The Brno Philharmonic Fairy Tale has a Happy Ending

25 January 2018, 13:00
The Brno Philharmonic Fairy Tale has a Happy Ending

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.

The evening’s programme began with the overture to the opera Der Freischütz by Carl Maria von Weber. If we ignore the slightly out of step entrance of the brass instruments and the fact that the overture itself is not the most interesting part of the opera, the performance was satisfactory. The inclusion of Der Freischütz is understandable given the theme, but the wishy-washy or even dull overture did not set a romantic fairy-tale atmosphere. Certainly there are many who have a warmer stance towards Weber’s work than I. From the perspective of the performance itself there is not much to criticise other than what I already mentioned. Perhaps only the dynamic graduation could be greater and more serious. The criticism is not for a poor performance but for the programme. But I will admit that this is a highly subjective topic.

The Clarinet Concerto No. 3 in B major by the composer Antonio Casimir Cartellieri followed Weber’s overture. The works and the person of the composer suffered almost complete oblivion and thus was literally pulled from the shelves of the dusty archives of the Prague Conservatory and the Czech Museum of Music. The revision and critical transcription, which Emil Drápela (solo clarinettist with the Brno Philharmonic) carried out, is undoubtedly commendable. It is not the first work which Drápela prepared for the orchestra this way. Despite the unquestionable melodic freshness, playfulness and virtuosity, however, this typical musical work of the period did not escape shallowness. The orchestra is reduced to a mere supporting element that most of the time does not protrude into the foreground of the music. When it does it is always a pair of skimpy bars filled with basic harmonic functions and serves only to indicate the start or end of another phrase from the solo clarinet. Unfortunately this approach does not fundamentally change in any of the four movements of the concerto. The cellos mostly play at least semitones, and the violins and violas similarly pulse with a quaver staccato, and so it goes on and on until the piece finishes. One pleasant change was a short passage with pizzicato. And above it all floats the solo clarinet. There can be no doubt of the quality of Mr Drápela as an interpreter – he has regularly been given demanding parts and he has made quite a few recordings. This time his performance was also commendable. Only before the repeat of the introductory theme in the flood of fast runs and figuration was a false note heard. If it were not for the purely symbolic accompaniment of the orchestra, it could have been completely lost in the music. I can be told that concertos tended to be like that, however hardly any composer of the 19th century so completely abandoned the effort to create an at least partially inventive accompaniment, as unfortunately happened in this case.

It might seem that the programme was already beyond saving, that despite the hard work of the conductor Robert Kružík and the well prepared musical material, the whole concert would only be an average enrichment of a Wednesday evening. And lo and behold! The work The Birthday of the Infanta by the composer Franz Schreker represented a much-wanted happy ending to the fairy tale. And a coveted contrast to the previous not-so-interesting first half of the evening. The ballet-pantomime to themes from the tale by Oscar Wilde was a work that the audience might have been waiting for. The orchestra launched into the work with verve and the conductor Robert Kružík seemed to be more in his element. The piece itself was conceived energetically, with sharp dynamic contrasts. Otherwise the work was full of sudden changes of rhythm, mood and intonation. As the culmination of the evening this part included a ballet performance by the ProART Company. Their artistic head Martin Dvořák also played the part of the character Death/Mirror and took on the direction and the choreography. The figure of the Infanta was played by Kristýna Křemenáková, Rose/Love was danced by Irene Bauer and the Dwarf by Lukáš Lepold. Pupils of the Brno Dance Conservatory – Amálie Malinová, Bianca Tesařová, Ondřej Knápek and Jaroslav Vitula also took part in the performance. It was impressive to see how in the relatively small space of Besední dům the stage can hold an orchestra and a considerable number of dancers. This number also deserves praise for this. However the high point was however the choreography itself. A subtle, symbolic gesture saying everything that managed with minimal resources to take its rightful place alongside the music. The lofty and graceful movements of the dancers in contrast to the bestial swirl of the dwarf were exceeded only by the figure of Death/Mirror, who at the end of the work drove the disillusioned dwarf to despair and with some cynicism imitated his every move. Diametrically opposed types of dance characterised each figure separately and gave the production its vibrancy.

After the not overly convincing establishment of the initial atmosphere and the subsequent relaxing time for the orchestra the evening concluded in style and the last performance rightly received the most applause. Today (25 January) and tomorrow there will be repeats and I certainly recommend a visit if only because of The Birthday of the Infanta. The Brno Philharmonic managed to show that their romantic fairy tales have a happy end.

