Two servings of first class musical mastery and each one different. One was musical show that was demanding for its audience, where only informed listeners perceived it as a reminder of tragic events. And the second was a lighter dance-like evening with songs that could be sung by the whole of the hall at the Sono Centre. The organisers of JazzFest Brno have shown that no two jazz quintets are alike. Both of the leaders in the last two concerts of this year’s festival rightly got the stormy applause they deserved. At the same time you could hardly see on stage two such different musicians as Terence Blanchard and Richard Bona.
On Tuesday the tones of folk song resounded in the courtyard of the Rectorate of Brno University of Technology on Antonínská street in Brno. The first folk accompanying programme of the festival Janáček Brno 2018 carried the poetic name Kvítí milodějné (which might translate as Merciful Flowers), borrowed from the composer’s eponymous arrangements from a unique song cycle of Moravian folk poetry. The entire programme had an interesting and attractive concept, in which there were performances of three versions of folk material from the collections of Leoš Janáček. All three were close not only to the composer himself but were also generally popular.
The international music festival Janáček Brno 2018 yesterday opened its sixth year with a new production of the opera The Cunning Little Vixen. The performance was directed by the artistic director of the Brno Opera Jiří Heřman, the stage sets were designed by Dragan Stojčevski, the costumes by Alexandra Grusková and the lighting was by Daniel Tesař. The role of Bystrouška was taken by Jana Šrejma Kačírková, the forester was Svatopluk Sem, Zlatohřbítek was played by Václava Krejčí Housková, Schoolmaster/Mosquito by Ondřej Koplík, Priest/Badger by Jan Šťáva and Harašta by Roman Hoza. The orchestra of the National Theatre in Brno performed under its chief conductor Marko Ivanović, who was also responsible for the musical production of the work.
Brno City Theatre has come out with another premiere of a Czech musical in the form of Big. This musical novelty, taken from the film of the same name, will entertain children, adolescents and their parents. This musical tale is truly for all the generations. Big is a family comedy, in places also a fantasy spectacle, in others a romantic sweet piece about love or an exciting story of an impatient little boy, in which however all ends well.
The promising developing contemporary Czech jazz scene, which includes well-functioning festivals and two universities with the teaching of jazz (in Brno and in Prague), is creating the background not just for little ensembles, but also for large orchestras. In Prague there is the excellent Concept Art Orchestra, which under the leadership of the trumpeter Štěpánka Balcarová focuses on the work of contemporary Czech authors in the middle and younger generation (the so-called Prague Six). In Brno the B-Side Band, led by the trumpeter Josef Buchta, sells out big halls and plays at major festivals, cooperating with the popular Vojtěch Dyk, but has not given up on its original jazz repertoire and also cooperates with foreign stars of the calibre of Kurt Elling. Another Brno big band, the Cotatcha Orchestra, under the leadership of (yet another trumpeter) Jiří Kotač, has not yet met with such great success. Despite this the ensemble, put together from students and teachers of the jazz department at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts, is fiercely and healthily making progress in our scene and given the quality of the musicians it has at its centre, I believe that it will in the coming years win a unique place for itself.
The jubilee 25th year of Olomouc’s Autumn Festival of Sacred Music is drawing to a close. Before the finale with Verdi’s Requiem yesterday there was a concert from the Brno chamber group Ensemble Versus under Vladimír Maňas with an ensemble of renaissance wind instruments accompanied by the continuo provided by Capella Ornamentata under the artistic leadership of its founder Richard Šeda in Olomouc’s Church of the Annunciation (Kostel Zvěstování Páně). Both bodies are mainly concerned with the interpretation of the religious music of the 16th and 17th centuries and have engaged in many other joint projects. In 2017 this cooperation led to a CD of the works of the late renaissance composer Nicolaus Zangius, whose works were heard at Sunday’s concert.
The Exposition of New Music festival has been confronting Brno listeners with contemporary Czech and world music for thirty-one years. Over this time, the festival’s concerts have gained a devoted audience wishing to experience the non-traditional musical works and experiments themselves. The autumn part of this years’ festival begun yesterday with the vocal cycle Canti del Capricorno by the Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi, performed by solo soprano Lore Lixenberg.
