Pavel Fischer: About String Quartets and the Concentus Moraviae Festival

1 June 2019, 12:00
Pavel Fischer: About String Quartets and the Concentus Moraviae Festival

The programme of this year's Concentus Moraviae festival presents an unprecedented cross-section of more than twenty Czech and foreign string quartets. The exceptional violinist, composer, professor of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK, and the long-time first violinist of the Škampa Quartet, Pavel Fischer, was asked by publicist Lukáš Pavlica to give an interview.

Which part of the programme of this year's season would you never want to miss?

If time allowed me to, I would definitely like to go and listen to the Navarra String Quartet, which was formed at The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where I currently teach. They have always been vigorous and lively players. I would also be attracted by the Prezioso Quartet, they caught my attention because of their interesting programme. Estonian music would be something completely new to me. It is also adorable that quartets of renowned names, such as the Jerusalem Quartet, Borodin Quartet, Szymanowski Quartet, as well as the Talich and Haas Quartets, arrived to the venue.

However, you would most likely be tempted to get to know less known quartets, wouldn't you?

Yes, for example the Auner Quartett. I heard Mendelssohn rendered by them once and was impressed with their youthful, energetic and modern sound. It was simply different than the tradition goes. I like that distinctive trait. So I would recommend this quartet with a light heart. I would send those listeners who prefer the mainstream and want to know the "foundation stone" of quartet literature, to see the London Haydn Quartet specializing in playing period instruments.

Which participation of foreign or Czech quartets at the festival do you consider the greatest success of the organizers?

In terms of prestige, it is certainly the Borodin Quartet, because their tradition is linked to the Smetana generation. Of course, nowadays they are completely different four musicians, but it is undoubtedly a famous ensemble and it enhances the reputation of the festival.

And what do you say about their concert programme?

Beautiful! This is one of the shows I would definitely love to go to. Also partly for personal reasons because I love Prokofiev's 2nd String Quartet. Against the first one, which is more intellectual, the second one is more intuitive, more rustic and more based on folk music, which goes hand in hand with the theme of national schools at the festival.

I personally was pleased by Shostakovich's 9th String Quartet being included in their programme. I am glad that the performers did not make a sure bet by choosing the beautiful, but perhaps too frequently performed, eighth quartet.

It is generally a good thing that the most famous pieces by the composers such as Dvořák and the like are not necessarily played throughout the festival. From Dvořák there is his String Quartet No. 11 in C major, which is played really seldom. And I'm glad I don't see the American Quartet everywhere or Schubert's Death and the Maiden.

Which programme do you personally find the most interesting and which, on the contrary, you could imagine might be a little better? And do you miss a composition or a particular ensemble in the programme?

From the point of view of national schools, I was quite surprised that Bedřich Smetana would not be played here at all. On the other hand, Smetana is so famous and frequently performed that I partly understand this. Well, and regarding performers, I am not really missing anyone. However, if I were to choose the ensembles that I would like Czech listeners to hear, then it would be the Carducci Quartet and The Elias String Quartet. As far as I know, they have never performed in the Czech Republic. Certainly an interesting ensemble is the Cuarteto Q-Arte, which will perform a string quartet by Alberto Ginastera, which is a compositionally extremely interesting composer who is not afraid to use unconventional  sound ideas.

Where, in your opinion, the specific sound of each individual ensemble is born?

I think that the characteristic sound stems from the sum of the respective individualities. There are four players in every quartet, each of them has a specific sound, and during the first year or two of playing together, everything is yet to be sorted and frequently there are also opinion disputes. If they endure and if those people are capable and determined, then in two years the sound will settle down. Basically, it is the intersection of four individuals, from which a new sound is created. And that is the soul of a particular quartet. The second thing is then belonging to some school or tradition. For Czech quartets, for example, it was their  melodious, very warm and lyrical concept, where emphasis was put on the beauty of sound.

Have you ever come across a festival abroad that would present, in a similar way as Concentus Moraviae, a comparable number of string quartets? In your opinion, is this a more frequent or rather unique project from the point of view of the international scene?