CARL MARIA von WEBER Der Freischütz, overture, ANTONIO CARTELLIERI Clarinet Concerto No. 3 in B major (modern premiere), FRANZ SCHREKER The Birthday of the Infanta, a dance-pantomime to the tale by Oscar Wilde

clarinet Emil Drápela, ProART Company, artistic head, direction, choreography Martin Dvořák, costumes Jindra Rychlá, props Jana Jano

performers: Irene Bauer (Rose/Love), Martin Dvořák (Death/Mirror), Kristýna Křemenáková (Infanta), Lukáš Lepold (Dwarf), pupils of the Brno Dance Conservatory, alternating: Alžběta Janíčková, Amálie Malinová, Bianca Tesařová, Ondřej Knápek and Jaroslav Vitola. Brno Philharmonic, Conductor Robert Kružík

Comments

Reply

No comment added yet..

A concert organised for an exceptional event took place on Thursday at ZUŠ PhDr. Zbyňka Mrkose (a primary school specialising in music) in Brno’s Židenice district. The event was given the title Cimbálový kolaudační concert (A Cimbalom Commissioning Concert. What exactly was being commissioned? From the title it was evident the main star of the programme was a cimbalom. This big instrument with its velvet tones was not the centre of attention by accident. The item being commissioned was a new cimbalom for the musical inventory of the previously mentioned music school. The manufacturer of the instrument was the Brno company of Všianský. The actual maker Pavel Všianský, a famous musician, also personally took part, telling the participants something about the construction of this instrument.  more

The latest opera production of the National Theatre in Brno is Don Carlos by the composer Giuseppe Verdi and the poet Friedrich Schiller. This work, directed by the director of this institution, Martin Glaser, had its premiere on Saturday 2 February 2019 in the Janáček Theatre. The stage set was designed by Pavel Borák and the costumes by Markéta Sládečková-Oslzlá. Lighting was the responsibility of Martin Špetlík. The performance was conducted by Jaroslav Kyzlink, who also produced the performance with the choir and orchestra of the Janáček Opera of the National Theatre in Brno. The main roles were filled by Luciano Mastro as Don Carlos and Federico Sacchi as King Philip II, Carlos’ father; Jiří Brückler is the friend of the title character and the confidant of the king, Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa. Linda Ballová took the part of the young queen and madly infatuated Elisabeth of Valois; the figure of the vengeful Princess Eboli, who secretly loves the king’s son was played by Veronika Hajnová-Fialová. The intimidating inquisitor was played by Ondrej Mráz. Also appearing were Andrea Široká, Martina Mádlová, Zdeněk Nečas and David Szendiuch.  more

The Brno singer and artist Dáša Ubrová has sung with a group, performs with a big-band and is close to chanson, jazz and rock. Her album, named simply after her, is important to her and not only because it is her solo debut. It is the first time she has written all the lyrics herself. The music is mainly created by her “court co-workers” and album producers, the pianist Vojtěch Svatoš and the guitarist Pavel Šmíd.  more

Yesterday in Besední dům classical music lovers had their very first chance to hear the new chief conductor of the Brno Philharmonic Dennis Russell Davies also in the role of piano soloist. Under Davies’ baton there was a performance of the Symphony in D major, Op. 23 by the Vamberk native Jan Václav Hugo Voříšek and the premiere of the orchestral arrangement of the chamber work by Antonín Dvořák Bagatelles, Op. 47 created by the chief conductor himself. Davies took his place at the piano to play the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The chief conductor will also be performing as soloist in two upcoming recitals, playing for example works by Steve Reich, John Adams and Philip Glass.  more

We can often hear the works of contemporary composers connected to Brno in the performances of local ensembles. But it is not usual for them to reach a wider audience, and in that fashion, a relatively inconspicuous recital dedicated to the works of Brno composers took place yesterday at the Brothers of Charity Convent. A much greater level of attention should be raised by the interpreter Milan Paľa. He had, in his own words “decided to do something for Moravian music” and create in the coming years several CD’s mapping the repertoire for violin or viola by composers connected to Moravia. The Cantus Moraviae project already has its first double CD, which was christened at yesterday’s concert.  more

A sold out Fléda Club. Shoulder to shoulder. And yet, in this huge crowd you meet six classmates from the grammar school you went to in the first half of the nineties and a colleague with whom you later studied journalism. The band Dunaj (“Danube”) has returned to the stage after twenty years and its hometown was of course one of their first important stops.  more

Usually, we associate concerts of classical music with the evening hours, formal attire and in some cases even a glass of wine. Last Saturday showed us that the morning hours are not any less good a time for a musical production. In the Crystal Room of the Old Town Hall, an hour before noon, a a performance of cello sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven, Claude Debussy and Dmitri Shostakovich by the cellist Štěpán Filípek and the pianist Mark Pinzow took place. The concert was organised by the National Theatre Brno.  more

