Musical Inventory Ensemble Opera Diversa

31 May 2024, 17:00
Musical Inventory Ensemble Opera Diversa

As part of Ensemble Opera Diversa's Musical Inventory series of concerts, which began back in 2017, the ensemble aims to present (re)discovered works and composers that we rarely hear on stage. However, this dramaturgical line also offers the space and initiative to create some completely new works performed in world premières. This time, the chamber concert held on Wednesday, 29 May 2024 in the auditorium of the Rector's Office of the Brno University of Technology (BUT) was directed by the Diversa Quartet: Barbara Tolarová (1st violin), Jan Bělohlávek (2nd violin), David Křivský (viola), Iva Wiesnerová (cello), OK Percussion Duo (Martin Opršál, Martin Kneibl), soloists Aneta Podracká Bendová (soprano) and pianist Tereza Plešáková. The theme was a nod to the Prague composition school from a pedagogical and artistic perspective.


The first world première was the series of songs Shifting Sands (2024) by Miloš Orson Štědroň (*1973). The five movements composed on lyrics by the Brno poet Ivan Blatný (1919-1990) reflect his unique style combining languages (such as Czech, English, German in the opening piece), as well as various movements such as surrealism or Dadaism, with occasional autobiographical memories. The composer wrote two versions of the cycle: for soprano and piano, which was performed at the concert, and also a version for percussion (ossia). The polystylistic nature of the lyrics permeates the music, with the individual songs teetering on the borderline of arias, chansons, swing, and also waltz. The light-hearted character of the work is balanced by the demanding technique required, and singer Aneta Podracká Bendová and pianist Tereza Plešáková did an excellent job. Her precise enunciation, rich voice and thorough work with musical (and other) ideas dominated the soprano's performance, which was supported by the sensitive yet convincing accompaniment of Tereza Plešáková.

The second world première of the evening was penned by pedagogue and composer Slavomir Hořínka (*1980). It is written for string quartet and is entitled Four (2020). The composition was written for the quartet competition of the 2021 Prague Spring Festival, this was the first time it has been performed. It may seem that the title refers to the composition of the string quartet itself, but this is not the case. Four refers to the tonality - just four notes - on which the composer based the composition. "Internally, it is divided into two parts: a slow conceptual surface and a part based on fast movement that runs like a golden thread through all the instruments of the ensemble. I’d compare listening to it to looking into a kaleidoscope that is turning - now slowly, now quickly - or gazing out of the window of a train passing through the countryside," says Slavomír Hořínka. In the case of this small form, we can speak of the certain capturing of a moment - a mood that is musically expressed by a play of tones, colour and space. The concert in the auditorium of the BUT Rector's Office was made even more of a success by the acoustics, especially by the longer sustain, which added a pleasant touch to the musical material. Neither the staging nor the actual performance of the Diversa Quartet can be faulted.


Six Ancient Miniatures for string trio by Prague composer Hanuš Bartoň (1960-2023), among others a pupil of Svatopluk Havelka, were again represented in the programme by a lighter style of music redolent with wit and sarcasm (one might even say recession). In his commentary on the work, the composer himself mentions that the aim was to take a break from the demands placed on the writers and performers of contemporary music. Therefore, he wanted to compose a simple, more traditionally oriented work, in which he was inspired by folk and classical music and worked with simple melodic and rhythmic ideas. The work was initiated by the composer's classmate, violinist Petr Matěják, who premièred it with the Czech String Trio at the Three-Day Plus Festival in 2004. Violinist Barbara Tolarová showed off her skills as a vocalist in her solos, such as in the first part of Pastorello, which was immediately followed by the second part entitled The Boar and His Dance. Here, the trio's rendition captured the boorish nature of the movement perfectly. Violist David Křivský also appeared as a soloist, with his part in the movement Over and Over Again featuring a constantly repeating motif. The musician's humour, referring to compositional clichés, thus runs through Bartoň's entire composition, in which each of the movements contains one principle on which it is built.


The conclusion was dedicated to the aforementioned Svatopluk Havelka (1925-2009) and his Parenesis (1993) - a five-part cycle set to Greek translations of biblical epistles for soprano, piano and percussion. The work is specific not only for the choice of instruments and textual component, but also for the fact that it can be performed differently, with the texts merely recited between the movements. At this concert, however, we heard a variant sung by Aneta Podracká Bendová accompanied by pianist Plešáková and OK Percussion Duo. In his commentary on Parenesis, Havelka's pupil Hanuš Bartoň praises the composer's "extraordinary feeling for the tonal potential of the instruments" and adds that "his sound constantly surprises us with its imagination, not to mention his amazing ability to combine seemingly tired principles with an original and completely contemporary conception to form an organically convincing whole." Listeners were able to enjoy the aforementioned tonal potential of the instruments from the very first bars, primarily in the imaginative instrumental combinations. The piano, for example, plays several roles during the course of the work - accompanying, timbral, rhythmic, but also equal to the soprano (such as in the quasi-duets). At the same time, however, its motifs and timbre are linked to the percussion, from which it takes individual musical ideas (rhythmic and melodic motifs). The percussion section in itself is instrumentally transformed in each part, but instruments such as the marimba and vibraphone undoubtedly play an important role. The techniques and ways of playing the instruments were also worthy of note. Of all these, I should mention the play of the bow on the metallic stones of the melodic percussion, creating a unique tonal shade. The musicians' performance can be described as impressive, technically and intonationally precise, beautifully expressive despite occasional deaf spots where the singer's voice was drowned out by the instruments. However, this was due to the venue’s acoustics, not the performance itself.

Not to be afraid to take risks and bring out the long forgotten or to address contemporary creators and put trust in their compositional inventiveness - this is what distinguishes the Musical Inventory series of concerts, whose ingenious dramaturgy and fine performances are definitely worthy of attention.


Miloš Orson Štědroň: Shifting Sands for soprano and piano, première

Slavomir Hořínka: Four for string quartet, première

Hanuš Bartoň: Six Ancient Miniatures for string trio

Svatopluk Havelka: Parenesis for chamber ensemble

Aneta Podracká Bendová – soprano

Tereza Plešáková – piano

OK Percussion Duo (Martin Opršál, Martin Kleibl)

Diversa Quartet

Barbara Tolarová – 1st violin

Jan Bělohlávek – 2nd violin

David Křivský – viola

Iva Wiesnerová – cello

Wednesday, 29 May 2024 at 7 p.m., auditorium of the Rector's Office of the Brno University of Technology

Photo by Marek Olbrzymek



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