There are not a lot of such festivals, but in Amsterdam, for example, there is the amazing Strijkkwartet Biennale festival, which is similar in this respect and features world-class ensembles. Good festivals also exist in Heidelberg or Canada, there is the so-called Banff Centre International String Quartet Festival. Therefore yes, such festivals do exist, but it is a unique initiative in this country. And I have to pay my respects to the organizers because of all those ensembles they managed to engage in the festival.

The whole interview of Lukáš Pavlica was created in cooperation with the Harmonie magazine, where you can also read its full version.

Pavel Fischer / Photo by Ivan Pinkava

Comments

Reply

No comment added yet..

One older - not quite typical – Květy´s album began with the words: "The quietest band in the world so as not to disturb the neighbours." The newest album, called a bit mysteriously Květy Květy (Flowers Flowers) begins with this text: “We are heading into the dark at the highest speed.” Can one deduce anything from the fact that the band around Martin E. Kyšperský in the slowest year, at the time of the lockdown, came up with the fastest and perhaps the most energetic album in their career? Or is it more important that, despite all the pressure that emanates from Květy Květy (Flowers Flowers) as a collective work, it is actually a very solitary and intimate record?  more

The poetic title Květy nevadnoucí (Flowers Never Fading) hides the most recent publishing achievement of Jiří Plocek. This compilation CD celebrates a quarter of a century since the establishment of the Moravian folklore series in his GNOSIS BRNO publishing house, which released fourteen albums created between 1995 and 2005. And they are not just ordinary albums. Jiří Plocek's enthusiasm and feeling for song is indisputable, but there is much more coming from the recordings – for example, it is the enthusiasm of the singers themselves, which Jiří Plocek fuelled during the recording sessions, while letting them play and sing according to their own will and mood. I must also emphasise the choice of performers themselves. The names have really become iconic by now – František Okénka, Zdeněk Kašpar, Karel Rajmic, Vlasta Grycová, Jiřina Miklošková and many others. Unfortunately, some of them have already departed from this world. Others, which we hear on the album as gifted children, are already rising to become another generations of singers – which is the case of Tomáš Beníček. I'm intentionally mentioning the singers, but the album itself also has a high musical quality. However, all the songs are performed by exceptional performers. This also gives them uniqueness in the spirit of a living folk tradition.  more

Two years after the monothematic album Bleděmodré město (Pale Blue City), for which the Brno-based group Nevermore & Kosmonaut received a nomination for the genre-specific Anděl Award, the band released a new album with a mysterious name XCR-9. The subheading Písně do rakety (Songs for a Space Shuttle) reveal more. While on the last album we walked through the streets of the city of Brno together with Michal Šimíček and his band, this time the singer-songwriter, who has been using the nickname Kosmonaut for years, is taking us on a fictitious journey into space.  more

The album Folk Swings of the Brno-based B-Side Band is being vividly discussed on social networks. Can a big band take the liberty of to playing the "sacred" songs of Czech folk? And what if these compositions are sung along with the band directly by their authors such as Jaromír Nohavica, Vlasta Redl or Slávek Janoušek? However, while the above might have been able to have their say concerning the arrangements, Karel Kryl, Zuzana Navarová or Wabi Ryvola could no longer make any comments regarding the makeovers of their songs… We talked to Petr Kovařík and Pavel Zlámal, members of the orchestra, about how the album was created, why Ryvola's song 'Tereza' sounds like a Cuban dance, and why 'Podvod' ('Scam') by Honza Nedvěd is played only as an instrumental piece. The two guys have actually created new arrangements for widely famed as well as less well-known folk songs, which now appear on this album.  more

Tiché lodi ('Silent Ships') is not a band, but a project of the guitarist and singer René Müller, who lives in Brno. While he recorded his previous album Časy vody ('Times of Water' – 2015) working together with Roman Cipísek Cerman, his former colleague from the band Hynkovy zámky ('Hynek's Locks'), Müller is now appearing all by himself on the new album – as writer of the music and lyrics, guitarist and singer, or – in his case more precisely – narrator.  more

