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.
“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.
In the premises of the neo-Gothic Czech Brethren Evangelical Church of J. A. Comenius, on the fifth evening of the Moravian Autumn festival, a performance of sacred music for choir and organ took place. In addition to the choir of the same name, Martinů Voices was also dominated by the organist Linda Sítková and a four-member ensemble of French horns. All this under the direction of choirmaster Lukáš Vasilek.
The third event of this year's Moravian Autumn festival was transferred to a theatre stage. The event was made happen by Terén, which is a platform acting as a third stage of the Centre of Experimental Theatre, right after the Goose on a String and HaDivadlo theatres. And it was on this particular stage of the Goose on a String where the world premiere of a stage production of Oedipus by André Gide took place yesterday. Composer Bohuslav Martinů stands behind its equally important incidental music.
The jubilee 50th Moravian Autumn music festival started yesterday at Bobycentrum in Brno with a concert performance of the minimalist opera Einstein on the Beach by composer Philip Glass and director Robert Wilson. The concert version was created by collaboration of visual artist Germaine Kruip, Suzanne Vega and Ictus Ensemble and Collegium Vocale Gent. Although only the music remained from the previously stage show, the length of the concert itself was comparable with the opera work. Hence, the evening lasted almost four hours.
The National Theatre Brno started its new season yesterday by staging The Tales of Hoffmann, an opéra fantastique by French composer Jacques Offenbach with French libretto written by poet Jules Barbier. Directing was undertaken by the recognized artistic tandem SKUTR, consisting of Martin Kukučka and Lukáš Trpišovský. The title role was presented by Luciano Mastro, his faithful companion Nicklausse (and also the figure of the Muse at the end of the show) was performed by Markéta Cukrová. The roles of Hoffmann's sweethearts Olympia, Antonia, Giulietta and Stella have were performed by Martina Masaryková, Pavla Vykopalová, Daniela Straková-Šedrlová and Andrea Široká. The character of Hoffmann's eternal rival (Lindorf/Coppélius/Miracle/ Dappertutto) was interpreted by Ondrej Mráz. The orchestra was led by Ondrej Olos, the choir by Klára Složilová Roztočilová.
The Brno Philharmonic launched its 64th season yesterday, which is also the second season of its current Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Dennis Russell Davies. Beside him, the leading Russian pianist Elisabeth Leonskaja also stood on the stage of the Brno Stadium. Brahms' Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3 in E major and the Czech premiere of the composition DA.MA.SHI.E by the Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi's, connected with animated films of director Hayao Miyazaki, were chosen for the ceremonial start.
The fourteenth season of the Subscription Concert Cycle was launched yesterday evening by the Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno with captivating music. A jubilant, almost festive programme was played in the Besední dům, following a performance at the St. Wenceslas Music Festival in Ostrava the previous evening. However, there were faithful and long-time spectators in Brno without whom the entire cycle would lose its meaning.
Yesterday evening at the piazzetta of the Janáček Theatre was marked by a concert to commence the 2019/2020 season of the National Theatre Brno (NdB). Promotion of the event ensured the most important thing for this music evening – hundreds of spectators who filled up the whole place. We should not forget the really wide age range, which is so much needed for future culture, especially at its lower limit (still in strollers).
Only rarely one single song is the main topic for an interview. In the case of the cellist Josef Klíč, the concert master of the National Theatre in Brno, this was offered. It does not happen every day that a Czech composer and his song reach the finals of a worldwide competition. However, there were more reasons for our talk – memories of the late Jaroslav Erik Frič, Josef's contract at the Janáček Theatre and the upcoming new album.
For the opening concert of the 20th anniversary season of the Špilberk Festival yesterday, the Brno Philharmonic chose a dramaturgy consisting of proven as well as lesser-known pieces. The subtitle Romantic Carnival immersed all evening in the carnival spirit associated with celebrations before the carnival opening. The aim of the programme was to characterize the period of merriment, celebrations and masks by compositions that tell with their mood about this period of the year. The almost full-up castle courtyard had the opportunity to enjoy an unpretentious and appealing programme, which also with its lower temperature more easily approached that cold carnival period.
As a UNESCO-listed city of music, Brno has had four festival days full of music and dance. Tens of concerts and performances with hundreds of performers took place at twenty-two music venues. Music in the streets sounded on every corner, but most attention this year was attracted by four rooms by the artist Kateřina Šedá, in which artists of different genres and nationalities took turns. Another attraction was the performances of the British Motionhouse and No Fit State Circus, who repeatedly enchanted the Náměstí Svobody Square with their acrobatic pieces and breathtaking performances. Two large stages were also set up – Dominik Stage on Dominikánské Square and Django Stage on Malinovského Square, on which appeared artists such as Jana Kirschner, Monika Bagárová, minus123minutes or Jan P. Muchow & The Antagonists. Traditionally, the festival was accompanied by the sound of barrel organs whose players met in Brno as part of their 10th international meeting. This year, singer and multi-instrumentalist Tinatin Tsereteli (Hannover) and violinist Nicola Manzan (Bologna) as artists from UNESCO partner cities of music also premiered at the Brno Music Marathon. The atmosphere of the festival is captured in the video below.
