The organ of the Jesuit Church sounded to mark the jubilee of Alena Veselá

8 July 2019, 13:00
The organ of the Jesuit Church sounded to mark the jubilee of Alena Veselá

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.

The first part of the evening was taken care of by the birthday lady herself as she sat at the magnificent organ of the Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary into Heaven. With energy and zest (although with less finger agility than she would most probably have wished), she rendered several compositions. With a full-sounding chord followed by ostinato accompaniment, ornaments over a pause and melodic protractions began the Fantasia in D minor by the classical composer, organist and harpsichordist Jan Křtitel Kuchař. The introductory chord part was replaced by a passage in finer dynamics, and its deep compositional structure was then once again replaced by distinctive chords known from the introduction that led the song in a fantasia spirit to its end.

The selection of the next piece moved the musical centre of gravity a few decades earlier, to the Baroque France. Three selected parts were played from the only surviving work of the composer Nicolas de Grigny, entitled Livre d'Orgue. In an unusually colourful registration, the first part subtitled Dialogue resounded, which stood up to its name  in particular for its dialogue between the right and left hands, which alternated in rendering the themes and mutual answers. The second part – Récit de Tierce en Taille –probably unpleasantly surprised the audience with its unanticipated dissonance and difficulty of listening, which was, unfortunately, rather caused by the inaccurate interpretation of the professor. The slow then ended with the celebratory Dialogue sur les Grands Jeux.

The more colourful and expressively varied interpretation was offered by the jubilarian's  student David Postránecký, who replaced her at the instrument in the second half of the concert. He began his performance with two choral overtures by Johann Sebastian Bach, which are characterised by a playful compositional structure in both hands alternately accompanying the choral melody.

The next  composition began with a spectacular and dramatic forte; it is considerably newer but referring back to the previous Johann Sebastian Bach. In fact, we heard the Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H by Franz Liszt. As is obvious from the title itself, it was filled with chromatic runs right from the very start. The interpretation also excelled in precise work with dynamics and agogics, which through mutually contrasting parts moved to the fugue and the conclusion with the original motif on the tones b – a – c – h (which are the names for B flat, A, C and B natural  in German musical nomenclature).

The programme eventually advanced to the 20th century, which was represented by a composition of Luboš Sluka. From his cycle Paths for Organ, the second part named The Path of Silence was chosen. After the previous pleasantly sounding chords, this composition filled the cathedral space with disharmony and unpredictable melodic runs, which in the end led the composition to a fadeout.

David Postránecký finished the evening with an entirely modern piece – his own improvisation on the antiphons Christ Wins and Lord, You Are Famous, which once again excelled in the richness of the dynamics, agogics and expression, and the whole concert gradated into a fortissimo by tones supported by unusually deep bass chords.

A long standing ovation resounding from the church benches crowded with friends, family and music-loving audiences accompanied the fresh and lively jubilarian in front of the altar, where she was eventually overwhelmed by a crowd of congratulators. We can only add our wishes of good health and a lot of strength not only for the upcoming year and not only for birthday concerts of the jubilarian.

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