Unofficially official conclusion of the Janáček Brno festival

11 October 2020, 17:00
Unofficially official conclusion of the Janáček Brno festival

The Janáček Brno 2020 International Festival promptly replaced yesterday's Hungarian performance of the opera Salome by Richard Strauss. Instead of the guest appearance, the National Theatre Brno offered a concert programme under the simple name Orchestra of the Janáček Opera. After a long time, the audience could see the musicians who normally remain hidden inside the orchestra pit. In addition to the orchestra, which was conducted by Robert Kružík, the violinist Josef Špaček and the pianist Miroslav Sekera also appeared. The programme clearly consisted only of the works by Leoš Janáček, and since the originally planned performances can no longer be staged in the ever-tightening quarantine environment, the evening at the Janáček Theatre meant a farewell to the festival as such. The last live concert of the Janáček Brno 2020 festival is today's performance of the Brno Philharmonic in the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Old Brno.

Last night began with the composition Žárlivost (Jealousy), originally planned as an ouverture to Janáček's third opera Her Foster Daughter, perhaps better known as Jenufa. However, the music in this work has only a little in common with the opera itself, and it was not played as an ouverture even at the premiere of the opera in 1904. Žárlivost therefore became a separate composition sui generis, which is sometimes played (or sometimes is not) at the beginning of Her Foster Daughter, depending on the edition chosen by the producers. Thanks to its suitable length, expressiveness and compactness, it is also often used as an appropriate start to a programme featuring Janáček's works - and this was the case yesterday as well. Žárlivost thus started the excellent programming concept of the evening, which cannot be labelled as making a virtue of necessity, meaning a replacement concert in an emergency situation. It was in fact a full-fledged and well-thought-out programme. The good feeling of it was enhanced from the beginning by the maximum commitment of the orchestra and the corresponding musical performance – rhythmic and intonational accuracy, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. Above all, the dynamic changes made by the musicians breathed life into Janáček's Žárlivost.

The violin concerto The Wandering of a Little Soul (Putování dušičky) is one of the works that the composer did not complete during his lifetime and of which only one movement of approximately fifteen minutes has been preserved. Professors and composers Miloš Štědroň and Leoš Faltus reconstructed the composition in 1988 and the Brno Philharmonic performed it in Brno the very same year. Since then, The Wandering of a Little Soul has been recorded several times. The violinist and concert master of the Czech Philharmonic Josef Špaček, who joined forces with the orchestra of the Janáček Opera yesterday, also did his bit in 2015. Špaček is a master of crystal clear tone and precise work with the bow – even the most expressive parts in gradations, where some "dirt" and roughness can always appear, penetrate the orchestra like a precisely measured cut with a scalpel. Although Špaček's performance was miles away from interpretive coldness, his expressiveness is much more subtle, much softer and more sophisticated. Even wherever lyrical motifs appear, the violinist does not "overplay" them, making the result more musically convincing and much more inward looking and real than an exaggerated play of emotions. It ought to be said that the orchestra went forward to the violinist in this respect – sensitively, tenderly, but not mournfully. However, the most impressive positions of the orchestra were yet to come.

The Suite for Strings (Suita pro smyčce) represents Janáček's first preserved orchestral composition and dates from the period before his studies at the Leipzig Conservatory. Despite its name, the work does not consist of traditional suite movements, but its six parts are named after tempo markings. Although the composition does not yet contain the characteristic features of Janáček's musical handwriting, it reveals the author's excellent melodic imagination and refined feeling for the instrumentation of string instruments. And it was here that the musicians, headed by the conductor, were able to prove their dynamic and expressive abilities to the greatest extent. Robert Kružík emphasised even the most subtle changes in the music’s texture. Both the dynamic and the tempo sides were full of tiny peaks, falls, sighs and tense delays. Both Adagios became truly captivating in the rendition of the orchestra of the Janáček Opera – the first with flawless phrasing and fragile dynamics, and the second with Josef Klíč's cello solo overflowing with emotion. Praise is deserved above all by the powerful vibratos, to which the performer added particularly sensitive endings. The conductor Kružík mastered not only the lyrics, but also the faster parts – for example, he lent the short dance-like Andante con moto not only the lightness of dancing, but also certain distinguished airs and tidiness. After all, the orchestra of the Janáček Opera played so beautifully that it earned a few unplanned applauses between various movements (which is a bad but cute habit that also affected the Lachian Dances).

