Brno songwriter Michal “cosmonaut” Šimíček has long been seen as a man who knows how to write poetic, often multi-layered lyrics and link them with interesting music. Even the first album of his band Nevermore & Kosmonaut was for me was like a conceptual project. Although the songs lacked direct continuity in small details, lyrics and music, it was as if they were related to each other. In terms of novelty however Bleděmodré město (Pale Blue City) takes the band much further. This time it is a thematically sandwiched whole, dedicated to the city of Brno, worked out down to the last detail. “This conceptual album is our response to the current trend, where it has become a habit to do a single with a video and listen to the songs piecemeal, without order,” explains Šimíček in the album booklet, and this booklet is an integral part of this project and “story”.
Yesterday’s premiere in the Mahen Theatre added to the repertoire of the National Theatre Brno (NdB) the opera Così fan tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in an interesting production by Anna Petrželková. In this tale of the imprudent temptation of human feelings will be appearing the soprano Pavla Vykopalová as Fiordiligi, the mezzosoprano Václava Krejčí Housková as Dorabella and Andrea Široká as Despina. In the male roles Ondřej Koplík was on stage as Ferrando, Roman Hoza as Guglielmo and Jan Šťáva played Don Alfonso. Also taking part in the performance were the choir and orchestra of the Janáček Opera of the NdB.
There were concerts by big bands at the start and finish of the spring programme of this year’s Jazzfest Brno. And both were supreme musical experiences. The Christian McBride Big Band as one of the three concluding concerts for their European tour for the first time performed in Brno’s Sono Centre. And it was great: crossover, entertaining and light playing, at the same time full of virtuosity and inventive and creative playing. “When we play together it is one big party,” stated the double bass player and bandleader Christian McBride at the start – and both he and his colleagues certainly confirmed that.
After a gap of three years Rózinky (which could be translated as Raisins) from the South Moravian village of Kozojídky have recorded their second album. The girls attend elementary art school together and their teacher Kateřina Mičková, who put the group together, still writes songs for them. The girls also perform together on radio and television shows and have played at various festivals from Folk Holidays in Náměšť nad Oslavou to TrutnOff. The question of whether the group will still be viable once its members grow up and mature (and probably have other musical interests and tastes) still hangs in the air. A little doubt already hangs over the disc Cvrkot (which could be translated as Chirp), but not as a threat but rather as a reason for the greater diversity on the album.
It never ceases to amaze me when I see the volume of ideas from Martin Kyšperský and his band Květy. Only in 2017, all this happened: Martin received the Anděl prize for his solo album Vlakem (“By train”). With Květy, they played the role of a communist era organisation band brilliantly, singing his “normalisation” period hits in the series Svět pod hlavou (“World under your head”) (which received a well-earned Český lev award a year later). In their new line-up with Ondřej Kyas, Květy released the brilliant album Komik do půl osmé (“A comedian till half past seven”) (it’s sad that it didn’t get an Anděl, but I think the culprit for that is the reducing of genre prizes and a “bit” of chaos in the new category of Alternative). The book Průvodce po albech a historii kapely Květy (The guide to the albums and history of the band Květy) was released and with it also the album Spí vánoční pták (“The Christmas bird sleeps”). In the meantime, Květy started the YM project, in which all three members will present songs in individual unexpected genres. It was begun by once again by Martin Kyšperský with a programme of country songs – the public premiere took place with the guest artist Petr Uvira in a live broadcast of Radio Proglas in December 2017. For 2018, the electronic songs of Aleš Pilgr and hopefully also the folktronica of Ondřej Kyas are in preparation.
“I knew who I wanted to work with and that guided me when I was trying to set up a group with a pleasant sound,” said the French accordionist Vincent Peirani in 2015, shortly after the release of his key album Living Being. At that time he had already completed several interesting acoustic projects including an album with the saxophonist Emil Parisien and he has continued in this style. In 2016 he brought out an enjoyable CD of duets with the pianist Michael Wollny and not long ago he worked with the pianist Stefano Bollani and the Berlin Philharmonic on the album Mediterraneo, inspired by classical music. The Living Being project is however of a completely different character, embodying the accordionist’s conception of electric music on the borders between jazz, rock and other genres. And it was with this programme that Peirani and his group came to Brno’s Husa na provázku (Goose on a String) theatre.