The buildings of the Brno spa on Rašínova street were filled on Sunday with the new project of the Hausopera art society, which has the target of bringing new and quality productions to places in daily use that wouldn’t have much to do with music and especially opera otherwise. The forerunner is the short opera Poslední pólo (“The Final Polo”) by the composer - conductor Marek Ivanović and the librettist – opera singer Josef Škarka about two friends, a secret love and a guilty conscience. The work was directed by Petr Hašek, the stage set was designed by Ján Tereba and the lighting design was made by Pavla Beranová, Michal Hór and Zuzana Bottová. The main characters were played by Tomáš Krejčí, Aleš Procházka and Andrea Široká. The accordion was played by Žaneta Vítová, the vibraphone and drums by Kristýna Švihálková. It was presented by Lenka Sedláčková.
To record an album of famous jazz standards translated into Czech and yet not only to not come up short, but even to come across naturally and as much as possible even originally, is extremely demanding. Darek Neumann, “a kind of Brno character” (as stated in the booklet of the album) has managed it. The fact that it successfully balanced on the very borders of sentiment and pure blues, is much down to the lyrics of Ester Kočičková.
The group D.N.A. Brno, winners of the final of Porta in 2011, after a gap of four years have brought out a new album. Alongside a new surname for the bass guitarist (but it is still the same Barbora who years ago cofounded the then children’s and girls’ group) there was an important change in the line-up. Ondra Bojanovský (son of Aleš Bojanovský of FT Prima) has become a new member, playing rhythmic instruments. This has made it possible for the former percussionist Lenka Ručková to move over to the piano. Otherwise they remain as they were: D.N.A. is a group of young people, mostly classically trained, who like folk as well as classical. On the musical side they play it masterfully – there can be no objections to their skill, which is made evident in individual songs. The actual repertoire already on the last album has grown up from the childhood years and the innovation is of course, in this respect, a bit more mature. The band has not surprised us with any a sudden shift. But the result is a bit more mature and confident. And what has also been added are serious but at the same time credible themes.
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.
The Olomouc Baroque Festival has begun. In the local Jesuit Convent the seventh year of the festival opened with the modern premiere of the serenata Il tribunale di Giove by the Austrian composer Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf. The work was first performed at the birthday celebrations for the Prussian King Frederick the Great on 27 January 1775 and after a repeat in Wroclaw in 1777 it fell into oblivion. The Ensemble Damian decided to reverse this unfortunate fate, and led by the ensemble’s artistic director and director Tomáš Hanzlík they attempted to revive the work. Appearing in the solo roles were Leandro Lafont (Fate and Apollo), Kristýna Vylíčilová (the Genius of Europe and Minerva), Lucie Kaňková (Time and Fortune), Monika Jägerová (Jupiter) and Jakub Rousek (Mars). The costumes and backdrops were designed by the director Hanzlík.
The Slunce [Sun] Festival in Strážnice will be held for the twentieth time this year. Especially lovers of folk music and classical big beat have marked the dates of 12th and 13th July in their calendars. We talked to the director of the Slunce Festival Pavel Kopřiva about the history of the festival, its top moments and hardships, as well as what this year's festival season will be like.
The end of the first school-holiday week was carried in the spirit of celebrations. The 7th of July in fact falls on the birthday of Alena Veselá, a prominent Brno organist and a professor at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU), who celebrated an impressive age of 96 years on that day. The concert, organised particularly for this jubilee, was also the final event of the 39th Brno Organ Festival and as a celebration of the birthday of its founder (and now patron of the whole show), it already has a strong position in the festival programme.
Last weekend, the 74th Strážnice International Folklore Festival 2019 as well as the 37th Strážnice Children's Folklore Festival were held in the South Moravian Mecca of folklore. The biggest folklore festival in the Czech Republic enjoys great interest and it wasn't any different this year either, despite tropical temperatures, with tens of thousands of people coming back to Strážnice again.