The Slovak group Kiero Grande, two Polish bands and the Brno musician Jan Fic with his solo project progressed from the competition Blues Aperitiv to the international festival Blues Alive in Šumperk. Jan, or Honza as he is informally called, who under the label Red Bird Instruments makes cigar box guitars and other instruments, is otherwise known as the frontman of The Weathermakers, playing their raw blues even at Porta. And in several festivals he appeared as leader of the mock country group The Honzíci. The interview that follows took place on the occasion of the release of the solo album Město (City), which Jan Fic together with the producer Martin Kyšperský officially presented on 17 December in Brno’s Stereo – Vinyl Culture Shop.  more

The last week full of musical events culminated in the final round of the Central European Jazz Competition organised by the “neighbouring” jazz festivals – JazzFestBrno and Poysdorf Jazz & Wine. This cross-border musical project has a promising future: the first year of the jazz competition in its final afternoon offered six half-hour blocks of the finalists, who were a surprise with their musical range and the quality of their musicianship.  more

The main programme focus of this year’s Janáček Brno 2018 international festival is the performance of all of the composer’s musical-dramatic works. After the popular success of Káťa Kabanová and the precisely staged The Makropulos Affair yesterday it was the turn of the Polish ensemble Teatr Wielki from Poznan with a performance of Jenůfa, a work which, twelve years after its Brno premiere in 1904 opened the doors to the international musical scene to Leoš Janáček.  more

Many diverse and qualitatively varied opera performances were heard at the festival Janáček Brno 2018. Every now and then a production appears that divides Brno audiences into two irreconcilable camps, one overjoyed by the innovativeness, many non-musical references and bold direction, while the others lament the illogical symbolism, departures from the libretto, seeing it even as a slap in the face of the composer. The song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared from the Belgian ensemble Muziektheater Transparant as directed by Ivo van Hove and with compositional annotations by Annelies Van Parys is controversial in the true sense of the word. The scenographer Jan Versweyveld, the costume designer An D’Huys and the dramaturge Krystian Lada also took part in this new stage form. The solo roles were taken by Ed Lyon, Marie Hamard and Hugo Koolschijn, accompanied on the piano by Lada Valešová and the choral academy De Munt/La Monnaie also took part in the production. The Diary of One Who Disappeared was performed yesterday in the hall of the Mahen Theatre.  more

The second of the accompanying folk concerts of the Janáček Brno festival took place at the Reduta Theatre. And it seems that the bar, set by the first concert, has remained high. The show, called Chodníčky k lidové písni (“Roads to folksong”) was to present one of Janáček’s favourite regions in Slovácko – Horňácko – to the audience. This job was taken on by a cimbalom band with the fitting name of Musica Folklorica.  more

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.  more

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.  more

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.  more

Editorial

Jakub Hrůša will become the fifth Chief Conductor and the musical director of the prominent German orchestra the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra Players – the Bavarian State Philharmonic Orchestra (Bamberger Symphoniker – Bayerische Staatsphilharmonie) in the 2016/2017 season. It was announced today during the morning ceremony, which was attended by Jakub Hrůša himself, by Bavaria’ Minister of Culture Dr. Ludwig Spaenle together with Marcus Rudolf Axt, Chief Executive.  more

The choir at VUT in Brno is seeking new vocal talent. The audition will take place next week.  more

The 21st edition of this competition is being organized by the Musical faculty of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. The competition focusing on young artists playing the violin and on string quartets is being held in cooperation with the Leoš Janáček Foundation.  more

The club, which is starting its 25th concert season, has been reconstructed and is now reopening to jazz musicians from both the domestic and foreign scene. The season will introduce bands as well as individuals such as Ostrich Quartet, Ambrose Akinmusire, Robert Balzar Trio, Vilém Spilka Quartet or Nuf Said.  more

The current 17th year of the festival is divided into two parts. The first part, called Intake of Breath, will take place during October and it will be the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Filigrán dance ensemble. The other part, called Exhalation, will introduce international guests and dance themed movies in November.  more

Old buildings are seemingly silent, but they resonate with memories and lives vanished long ago; this is where they get their distinctive atmosphere from. Watch the video recording of a concert in the former MEZ factory hall in Židenice.  more

The winner of the solo violin category is Amalia Hall from New Zealand while the winner of the string quartet category is a Slovak ensemble called the Mucha Quartet.  more

The new operetta Studio Brno presents the operetta The Cousin from Batavia by Eduard Künneke for the first time.  more

The Brno vocal group Megafon has recorded a debut album full of successful hits and authorial compositions.  more

The Makropulos Affair opera record directed by David Radok and with music production by Marek Ivanovič won two awards at the International Television Festival Golden Prague which took place last night. The recordings won the Foundation VIZE 97 prize and a prize in the category of Performing Arts. The premiere of the opera was on 21 November 2014 during the Janáček Brno festival.  more