Trains as a symbol of departure, arrival and return were the main theme of the second edition of the International Festival of Jewish Culture ŠTETL FEST, which took place at the end of August and beginning of September. The four-day program combined the historical events of Jewish citizens taken from Brno to concentration camps during World War II with the modern stories of Ukrainians who fled to the city from the war in their country. To commemorate these events, the Memorial to the Disappeared was unveiled at the opening of the festival at Brno's main railway station and visitors can see the exhibition entitled Stories from Ukraine in various Brno locations until the end of September. The final concert directed by the Škampa Quartet under the title Trains, held on Sunday 3 September at the Besední dům, was a meaningful end to the festival, during which the question of leaving and returning was musically and historically reinforced.
The international group Ensemble Fantasmi, which focuses on older music and was founded by flautist Paul Leenhouts, performed in Olomouc, at the Znojmo Music Festival and also visited Brno during a small European tour. The group presented themselves to the audience on Monday 24 July at Červeny kostel, where they, along with the invited singers prepared vocal-instrumental works by Czech Baroque composers. The reviewed concert in the Hall of Merciful Brothers on 25 July, which was also the last night of the tour, was in the same spirit. Its subheading Musica Bohemica pointed to a varied programme consisting of instrumental works by Czech composers of the Baroque and Classical periods.
The trilogy of lute concerts at the chateau within the Concentus Moraviae International Music Festival concluded on the evening of Sunday, 18 June. Once again, the audience at the Ceremonial Hall of the Rájec nad Svitavou Castle saw performances by Ryosuke Sakamoto on the Renaissance lute and David Bergmüller on the Baroque lute. Both prepared their own recital for the audience, dedicated to the given historical period, finally joining their artistry at the end of the concert. There was also a slight change in the program of the Renaissance block, which was more than welcome given the expansion of the repertoire and the offer of interesting - often lesser-known - lute pieces.
For the fourth year in a row, audiences could visit the courtyard of Špilberk Castle and enjoy the dance art of the Ondráš Military Art Ensemble from Brno in a series called Evenings with Ondráš. This year, on the two days of 15 and 16 June, those interested once again saw the best that the company currently has to offer. Moreover, the concerts were fundraisers, with the money raised going to the Military Solidarity Fund. I will take a look at the second, Friday evening, during which Ondráš invited his friends from the Mladina ensemble of Pilsen to the stage.
The Concentus Moraviae International Music Festival has been underway in thirteen Moravian towns since the end of this May. The theme of the twenty-eighth edition, titled Between Kroměříž and Vienna, highlights the interconnectedness of the seat of the Olomouc archbishops and the Imperial Habsburg court. The concert held on Friday, 16 June in the reconstructed church of the Cistercian Abbey Porta Coeli, offered the audience a musical probe into the Moravian Baroque.
Although this year’s 28th edition of the Concentus Moraviae international music festival embraces the theme Between Kroměříž and Vienna, the three-day project Island of Lutes by virtuoso lutenist and guitarist Pierre Pitzl holds a special place in its program design. From 16 to 18 June, the lute, vihuela or baroque guitar brought life to the castle grounds in Lysice and Rájec-Jestřebí with performances of works by Renaissance and early Baroque composers. The noteworthy culmination of the project was prepared by the organizers of the festival on Saturday, 17 June on the premises of the Rájce-Jestřebí Chateau. In addition to the vihuela and Baroque guitar player Pierre Pitzl, it also featured Renaissance lute player Ryosuke Sakamoto and theorbist David Bergmülller.
For the twenty-eighth year running, the Concentus Moraviae International Music Festival presents dramaturgically varied and interpretively refined evenings set not only in concert halls, but also in courtyards and chateau salons, castle halls, basilicas, churches and synagogues. The theme of this year’s 28th edition is Between Kroměříž and Vienna. Vienna, the cultural centre of Europe, served as the seat of the Habsburg emperors, while Kroměříž was the home of the archbishops of Olomouc. The dramaturgy of this year’s edition was prepared by a trio of respected experts: the Dean of the JAMU Faculty of Music, harpsichordist, organist and musicologist Barbara Maria Willi; historian, musicologist and choirmaster Vladimír Maňas; and Otto Biba, Austrian musicologist and long-time director of the Vienna Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde archive.
The celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Brno’s Besední dům, which take place within its premises and elsewhere, have an interesting and distinguished dramaturgy that manages to transport the audience to the early days of this concert venue. Two concerts took place on 4 and 5 May and were entitled “Janáček” and “Horňácká muzika”. I took part in the first one; it was a truly momentous experience prepared by the Brno Philharmonic and Petr Mička’s Horňácká muzika. Friday’s repeat of the concert was broadcast by Czech Television. Both nights were sold out and standing tickets were even added to the sale.
The Brno Philharmonic’s headquarters and one of Brno’s most important historical and cultural landmarks – the Besední dům – celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Exactly on 3 April 1873, when the auditorium (great hall) of the building designed by architect Theophil von Hansen, author of the famous Musikverein in Vienna, was ceremonially opened, this magnificent building became the centre of Brno’s culture and its distinctive artistic life. A century and a half later – on Monday 1 May 2023 – an afternoon gathering and a subsequent concert entitled When Smetana First Played in Brno. . . will launch a series of concerts that pay tribute to unique milestones in the city’s cultural history.