On the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet Jiří Orten, the company ProArt prepared a multi-genre project called Ohnice – Where the Wind Is Dancing in the former Brno penitentiary on Cejl Street. The poetic production with verses of the young poet, which reflected his hard and short life, was premiered on 25 June.
The twenty-fourth season of the Concentus Moraviae international music festival came to an end after almost a month of rich musical experiences. Musical works, thematically labelled as the Concert of Nations, guided the festival visitors around thirteen picturesque Moravian towns and gave them a taste of key musical works of (not only) European nations. All this was moreover served in the interpretation of more than twenty world-famous ensembles. With the conscious transnational, cross-border concept overreaching the Czech border, the festival organizers chose the Golden Hall of the renowned Musikverein Concert House as a suitable venue for the closing evening. The extraordinary finals of the 24th season opened thus a series of Concerts of Czech-Austrian Partnership and at the same time announced the celebration of the festival's quarter of a century to be celebrated next year. In accordance with this symbolic overture of the concert, the main star of the festival was the patron of the festival and famous singer Magdalena Kožená, accompanied by the no less famous Collegium 1704 orchestra led by Václav Luks.
One of the biggest promises of the 24th Concentus Moraviae international festival was yesterday’s concert of the legendary Borodin Quartet, whose unique sound is the result not only of hard work but also collaboration with the composer Dmitri Shostakovich. This personal and interpretive trail still influences the group and is passed on to each new member. The programme took place in the library of the castle in Náměšť nad Oslavou , where in the 18th and 19th centuries it was the residence music-loving Haugwitz family. The music of Sergei Prokofiev, Joseph Haydn and Dmitri Shostakovich could be heard by the audience in a venue that was more than merely dignified.
In the summer months Špilberk Castle’s courtyard often resounds to the sound of music. Until September it is possible to combine a tour of the castle with a cultural experience. The organizers have tried to prepare a programme across genres that has something for everyone. Yesterday it was the turn of folk music. Despite the adverse weather the stage was dominated by the Military Art Ensemble Ondráš.
The last premiere of the Brno opera season for the first time ever and rather unusually combined two works. The Janáček Theatre presented the surrealist opera Three Fragments of Juliette by Bohuslav Martinů along with the small opera work The Human Voice by Francis Poulenc. The composed evening, with direction and stage design by David Radok, brought together two almost absurd worlds. And this connection was indeed remarkable dramaturgically, visually but also interpretatively.
The Polish ensemble Szymanowski Quartet at the Concentus Moraviae Festival presented works by their compatriots Karol Szymanowski, Stanisław Moniuszko and Gražyna Bacewicz in the Church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Řeznovice yesterday. The concert was part of worldwide celebrations of the two-hundredth anniversary of birth of Stanisław Moniuszko, which is considered by many to be the founder of Polish national music. The evening was held under the auspices of the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the Czech Republic, HE Barbara Ćwioro.
Visitors to concerts meet quite often with quartet compositions written by masters of European music. Haydn's string quartets are perennial stars in the repertoire of a number of ensembles and attention is also paid to works of contemporary European composers. Only exceptionally, however, can listeners take a peek into the musical cuisine of Asian or South American nations. Cuarteto Q-Arte decided to fill this blank space and dedicated itself to the works of Latin American authors. The programme, which they presented yesterday at the chateau in Slavkov u Brna (Austerlitz), consisted of works by Silvestre Revueltas, Alberto Ginastera and Astor Piazzolla. All these three composers combine elements of domestic culture with European training and influences or impulses of different genres.
Why be one of the many average bands when we can be a unique band? The ten-year history of the Brno group Kupodivu could be squeezed into this motto. In 2009, saxophonist Jaroslav Pilný and keyboard player Petr Šašinka first talked about forming a band. In 2019, the band Kupodivu [Surprisingly Enough] is releasing its first full-length album. Exactly in the middle of this ten-year period, in 2014, an important change took place when the original folk band was transformed into an interesting shape with keyboards, saxophone and bass, but without a guitar. The line-up, which resembles rather jazz bands in recent years, has scored at a lot of folk festivals in recent years. Kupodivu won the Porta award for authors, the Rada Notování [Council of Notation] award, won the Moravský vrabec [Moravian Sparrow], and won second place at the Mohelnický dostavník [Mohelnice Stagecoach]. At all these venues they performed music that rather than campfires fits into city clubs, and by far not only folk ones. The album Živočišné pudy [Animal Instincts] summarizes the band's work so far in a dignified way, underlined by the quality sound from the Zlín Studio V.