Folkové prázdniny [Folk Holidays] in Náměšť nad Oslavou is a festival standing out with its dramaturgy, structure and atmosphere. Every season has its own theme, every evening has its own theme, and even some individual performances have their own themes. The long-time programme director Michal Schmidt managed this year to excellently balance Czech premiéres and truly extraordinary projects with reappearances and sure bets. This year's theme of Folkové prázdniny was About the Soul; however, this week-long event has its soul every year.
The group Nebeztebe (a pun containing both "Not without You" and "Heaven from You) literally shone in the Brno scene a few years ago. The five-member line-up, with its marked rhythms, seemingly above styles, celebrated victory at Porta and headed for the giant multi-genre festivals. Under bandleader Štěpán Hulc seemingly the band went to sleep and only returned this year with a brand new, three-member line-up. The new Nebeztebe is made up of guitar, violin and mandolin and has not given up on taking a multi-genre approach. Once more they are giving concerts and are coming out with the concept album Zásobování duše (which might be translated as Supplying the Soul).
One of the musicians who will appear at Folkové prázdniny [Folk Holidays] in Náměšť nad Oslavou as part of a special programme called Harfy nad Oslavou [Harps upon Oslava], is the Colombian harpist Edmar Castañeda. In Náměšť, he will also give a solo recital as part of an evening called O duši s lehkostí i naléhavostí [About Soul with Lightness and Urgency]. In our telephone conversation – we called him to New York where he lives – we talked to Edmar Castañeda, for example, about a harp specially constructed according to his requirements, or about his cooperation with the Czech singer Marta Töpferová.
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 musical Mamma Mia!, which has achieved great success on world stages including Broadway, is heading to Brno. MdB will introduce it under the direction of Petr Gazdík. Donna will be performed by Alena Antalová, Markéta Sedláčková or Ivana Vaňková. Furthermore, Dagmar Křížová, Barbora Remišová or Petra Šimberová. Men's roles will be represented by Martin Havelka, Igor Ondříček or Viktor Skála and many others.
The 23rd Plus 2019 New Music Meeting international music festival is dedicated to contemporary acoustic and electronic music and multimedia projects. This season will be opened by an expert in the interpretation of contemporary music – the Belgian pianist Daan Vandewalle. The festival programme also features a gala concert to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gideon Klein or the Czech premiere of the Force Field multimedia project. The festival is organized by the Music Faculty of JAMU.
Ensemble Opera Diversa is preparing a joint concert with flute player Michaela Koudelková. Works by the authors of the 20th century will be played and the premiere will take place of the composition Quasi lontano, which the ensemble commissioned from Petra Čtveráčková. The concert will take place at the Convent of Merciful Brothers in Brno under the baton of Gabriela Tardonová.
Concerts in the new season 2019/2020 are promising a varied range of genres. For example, Vlasta Redl, who will start the season, will perform as part of the musical evenings at the Brno National Theater. He will be followed by Vladimír Mišík & ETC, Věra Martinová, Anna K., Petr Bende, Bára Zmeková and many others.
Fifteen years ago, the second theater building of the Brno City Theater was opened with ceremonial premieres of the musical Hair. The ensemble had been involved in musical production already since the nineteen-nineties, but at times it bounced the walls of the technical shortcomings of the building. The foundation stones arrived to Brno from Dolní Věstonice and from Broadway, NYC, and were laid on 17 November 2001. The theater is preparing to celebrate the anniversary with two major concerts that will commemorate all the productions presented so far. The celebratory programme is being created under the direction of Igor Ondříček. The progamme will feature stars such as Dušan Vitázek, Markéta Sedláčková, Jana Musilová, Petr Štěpán, Viktória Matušovová, Petr Gazdík and others. The Brno City Theater Orchestra will be conducted by Dan Kalousek.
The premiere of a new programme called Step by Step is dedicated to the 65th anniversary of the military artistic ensemble VUS Ondráš. The programme is inspired by folklore material of Czech, Moravian and Slovak regions. The plot is the story of man from his first precarious steps, through the peak period of vitality, to the stage where his steps lose confidence. Year after year, all of his life. Alžběta Burianová took on the direction. The musical accompaniment was created by Jiří Slavík.