Until recently, this Brno singer with the shortest given and family names was the leader of the blues band The Weathermakers. He also led the ephemeral "tramping" group The Honzíci. However, the main thing that he attracts attention with – in addition to the guitars and other instruments that he produces under the brand Red Bird – is his original solo production. After the mature debut Město [The City] (2018), he has now made himself heard with a new album entitled Potom [After]. In the lyrics he goes down to the core again, being able to transform his personal problems into timeless stories and extraordinary poetic expressions. And even though he abandoned the blues form in most of his songs, the recording, in which Martin Kyšperský once again participated as a producer, has a blues nature by its very essence.  more

Those who were captivated by the introductory distinctive song with surrealistic lyrics  Z ježatých hor [From the Spiky Mountains] on the previous album of the Brno group Budoár Staré dámy [Boudoir of an Old Lady] (Sůl [Salt], 2017), can rejoice. The collaboration with the contemporary poet Lubor Kasal that began only three years ago has now resulted in an entire album of his texts set to music. However, the songs on the new album Kostřičky [Little Skeletons] have one more characteristic in common: the production and arrangement contribution by the multi-instrumentalist Tomáš Vtípil.  more

The Janáček Brno 2020 International Festival promptly replaced yesterday's Hungarian performance of the opera Salome by Richard Strauss. Instead of the guest appearance, the National Theatre Brno offered a concert programme under the simple name Orchestra of the Janáček Opera. After a long time, the audience could see the musicians who normally remain hidden inside the orchestra pit. In addition to the orchestra, which was conducted by Robert Kružík, the violinist Josef Špaček and the pianist Miroslav Sekera also appeared. The programme clearly consisted only of the works by Leoš Janáček, and since the originally planned performances can no longer be staged in the ever-tightening quarantine environment, the evening at the Janáček Theatre meant a farewell to the festival as such. The last live concert of the Janáček Brno 2020 festival is today's performance of the Brno Philharmonic in the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Old Brno.  more

Sunday afternoon was marked by another concert of the Janáček Brno 2020 festival. Chamber music performed by the Josef Suk Piano Quartet was given space in the Mozart Hall of Reduta. This ensemble (young both in the year of its founding and its age composition) prepared a truly beautiful and diverse programme for its visit to Brno, and presented it to the audience with adequate commitment.  more

Despite the unpredictability of the coronavirus situation, the Janáček Brno 2020 festival opened yesterday at the Janáček Theatre in Brno. The gala opening of the festival featured a premiere of the opera Destiny by Leoš Janáček directed by Robert Carsen, one of today's praised opera directors.  In fact, Brno audiences had the opportunity to get acquainted with his directing visions of Janáček's operas already in the past; Carsen's concepts for The Makropulos Affair and Katya Kabanova rank among the best that have appeared on the stage of the National Theatre in Brno in recent years. However, the production of Destiny at this year's Janáček's festival is even more exceptional, as this time the director created it directly for the Brno opera house. The costumes were designed by Annemarie Woods, while the stage design was created by Radu Boruzescu. Philip Sheffield (old Živný) and Enrico Casari (young Živný) played the roles of the composer Živný; his fateful love Míla Válková was portrayed by Alžběta Poláčková and her mother by Natascha Petrinsky. Peter Račko performed the role of Dr. Suda, Jan Šťáva was the painter Lhotský and Lukáš Bařák gave his voice to the character of Konečný. The music production is the work of Marko Ivanović, who also conducted the premiere yesterday.Destiny is often described as a problematic opera with a confused story and an imperfect libretto.  more

Let us hope that Sunday's concert to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the great music band of the Brno-based Valášek Children's Ethnographic Ensemble (Dětský národopisný soubor Valášek) will not be the last event that ever-changing government regulations will allow. And even if that, God forbid, was the case, it would be a dignified farewell.  more

The newly built church in Brno Lesná suburb provided inspiration for the flautist Martina Komínková for her album Resonance. The CD cover art features photos of the church ceiling, which glitters with all the colours of the rainbow. The album itself is colourful in a similar way; the musician uses several different types of flute on it.  more

For the end of this summer, the National Theatre Brno prepared a children's opera, written by the composer Evžen Zámečník under the title Ferdy the Ant  (original Czech title: Ferda Mravenec), based on the story by Ondřej Sekora. The stories of an optimistic ant who "can do anything and knows everything" and doesn’t turn his nose up at “work of all kinds", however, are actually not appearing at the Janáček Theatre for first time. Zámečník's work in eight scenes won the hearts of the Brno audiences between the years 1977 and 1986 with astounding success; it helped bring a number of children to opera – the most refined form of musical theatre. Today, these already adult musicians, actors, directors, lighting technicians and many others have decided to pay tribute to the composer, who also carried out a lot of "work of all kinds" for Brno's musical life.  more

