninth February”) there is a band that was created for a bit of fun. They used compositional techniques that should not work in songwriting at all. It has united musicians who, by definition, perhaps can never understand each other. And yet the result is an album of very strong songs that, despite all the experimentalism, makes sense and works as a whole.  more

Yesterday, Visitors to the Brno City Theatre experienced the Czech premiere of the Broadway musical hit Pretty Woman. Directed by Stanislav Moša, this theatrical adaptation of the famous blockbuster highlighted the strengths of the movie. Until the break, the viewer is mostly laughing royally and having fun in this tale of a modern Cinderella, and then in the second half the impressiveness and lyricism of the whole title is especially pronounced.  more

For two consecutive Saturdays, visitors to the Olomoucké barokní slavnosti (Olomouc Baroque Festival) had the opportunity to listen to works by lesser-known composers whose music not only in many respects far surpassed the standard of the time, but whose fates were also closely linked to Olomouc.  more

One of the biggest attractions of this year's Olomouc Baroque Festival was the performance of the oratorio David by the Austrian composer Karl Ditters. It was the perfect opportunity to do so, after all – this year the work celebrates 250 years since its creation. Ditters composed the oratorio to a text by Ignazio Pinto in 1771 and in the same year it had its premiere at the castle of Bishop Philipp Gotthard Schaffgotsch of Wrocław on the Jánský Vrch (John´s Hill) near Javorník. In the musical production of violinist and artistic director of Volantes Orchestra Veronika Manová and conductor Ema Mikešová the oratorio was first performed in concert in Brno at the Church of St. Johns (4 August), then on 7 August in Podzámecká zahrada – a garden of the Archbishop’s Chateau in Kroměříž, and, finally, on 12–14 August in the Ambit and Basilica of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary on the Svatý Kopeček (Holy Hill) near Olomouc. The event of 12 August was the performance I visited. In addition to Volantes Orchestra, there were members of other ensembles – Arte dei Suonatori (PL), Il Cuore Barocco (SK), Musica Aeterna (HU) and Societas Incognitorum (CZ). In this aspect, this is another event from the series of concerts organised under the auspices of the festival which bring together musical ensembles from the Visegrad Four. However, there are also performers from other countries – Slovenia, Northern Macedonia and Great Britain. The solo roles were performed by: Doubravka Součková (David), Aco Bišćević (Saul, King of Israel), Helena Hozová (Jonathan, son of Saul), Jiří Miroslav Procházka (Abner, warlord) and Aneta Petrasová (Eliab, David’s brother). The concert was directed by Rocc; the choreography was designed by Sanja Nešković Peršin and costumes were rendered by Borjan Litovski.  more

Editorial

The most ambitious, the most unrepeatable, and the most challenging to produce. This is this year's “Mozart's Children” festival, whose Gala Concert will take place this Sunday at the Janáček Theater. Nearly two hundred performers will appear on stage, with young talents from all over South Moravia outnumbering professional musicians.  more

Brno’s sacred history and present is presented by the Brno and its Temples project, organized by TIC BRNO in cooperation with the Bishopric of Brno, Christian parishes in Brno, the Jewish Community of Brno, and the Brno branch of the Jewish Museum in Prague. It includes guided tours and lectures about Brno churches and important personalities connected with the church, as well as the opportunity to visit 7 Brno churches. In mid-June, it will start with a concert with the Horňácko Music of Petr Mička.  more

The organizers of the Pop Messe festival will shorten their fans’ wait for the last weekend in July with the Druž Messe event. It promises a pair of warm-up concerts in Brno and Veselí nad Moravou. The bands B4 and Wczasy from Poland will perform at the Kabinet Múz.  more

The Ibérica Festival of Ibero-American Cultures will take place this year in Brno, Prague, Čechy pod Kosířem, and Zdounky. The nineteenth edition of the festival will feature several Czech premieres. For the first time in the Czech Republic, the main star of the gala evening at Brno’s Špilberk, flamenco guitarist Álvaro Martinete, will perform with dancer Coral Fernández, as well as Colombian singer with Caribbean roots Concha Bernal and the Catalan duo Magalí Sare & Sebastià Gris. This year’s festival will also feature the premiere of a poetic recital from Karel Čapek’s texts, A Trip to Spain, performed by actor Tomáš Hanák, accompanied by Petr Vít’s guitar and Verónica Roa’s dance. There will be dance and music workshops for beginners, advanced, and children.  more

The management of the Brno Philharmonic announces a vacancy for the position of Secretary of Artistic Operations. The possible start date is mid-August 2022.  more

The Czech Radio Endowment Fund and Czech Radio – Radiožurnál, in cooperation with the Endowment Fund of the Brno-born Magdalena Kožená, are launching a non-financial collection named after the favorite Czech musical “Kdyby tisíc klarinetů”, or “If a Thousand Clarinets”. The collection is intended for all child musicians for whom the purchase of a musical instrument is beyond the means of their family budget. The collection works on the principle of connecting donors and volunteers on the platform www.kdybytisicklarinetu.cz.  more

The next-to-last premiere of the 2021/22 season is Mozart's “The Magic Flute”. It will be directed by Miroslav Krobot. This unconventional presentation of the opera promises the audience a journey into space. The musical staging is led by Pavel Šnajdr. Title roles will be played by Jiří Sulženko, David Szendiuch, Petr Nekoranec, Daniel Matoušek, Martina Masaryková, Doubravka Součková, Jana Šrejma Kačírková, Andrea Široká, and others. Scenography by Andrej Ďurík.  more

Eight years after the release of their album Šero, which received both the Anděl and Apollo music awards, the Orff Brothers will release their new Song for Stefanie Sauer. You can hear it in concert in Brno, where the band will start their spring tour.  more

The Brno Philharmonic is holding a benefit concert for Ukraine this week. Proceeds from the entrance fee will go to the Vesna Women's Educational Association, which is now helping Ukrainian refugees. The evening will include Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 in E minor From the New World, conducted by Leoš Svárovský.  more

The City of Brno has announced that an agreement has been reached with the owner of the International Hotel, HIB DEVELOPMENT, a. s. If the agreement is fulfilled, the construction of the Janáček Cultural Centre (JKC) will not be a compromise, but will fulfil the vision of having a top concert hall in Brno and gaining a new high-quality public space in the historic city centre. The interrelated key documents, i.e. the exchange agreement, the artwork purchase agreement, and the cooperation agreement, were recommended for approval by the Brno City Council today.  more