“The history of the band Gazdina roba goes back to the 1990’s, when most of the current members would meet up in the local Brno bands. […] Gazdina roba functioned for years as a studio project. The turning point happened ten years after its creation with the release of their first regular album under the fitting title Deset let jsme se neviděli (We Haven’t Seen Each Other for Ten Years) in 2004 […] In 2017, the band released their second album První poslední (From Beginning to End)”. That is the basic information found on their website www.gazdinaroba.cz. These are bare facts, which doesn’t really tell us that Gazdina roba (which could be translated as Farmer’s Wench), an almost secret band in the Brno scene, is in its genre of rock song-writing one of the best to be found. Their musical energy brilliantly ties together with their poetic texts.
“Up until now, I recorded instrumental songs – with a few exceptions but most of them were instrumental. This is truly the first album where I sing 100% of the songs from beginning to end, which is a big change for me. I needed to make such a step, so I had a bit of fun and I recorded a vocal album,” Avishai Cohen, the Israeli bass player told me a few months ago over the phone. We were talking of course about his current album 1970, where he includes his own songs inspired by the popular music of the seventies, Eddie Palmieri’s classic Vamos Pa’l Monte, the American gospel Motherless Child or folk songs from the Middle East. The album 1970 in its context leans toward pop maybe as an exception, but also references the bass player’s personal history and his love of jazz and traditional Jewish music. The current tour, which included the concert in the Boby Centre in Brno as part of JazzFestBrno, corresponds with the album’s topic, and yet differs a bit. It is even more pop and can surprise even experienced listeners.
The oratorio St John Passion by the composer Johann Sebastian Bach is one of the indisputable jewels of the world’s music literature. Many conductors try to surprise the audience with a new, fresh, energetic and expressively rich conception of the composer's music. Among the bodies willingly accepting this difficult challenge is the Czech Ensemble Baroque under the direction of conductor and artistic director Roman Válek. They gave their version of one of the most frequently performed of Bach's works on Good Friday in Brno’s Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
Entitled Stay Here and Keep Watch With Me, yesterday the Easter Festival of Sacred Music offered another concert in the Church of St. Augustine. To perform his Vigil for Six Voices and Instrumental Ensemble Wolfgang Rihm invited to the festival two renowned German ensembles - Ensemble Musikfabrik and the vocal sextet Singer Pur - for which the work was composed. The conductor Christian Eggen was responsible for a bravura performance of this extremely harrowing piece.
At first, Slavík performed only with the experienced American musician Doug Hammond, who has played with stars of the American jazz scene like Charles Mingus and Sonny Rollins. Hammond’s compositions are based almost solely on rhythm, to which he adds his specific kind of singing that doesn’t follow the classic melodic line, rather playing rhythmic games with the drums. Here, one truly cannot talk about incomprehensible drum solos. The entirety together with Slavík’s piano felt surprisingly light.
The musical ensemble Brno Contemporary Orchestra, which deals with contemporary musical work followed up on the last concert From Czechoslovakia by looking at it from another angle. The For Czechoslovakia concert’s programme included works by foreign composers, written either specifically for the anniversary or with topics related to Czechoslovakia. Quo vadis? by Alois Piňos, who died exactly ten years ago on 19 September, was the first song to be played.
Donny McCaslin and his then band Perpetual Motion was a great attraction already in 2012, when the organisers of JazzFest Brno presented him as a foreign star who was to bring his energetic, jazz/funk music to Brno. This year was totally different. Czech audiences know McCaslin well from his concert at Colours of Ostrava and other appearances here, but mainly as the man who worked with David Bowie on his last, critically acclaimed, album Blackstar. Though Bowie’s shadow dogs McCaslin, he doesn’t try to escape it. His album Beyond Now (2016) includes his own version of the singer’s dark piece Warszawa from 1976 and the twenty-years-younger song A Small Plot Of Land (with singer Jeff Taylor). And Bowie could be heard (though as an addition) at the Brno concert too.