The municipal council of Velká nad Veličkou decided already in mid-April that this year's Horňácké Festivities (original name: Horňácké slavnosti) would not take place on the traditional dates around the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, and their scope, previously meant to be of three to five days, would also be modified. Obviously, it was impossible to foresee the development of lockdown measures towards the third week of July, but musicians from the Horňácko district tried to come up with at least a partial alternative solution in order to maintain continuity. Eventually, two concerts were officially held on two consecutive Saturdays:  On 18 July,  live broadcast of a public radio recording of Czech Radio Brno under the title Hrajte že ně, hrajte aneb Horňácké trochu jinak (Play for Me, or Horňácké Festivities in a Slightly Different Fashion) took place at the Culture House in Velká nad Veličkou. A week later, at a sports complex in Javorník, a traditional competition for "the biggest expert on Horňácko peasant songs" was held under the auspices of the Horňácko Dulcimer Band of Libor Sup. Needless to say, both events have found their spectators and listeners.  more

The Brno-based rock band Kulturní úderka (which translates loosely as "Culture Brigade"), led by singer and guitarist Štěpán Dokoupil, did not keep its fans waiting for too long this time. While there was a fifteen-year break between their first and second albums, the new album Black Metall was released less than two years after the previous album Sarajevská Katarzija (Sarajevo Catharsis). The name of the new album must be handled with care. Úderka has never had anything to do with black metal as a music genre. And once again, we are treated not to metal, but to relatively raw rock, which in some moments is pleasantly softened by the keyboard of Omer Blentič, or the trumpet of their guest artist Jan Kozelek.  more

Editorial

The single Přání (Wish) by the Brno-based Nebeztebe band presents their upcoming album Zásobování duše (Supply of the Soul).  more

After almost thirty years, Brno has replaced the German capital Berlin as the main centre of the European panel of radio music publicists World Music Charts Europe (WMCE). From Berlin public radio, where the founder of this platform, Johannes Theurer, worked until 30 November 2020, the centre of WMCE's  activities is moving to the Brno headquarters of Radio Proglas. Milan Tesař, one of its two current Czech members and head of the music section of Proglas, became the new secretary of the panel starting from 1 December.  more

The Brno – City of Music portal in cooperation with the "Barbara Maria Willi presents ..." cycle will offer you the livestreaming of a concert from the Convent of the Merciful Brethren. Violin virtuoso and one of today’s most sought-after Czech artists, Josef Špaček, will appear as a guest performer. Together with Barbara Maria Willi, they will perform compositions by Bach, Biber and Corelli.  more

The Brno-based flautist and music teacher Martina Komínková is preparing the streaming of her solo concert, which will also feature her original work from the new CD Resonance.   more

At the November online conference entitled "Survival of the Fittest", Martin Glaser – manager of the National Theatre Brno – was elected to the Opera Europa’s management.  more

One of the scheduled November concerts of the Czech Ensemble Baroque has only 5 performers, which is the maximum number in which singing can be done even in these times. Members of the Czech Ensemble Baroque's vocal quintet were thus able to meet and rehearse a concert. You can watch it on YouTube.  more

The Brno Cultural Newsletter provides an overview of events and changes that concern theatres, clubs, festivals and cultural events in Brno in the coming period.  more

The JazzFestBrno festival has announced the first names of performers for the coming anniversary year. The 20th season of this international festival will start in March and its programme so far boasts names such as Chick Corea, Vicente Amigo, Cécile McLorin Salvant and the GoGo Penguin trio.  more

Jana Šrejma Kačírková, a soloist of the Janáček Opera, was given a Thalia Award 2020 this evening.  more

The Brno-based big band Cotatcha Orchestra has now released its second single called Billy's Pilgrimage, with Lenka Dusilová appearing as a guest singer. The single is part of the upcoming album Bigbandová elektronika / Bigband Electronics, which will be released on the American label Parma Recordings as soon as tomorrow.   more