The Jerusalem Quartet is one of the world's leading quartet performers for many years and is currently one of the most cited chamber music ensembles. At the Concentus Moraviae festival, violinists Alexander Pavlovsky, Sergei Bresler, violist Ori Kam and cellist Kyril Zlotnikov performed in the Great Chateau of Mikulov Castle with a programme stretching in time from Joseph Haydn up to Béla Bartók. The concert was held under the auspices of the Israeli Ambassador to the Czech Republic, HE Daniel Meron.
Man does not live by classical music alone, as the Epoque Quartet, consisting of violinists David Pokorný, Vladimír Klánský, violist Vladimír Kroupa and cellist Vít Petrášek has been convincing us for twenty years already. For their Saturday concert, staged as part of the Concentus Moraviae festival, which took place in the foyer of the Pasáž theatre in Třebíč, the musicians also invited bass clarinettist Petr Valášek, pianist Karel Košárek and percussionist Oleg Sokolov. The programme of the evening consisted entirely of works by contemporary authors flirting in their compositions not only with musical minimalism, but also with jazz and other popular genres.
Znojmo Music Festival enters its 15th season this year. The programme includes concerts, opera performances, gastronomy and a programme for children. The opening concert, performed by the patron of the festival Pavel Šporcl and the PKF - Prague Philharmonia under the baton of Derek Gleeson, is dedicated to the reminder of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The culmination of the festival is the premiere of the scenic oratorio Saul by G. F. Handel. The title roles will be performed by Andreas Scholl and Adam Plachetka. The show will be directed by Tomáš Pilař.
The 165th anniversary of the birth of Leoš Janáček falls on today, Wednesday 3 July 2019. Janáček is one of our opera composers most frequently played abroad. TIC Brno dedicated a tram to him for his birthday this year, with the main characters from his operas graphically rendered by Brno artist Vendulka Chalánková. Janáček also has his own website, an educational trail, a memorial and an opera festival.
The autumn program of the Fléda music club in Brno contains big names of the music world. The August visit of Jon Hopkins', who will appear at the Brno Marathon of Music festival is already at its imaginary beginning. The autumn season officially opens with a September dance party featuring GusGus from Iceland. This will be followed by concerts of Hooverphonic with a new singer, Jan Blomqvist & Band with their complete Disconnected project or the Berlin legend DJ Hell with his Zukunftmusic composition. Rockers De Staat will bring their novelty titled The Bubble Gum, Movits! their most hip-hop record so far – the double album V, Kadebostany in turn will bring their album Monumental. Last but not least, Vitalic with Rebeka Warrior will also be featured presenting their KCompromat project.
The album collects folklore tunes and songs from the Moravian meadows. After several years of work on the Anthology of Moravian Folk Music, the Indies Scope label decided to continue with a new series of folklore recordings called Malovaná truhla [Painted Chest]. One of them is the album Kosecké písně [Mowers' Songs]. The album features Kubíci dulcimer music band from Horňácko, Women's Choir of Hrubá Vrbka, Chotár male choir from Horňácko and others.
Traditionally, the beginning of the summer holidays is accompanied by the festival Boskovice – for the Jewish Quarter. This year's 27th edition will be launched by the Les Bubbey Mayse quartet from France, inspired by Klezmer and traditional Yiddish songs. The musical program also features concerts of bands such as Neurobeat, Khoiba, Kittchen & Aid Kid with Tomáš Neuwerth or Panenské plameny.
The Kamenka Open multi-genre festival will revive the meadow in the Kamenná kolonie neighbourhood in Brno for the tenth time already. This year's guests include Funky Pappa, Jamiroquai Tribute Band and Pleasure Portable. Theatres will be represented by the Hysterie Theatre, Koráb Theatre or the Bez Pravidel Theatre.