If you are a fan of and listener to ancient music then you will certainly have heard of the Czech Ensemble Baroque and its artistic director Roman Válek. The ensemble works with historically informed interpretations from older stylistic periods, mainly the baroque and classical. The main strength of the orchestra lies in the performance of large musical-dramatic works. Among their recent achievements is the artificially created oratorio Příběh o Kristu (The Story of Christ) created from thematically linked works by the composer Heinrich Schütz. The ensemble has also paid great attention to the works of František Xaver Richter, whose Requiem and passion oratorio Deposizione dalla croce di Gesu Cristo were part of the most recent recording by the orchestra.
Every now and then works appear on a concert that the listeners have not had a chance to appreciate before. In most cases these premieres serve to spice up the otherwise standard repertoire of a concert. Whether it is a brand new piece or a modern premiere resulting from long hours of research in the archives, it normally takes place alongside a long-term classic. For example if a reconstructed symphony by an unknown classical period composer is to be performed then it is almost a certainty that with it we will hear Mozart, Beethoven or Haydn. The programme for the concert by Brno’s Ensemble Opera Diversa with the violin virtuoso Milan Paľa, with which the orchestra opened their concert cycle Slovakia in Brno, was however made up only of premieres of contemporary music.
The Brno group Hrozně slowly approach forty years of age – they started to give concerts in 1982. After several cassettes and unofficial recordings, they released a CD with their debut album Už není čas [There Is No Time Left] in 2013. Their new album named Ticho [Silence], which the band was working on over the last two years in the Indies studio, brings a surprise with its cleaner sound and clearly audible tension in the structure of the songs.
Over the four years that divide the release of the first album Záhir, and the second one entitled O Písni [About the Song], Lee Band virtually moved on (previously they stated Adamov as their domicile, now it is Jedovnice), they got on a "wild card" to the Porta festival semifinals in Řevnice, and above all, they advanced slightly in their musical style. While the debut album was more about a folk-rock mainstream, benefiting from the sound of an electric guitar, the new album is dominated by acoustic guitars, often in combination with mandolin and other acoustic instruments.
This year’s eighteenth JazzFest Brno will exceptionally not close with a concert, but rather a unique (though not unusual for world festivals) series of musical and dance workshops, centred on children. On Saturday 4 May, in the pleasant environment of Café Práh, near Vaňkovka, the children students will be taken on board by the significant young personalities of the jazz scene: Beata Hlavenková (pianist and composition lecturer), Dano Šoltis (leader of the drum class) and the multi-instrumentalists Jiří Slavík and Marian Friedl (conductors of Wandering on Jazz Paths), who will be accompanied by Kateřina Hanzlíková with the Tancohraní lectures. With the exception of composition, where it is necessary for the participants to be older than twelve, all the other “classes” are open to everyone, including the youngest. We asked the co-author of the idea of the children’s workshop and director of JazzFest Brno, Vilém Spilka, for further information.
The musical Nine, based on the legendary film 8½ by director Frederico Fellini, was prepared under director Stanislav Moša as the penultimate premiere of the season at the Brno City Theatre. They prepared an at places almost erotic show, led by interesting scenography, well-made costumes, brilliant musical preparation and the energy of the female acting. The sensuality of some of the dance parts thankfully did not overshadow the central theme of the hero’s crises: mid-life, art and relationship.
This year's JazzFestBrno festival had several highlights – of course, it depended on each visitor's personal taste, their expectations, and of course on how many shows they managed to visit. For the author of this article, one of the highlights the evening with bassist Stanley Clark on 23 April, varied in genre and arrangement, as well as the last but one concert of the festival, the performance of "the other" Avishai Cohen in the Husa na provázku Theatre on 28 April. It was a musically pure essence of jazz with a message – imperative, heartbreaking and poetic.
One of the musical highlights of last week was the concert of the Malina Brothers with two unique guest musicians, Kateřina García and Charlie McCoy in the Sono Centre in Brno. And because the performance was recorded on a professional video for the band’s first live DVD, the evening itself was extraordinary both in its length and quality.
