After more than fifty years The Queen of Spades by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is returning to the repertoire of the national Theatre Brno. The premiere on 17 February in the Mahen Theatre of the production by Martin Glaser also involves one more return for music theatre – after more than sixty years Soňa Červená will once more being treading the boards in Brno.
Music-lovers in Brno like to remember the visit Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart made to the city at the turn of 1767-68. The theme of the third subscription concert of the Brno Philharmonic from the cycle The Philharmonic at Home I was however the composer’s visit to Prague. And this was not without reason. Prague has an indisputable place in the professional career of the most significant representative of Viennese classicism. To go with the chosen theme the programme creators chose important milestones in the composer’s output that were linked to Prague and its inhabitants. The Brno Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Alexander Liebreich and the pianist was Saleem Ashkar.
The three musketeers in fact numbered four. In the same way 3fo3 (which reads as “three fotři” – a play on words since ‘fotr’ is an unflattering term for father) is made up of four members. To the founding members of Bombarďák, Michal Dalecký, Jiří Jelínek and Filip Nebřenský, Matěj Pospíšil was added as a kind of d’Artagnan. However otherwise everything has stayed the same. Bombarďák – or rather the lyricist Jiří Jelínek – speaks to kids with a dynamic language full of fashionable and modern expressions. In the space of very brief songs (on average under two minutes) they are able to tell humorous tales full of wordplay and situational humour. One song follows on from another, mostly upbeat, with speaking as well as singing, on the borders of song and theatrical sketch, but all fitting together well.
Hits like Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever or How Deep Is Your Love sung beautifully, and wonderfully constructed and danced choreography in shiny disco costumes, and three exceptional performances in the main roles. That is the currency of the new Brno musical Saturday Night Fever. The director Stanislav Moša staged it in the Municipal Theatre.
Brno is a city full of contrasts. A short walk through its centre reveals curious contrasts: the Rozkvět passage next to the House of the Lords of Lipá or the Omega department store inserted into the historic centre are clear examples. The Brno Philharmonic also bases its musical production on the contrast of old with new. More than once I have praised the fresh programmes of the concerts, which go for contrasting musical works and present combinations of compositions which are rarely heard alongside each other. In the case of the concert entitled Romantic Fairy Tales of 24 January however the programme was down to earth. There were no sudden dissonances or odd instrumental combinations and the musical language did not depart from the moderately conventional. However we do not have only the contrasts of old and new, known and unknown, but unfortunately also between quality and its absence and not last between interesting and dull.
For what is already the sixth time the National Theatre Brno has presented promising choreographers from among its own ranks. Yesterday in the Reduta Theatre there was the premiere of another year of the unusual project entitled Choreographic Studio. Nine mini productions were performed by soloists and members of the company to their own choreography.
When you mention “Greek song”, someone might think of Děti z Pirea (called Never on Sunday in English) as performed by Yvetta Simonová and Milan Chladil (or the even older version by Eva Martinová and Karel Duda). Somewhat closer to the present are Martha and Tena Elefteriadu, who are still giving concerts even in the 2018 season and what is more organising courses in Greek dance. The sisters, who alongside Greek music were also active in the field of rock and pop (and Martha’s album Kresby tuší – ‘Ink Drawings’ - is a treasure), according to the young Brno author and musician Jannis Moras “prepared the way” for a new generation of Greek interpreters. In Brno at present there are a number of active groups singing in Greek and a central figure for this community of musicians is Jannis himself, one of three musically active Moras brothers. All three play with their father in the group I Parea, Jannis plays in rebetiko style in the group Anatoli and aside from that has his own group Jannis Moras & banda. There, alongside his brothers Alexis (bass guitar) and Markos (drums) there are two young ladies – Iva Oulehlová (flute and clarinet) and Zuzana Mitrengová (vocals). While Jannis Moras & banda in their vocals, harmonies and of course lyrics in what is for us the exotic language of Greek remind us of traditional music, in reality it is a folk-rock group, which plays exclusively the songs of its leader. And at present Jannis Moras is one of Brno’s most interesting singer-songwriters.
At the end of November, a CD entitled Moravian Voices was released. Modest at a first glance, this album should definitely not miss out on your attention. This music carrier is a part of the Song of the Soul project, whose promoter is Jiří Plocek. Its aim was to introduce the phenomenon of Moravian singability with the example of some areas of Slovácko (Moravian Slovakia).