Singer-songwriter Martina Trchová, winner of the Anděl award for her album Holobyt, recently disbanded her band and now performs mainly as a soloist. She is slowly working on a new album and is also focusing on visual arts. Her new book Babi, will soon be published, and she’ll also be holding another festival in the Obřany district of Brno.
I talked to Barbara Maria Willi, the dean of the Faculty of Music at the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts, dramaturge, teacher, populariser of classical music, harpsichordist, organist and specialist on the hammered dulcimer, about the 20th anniversary edition of the music series Barbara Maria Willi presents..., as well as about historically informed interpretation and further plans. The fact that she was actively teaching a foreign student just before our talk is the best indication of how busy her schedule is.
The end of the Lenten season culminates in the Passover week with the commemoration of Christ’s Passion, whose motif was also the main dramaturgical idea of the Ensemble Opera Diversa concert entitled Lamento. The Wednesday evening of 29 March was devoted to works on lamentations by Czech and British composers. Conveniently, the ensemble chose for this concert the Baroque Hall of the Convent of the Merciful Brothers, which enhanced the Lenten atmosphere.
Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan has long been dedicated to either his own work or to the inspiration of Armenian folklore. It wasn't until his tenth album, StandArt, that he decided to work with jazz standards, compositions that work for most jazz musicians as basic preparation and as material that players from all over the world agree on when jamming together. The pianist will present his current album on Friday 24 March 2023 at the Sono Centre in Brno as part of the JazzFestBrno festival.
After the American tour, the Brno Philharmonic, led by chief conductor Dennis Russell Davies, has prepared a mini-festival of three interconnected evenings called Dialogues. Each of these evenings offered a unique dramaturgy with extraordinary repertoire. It was partly linked to the aforementioned tour (e.g. the concert From America to the Czech Republic). The final concert of the trilogy, which took place on Friday 10 March at the Janáček Theatre, offered the home audience monumental orchestral works from the pens of composers Alfred Schnittke and Sergei Rachmaninoff. The entire concert was broadcast live on Czech Radio's Vltava station.
This Thursday, the Brno Philharmonic will open its 68th concert season. The gala evening will traditionally be led by Principal Conductor Dennis Russell Davies, who will begin his sixth year at the helm of the orchestra. The season will open with a monumental full-length work, Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection" . The Philharmonic performed it with great success a month ago at a prestigious concert in Rheingau, Germany, in collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno and soloists Pavla Vykopalová and Jana Hrochová.
Contemporary concerts of classical music repeatedly extract only a limited part of all that has ever been created from the infinite number of musical works for its "here and now". The programme of the Moravian Autumn will therefore offer what people can otherwise hear quite rarely. It will present compositions from the Baroque to the present day, often in Czech or world premières. The opening concert of the festival will be conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, chief conductor of the Brno Philharmonic. For the second year, the festival also includes the New World of Moravian Autumn, a series of concerts prepared by JAMU students. Accompanying programmes also include a Musicology Colloquium, discussions with composers, performers and musicologists and the presentation of two new books: one dedicated to Leoš Janáček, the other to Antonín Rejcha.
In Brno, the second weekend of August will be in the spirit of the year 1645, when Brno was besieged by Swedish troops. The traditional historical city festival Brno Day, which commemorates the successful defence of Brno against the Swedes, will offer attractions such as a historical parade, period music, a craft fair and a reconstruction of the battle.
This year the Mendel Festival enters its 8th year. As every year, it is held to celebrate the legacy of the founder of genetics, Gregor Johann Mendel, and once again, in addition to the professional programme and the programme for children, it will also offer a musical programme, headlined by a concert of the French band the Gipsy Kings.
The New Music Showcase starts in a week. It will focus on the space between composition and improvisation, and present four premieres
The New Music Showcase starts in exactly one week. Its 35th edition is subtitled MUSICA FALSA I MUSICA VERA. The festival will open next Tuesday with the experimental psycho-acoustic clarinet duo The International Nothing by Berlin clarinetists Kai Fagaschinsky and Michael Thieke. They will present their latest project Just None of Those Things to listeners. The showcase will offer a total of six concerts at Besední dům and an unconventional project at the Stone Colony (Kamenná kolonie) in Brno.
The closing of the Brno opera season belongs to Richard Strauss’s Salome. The work, based on the play of the same name by British playwright Oscar Wilde, returns to the Brno stage after twenty-three years. The fourth Brno adaptation of this title was created by director David Radok. After having produced Britten’s Peter Grimes, he returns with chief conductor Marko Ivanović, costume designer Zuzana Ježková, Dragan Stojčevski as the new set designer and Andrea Miltnerová as the new choreographer. The title roles will be performed by Linda Ballová, Eva Urbanová, Jaroslav Březina and Birger Radde.