Letošní ročník festivalu Jazzfest Brno nabízí nepřeberné množství rozmanitých crossoverů , žánrových směsic a fúzí. V duchu tohoto stylového spektra v rekonstruovaném (akusticky významně vylepšeném) sále Janáčkova divadla nabídl svůj vyhlášený osobitý nadžánrový sound klasik jazz fusion a britský kytarista John McLaughlin se svou formací The 4th Dimension. V Brně se představil vůbec poprvé.
On Palm Sunday a concert with the subtitle Nova et Vetera opened the 28th Easter Festival of Sacred Music with the theme Ceremony/It is Good to Celebrate the Lord. Aside from Gregorian Chant for Holy Week performed by the ensemble Schola Gregoriana Pragensis, which opened yesterday’s concert, there was also the world premiere of So Shall He Descend by the Estonian composer Toivo Tulev as performed by the soprano Ivana Rusko, the mezzosoprano Bettina Schneebeli, tenor Jaroslav Březina, baritone Jiří Hájek, choristers Aneta Bendová Podracka, Jana Vondrů and Pavla Radostová, the choir Ars Brunensis under choirmaster Dan Kalousek and the Brno Philharmonic under the baton of its principal conductor Denis Russell Davies. The work was written to a commission from the festival and was intended for the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul.
This year, the JazzFestBrno festival has expanded its offer to include an "electronic" programme line named Tension. Within that series, the bands Zabelov Group and HRTL Spaghetti Ensemble appeared in the Praha space in Brno on 28 March. However, the two-hour concert, which took place on 5 April in the sold-out Sono Centre, was also ideologically close to this new series. The Manchester-based trio GoGo Penguin perhaps uses an instrumental layout of a jazz piano trio vetted by decades, but still oscillates around electronic music as a starting point in its albums and concerts.
Even though the audience's attention is generally focused on music ensembles that have already been vetted by time, yesterday's concert of the newly formed Camerata Brunensis ensemble in the Historical Hall of the Brno Bishop's Court proved that even young blood can offer a remarkable artistic experience. The concert was programmed in cooperation with the Moravian Regional Museum and the Academy of Early Music at Masaryk University, which the Camerata Brunensis‘ artists attend. The ensemble consists of soprano Veronika Vojířová, who performed for example with ensembles like Collegium Marianum, Collegium Floreum, Capella Regia Prague or Cappella Mariana, and the flutist Michaela Durajová, who could be listened to by audiences with the Orchestral Academy of the Brno Philharmonic, the Moravian Philharmonic Olomouc, the Czech Virtuosi orchestra or with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Also, the double bassist and violonist Matyáš Berdych regularly appears with important music ensembles such as Musica Florea, Collegium Marianum and Czech Ensemble Baroque. The backbone of the ensemble is formed by the harpsichordist Jan Hajič, who works as a répétiteur for the Prague choir Vagantes, accompanies concerts and master classes at the Prague Conservatory, and works as a backup organist at the Prague Academic Parish under the guidance of Robert Hugo.
Filip Míšek and Ema Brabcová have worked together for as many as twenty years already. They met each other back in 1999 in the group Roe-Deer, as part of which they created their own project called Khoiba. Under this name they released their albums Nice Traps (2004) and Mellow Drama (2007), shone on the domestic scene and drew attention to themselves in neighbouring Germany, but then each of the protagonists set out on their own paths – Filip came up with the solo project Dikolson and Ema was active first in the group Luno and later became part of The Antagonists under the leadership of Jan P. Muchow. Only in January 2019 did the resurrected Khoiba draw attention to itself – first with the single Log and two months later with the album Khoiba. As part of an intensive spring concert the duo is also coming to perform in Brno. The concert will take place in Kabinet múz on 24 April and supporting Khoiba will be Jan Boroš with Čáry života [Life Lines], this year’s winner of the Apollo award.
Each premiere from the Ondráš Military Art Ensemble is an event that sparks great interest from folk fans. It was no different on Thursday in the slightly cramped quarters of the Divadlo Bolka Polívky theatre. The concert carrying the title Through the Landscape of Time had already been sold out a month ahead.