If you went to the Brno Philharmonic’s New Year Concert expecting a serious, rigorous celebration, with measured and distinguished entertainment, most probably you left extremely disappointed. In your frustration you may have complained and muttered: what was this conducting dance creation, why did they clap to the rhythm of the Radetzky March and primarily – why were we made to sing? And the programme! Last year at least there was Smetana, but this year? Just waltzes and polkas, operettas and whipped cream! If you are not a bitter grouch, it is likely that along with the Brno Philharmonic you danced into 2018 with ease and sprightliness.
The programme of the third Sunday of Advent from the orchestra of the Ensemble Opera Diversa with the help of their sister body – the choir Ensemble Versus – was marked by modern contemporary creations. In the Convent of the Merciful Brethren they performed the works O antifony for baritone and strings and the Magnificat and choir and strings from the ensemble’s court composer Ondřej Kyas and the Sonata da chiesa by the composer Jaroslav Štastný-Pokorný, written under his artistic pseudonym of Peter Graham. The soloist for the evening was the baritone Roman Hoza, while the performance was conducted by Gabriela Tardonová. The concert was broadcast live by Czech Radio Vltava and other stations in the Euroradio network. In this way the music was heard by listeners in Spain, Saarland, Estonia, Sweden, Portugal, Hessen, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Slovenia and it was broadcast by the BBC.
Pavel Šporcl’s new and first Christmas album Christmas on the Blue Violin, with traditional and less well-known carols, came out at the end of the November. At the same time as the CD is coming on to the market Pavel Šporcl is setting out on a tour of the Czech Republic with the same name. He will be coming to Brno on 11 December together with the Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra, the soprano Jana Šrejma Kačírková and the Czech boys’ choir Boni pueri. The programme (of which not much could be found out ahead of time) and the venue for the concert in the Boby Centre hinted at quite a spectacular and challenging production with many question marks and potential pitfalls. And it should be said right at the outset that precisely because of this the concert cannot really be evaluated artistically.
Since the album Sme len hostia na zemi (We Are Only Guests on the Earth) (2009) Tomáš Kytnar and his group Tady To Máš has brought out a new album every two years. In a time when U2 completes a disc three years after the previous one and reviewers think it is too soon, this can seem like overproduction, but that is nothing compared to Neil Young, who even into his seventies is providing his fans with more than an album a year … However frequency is a relative term, in this case linked to the fact that Kytnar – once a rock pianist, and today more in the genre blues-chanson – still has something to express in music. Some years back he came under the spell of Slovak as a very musical language, and so his albums, even though created in Brno in the circles around the Stará Pekárna club and the Indies studio, contain Slovak poetry put to music. At the same time the new album directly follows on from the previous title Srdiečka tiché (Quiet Heart) and is dedicated solely to the verse of the Bratislava native and wonderful poet of the city Erika Ondrejičky (*1964). Kytnar has drawn on his poetry over the long term – alongside both single-theme albums his poetry also found a place on the preceding recordings Vôňa rána (Fragrant Morning) (2011) and Krátkovlasá čembalistka (Short-haired Harpsichordist) (2013).
Yesterday the biggest hall of the Brno Exhibition Centre – Pavilion P – was filled with an audience of a thousand. The premiere of the ballet West Side Story was completely sold out. The performance was given by the National Theatre Brno, the author of the original concept and also the original choreography is Jerome Robbins, the libretto is by Arthur Laurents, the music from Leonard Bernstein and the song lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The Brno performance of this world-famous musical was directed by Mário Radačovský, who also created the choreography for this new production. The sets were designed by Marek Hollý and the costumes by Alexandra Grusková. The lighting design was by Tomáš Morávek while the projection was directed by Jan Fuksa and Martin Svobodník.
Přístav, many times winners of Porta and other folk festivals, are not prolific with new albums. In 2001 they made their debut with the recording Prašná cesta (Dirt Road), in 2008 they brought out Papírový drak (Paper Kite) and as recently as in 2017 their third disc PřiHrátky. This average of eight years between LP recordings has one advantage. In between the group plays intensively, work on themselves and so a certain progress should be visible in each new album. Theoretically this should be the case and fortunately with Přístav it is. And just as with the previous disc I stated that Přístav is becoming steadily more convincing, with this new one that feeling has deepened.
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.