Yesterday’s concert from the Principal Conductor’s series of the Brno Philharmonic presented Yumi Hwang-Williams, concertmaster of the Colorado Symphonic Orchestra, in an intimately conceived programme. Together with the principal conductor of the Brno philharmonic, Dennis Russel Davies, she performed several classical and contemporary works composed for violin and piano. In this, the Brno audience had a chance to see the soloist before she plays tomorrow together with the Brno Philharmonic.
In an almost four-hour long programme, both audience and performers celebrated the 80th birthday of Horňácko folk legend Martin Hrbáč in Veselí nad Moravou. The concert that took place on Sunday 24 March, and was not only historic in its length but more importantly in the range of folk legends appearing on stage.
Greek Saturday at Veveří Castle enters its 9th season. The music scene will be represented by Musica Balkanika, Mydros, Martha and Tena Elefteriadu or Prometheus. In addition, there will be costume dance shows, dance workshops, an exhibition named "The Greeks in the Area of the Danube Monarchy", a theatrical performance and a programme for children. Through this event, the organizers want to convey to the public the cultural traditions and historical ties between Moravia and Greece.
As part of the final concert of the Bach on Mozart! cycle we will hear Baroque music by F. X. Richter in the St. Johns' Church. The Czech Ensemble Baroque will end the 7th season of the cycle with three rediscovered compositions by this distinguished Baroque composer, which have never been played over the last twenty five years. The concert will be conducted by the founder of the ensemble, Roman Válek.
The festival "with no fences and no admission fees" will be held in the Brno Lužánky Park this year as well. Over fifty events will take place on total of five The Stage s over the weekend. The programme includes musical performances, theatrical shows, film screenings, workshops and author readings. The music scene is represented by names such as Arve Henriksen and David Kollar, Dorota Barová and Jiří Šimek, The BladderStones, Brünnwerk or Songs From Utopia.
420 primary artistic schools got involved in this year's ZUŠ Open nationwide happening organized by the Magdalena Kožená Endowment. Children and young artists will spread music, dance, theatre and fine arts in public space. In several places of the Czech Republic, they will also head to retirement homes or nursery and primary schools. The Brno part of this event will be launched by the announcement of the results of the Brno-wide competition This Is a Talent on Dominikánské Square. It will be followed by performances of sixteen primary artistic schools of the city of Brno. The meeting in Brno will be concluded by a performance of the biggest Brno choir, which will be formed for this particular occasion and will sing together Proč bychom se netěšili [Why Should We Not Rejoice], a choral piece from the opera The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana.
For the upcoming summer, the Ondráš Military Art Ensemble is preparing a charity cycle called Evenings with Ondráš. Two evenings at Špilberk Castle will bring a repeated run of their new show, Krajinou času a Ondrášovské putování [Through the Landscape of Time and Wandering with Ondráš] in which the whole ensemble performs. The programme also includes a fairy-tale show for children.
For the first time ever, the artistic ensemble Kafka Band will bring its music and literature performance entitled Amerika to Brno. The project has been inspired by fragments of the unfinished novel of the same name by Franz Kafka. The seven-member line-up of the ensemble, headed by Jaroslav Rudiš and Jaromír Švejdík, will also present twelve brand new compositions in the Fléda music club.
The Schola Artist dance school offers dance classes of various styles under the guidance of professional dancers, champions of the world and of the Czech Republic and certified tutors. Their roster features pole dance, classical ballet, contemporary dance and more. This year, the school will be celebrating its 2nd birthday with a gala evening in the studio on Hybešova Street.
Brno Philharmonic and Free Radicals. The last concert of the Classically and Modernly subscription series
Free Radicals (Böse Zellen) is the title of a piano concerto by Thomas Larcher (1963), which will be played next week in Besední dům in Czech premiere. When composing it, the author was inspired by a film of the same name by the Austrian director Barbara Albert. The concert is conducted by Nicholas Milton. The work of Thomas Larcher will be heard twice, and a meeting with the dramaturge Vítězslav Mikeš will take place before both concerts, introducing the audience to the world of the upcoming compositions.