However, the string orchestra was soon replaced by a much more intimate line-up – violinist Josef Špaček and pianist Miroslav Sekera undertook Janáček's Sonata for Violin and Piano (Sonáta pro housle a klavír). From the passionate and lyrical first movement through the warm, melodic and folk music-soaked second movement up to the tiny scherzo and the tormenting finale that brilliantly culminates in silence, the interplay of the two musicians remained at the highest level of interpretation. Especially well done were Špaček's transformations of gentle violin chord arpeggios into harrowing and rough notches in the Allegretto movement. Miroslav Sekera kept himself more in lyrical positions and acted as a clear counterweight to the moodier violin. The common and precise rubatos of both performers also added some glitter to the composition.  The closing composition of the evening was supposed to be Janáček's Lašské tance (Lachian Dances), which would make the evening dramaturgically draw the imaginary circle – from the popular ouverture, through intense, gloomy and contemplative works, to the Lachian Dances, which is a work loved by audiences. Especially the thorough Dymák (The Blacksmith) and the capricious Čeladenský (Dance from Čeladná) with its characteristic rhythm were rendered by the performers in such a convincing manner and with such a refined feeling for Janáček's musical work that the individual parts were given additional unexpected ovations between the movements. After the final Pilky (Handsaws) dance, it seemed the evening was drawing to a close. However, the organisers had one more ace up their sleeve. After speeches delivered by the director of the Janáček Theatre, Martin Glaser, the artistic director of the opera, Jiří Heřman, and Tomáš Jedlička, the director of the Waldorf Elementary School and Nursery School in Brno, expressing thanks to the ensemble of the Janáček Theatre and to the audience, the soprano singer and protagonist of Libuše at the Opera of the National Theatre Brno Lucie Hájková came on stage and, side by side with  children from the Waldorf School, recited verses from the closing part of Smetana's opera. Although the composer's music expressly calls for singing, the power of declamation, amplified by the current difficult times and the contemptuous views of the highest government officials toward culture, its condition and difficulties, was able to deeply strike the audience as well as the performers themselves. The National Theatre Brno has brought us many strong moments and breathtaking experiences in recent years. However, it is a great shame and also disgraceful behaviour by the highest representative of the state with his proclamations towards artists that this time it happened during such an unfortunate and excruciating period. Music, theatre, fine arts and exhibitions cannot be taken for granted – in fact, they require a lot of systematic work and determination. We are truly lucky that in Brno, in key cultural institutions such as the National Theatre Brno, there are really competent people in their positions who will probably be pretty unlikely to find understanding at Prague Castle. Nevertheless, they received a big portion of it from the audience that gave the artists a prolonged standing ovation. 

PERFORMERS:

JOSEF ŠPAČEK – VIOLIN

MIROSLAV SEKERA – PIANO

ROBERT KRUŽÍK – CONDUCTOR

ORCHESTRA OF THE JANÁČEK OPERA OF THE NATIONAL THEATRE BRNO

PROGRAMME:

LEOŠ JANÁČEK:

ŽÁRLIVOST ('JEALOUSY' – INTRODUCTION TO HER FOSTER DAUGHTER), JW VI/2

VIOLIN CONCERTO PUTOVÁNÍ DUŠIČKY ('THE WANDERING OF A LITTLE SOUL'), JW IX/10

FOR SOLO VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA

STRING SUITE, JW VI/2

SONATA FOR VIOLIN AND PIANO, JW VII/7

LAŠSKÉ TANCE ('LACHIAN DANCES'), JW VI/17

Saturday,10 October 2020, Janáček Theatre

Archive photo of festival

Comments

Reply

No comment added yet..

Yesterday, Visitors to the Brno City Theatre experienced the Czech premiere of the Broadway musical hit Pretty Woman. Directed by Stanislav Moša, this theatrical adaptation of the famous blockbuster highlighted the strengths of the movie. Until the break, the viewer is mostly laughing royally and having fun in this tale of a modern Cinderella, and then in the second half the impressiveness and lyricism of the whole title is especially pronounced.  more

For two consecutive Saturdays, visitors to the Olomoucké barokní slavnosti (Olomouc Baroque Festival) had the opportunity to listen to works by lesser-known composers whose music not only in many respects far surpassed the standard of the time, but whose fates were also closely linked to Olomouc.  more

One of the biggest attractions of this year's Olomouc Baroque Festival was the performance of the oratorio David by the Austrian composer Karl Ditters. It was the perfect opportunity to do so, after all – this year the work celebrates 250 years since its creation. Ditters composed the oratorio to a text by Ignazio Pinto in 1771 and in the same year it had its premiere at the castle of Bishop Philipp Gotthard Schaffgotsch of Wrocław on the Jánský Vrch (John´s Hill) near Javorník. In the musical production of violinist and artistic director of Volantes Orchestra Veronika Manová and conductor Ema Mikešová the oratorio was first performed in concert in Brno at the Church of St. Johns (4 August), then on 7 August in Podzámecká zahrada – a garden of the Archbishop’s Chateau in Kroměříž, and, finally, on 12–14 August in the Ambit and Basilica of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary on the Svatý Kopeček (Holy Hill) near Olomouc. The event of 12 August was the performance I visited. In addition to Volantes Orchestra, there were members of other ensembles – Arte dei Suonatori (PL), Il Cuore Barocco (SK), Musica Aeterna (HU) and Societas Incognitorum (CZ). In this aspect, this is another event from the series of concerts organised under the auspices of the festival which bring together musical ensembles from the Visegrad Four. However, there are also performers from other countries – Slovenia, Northern Macedonia and Great Britain. The solo roles were performed by: Doubravka Součková (David), Aco Bišćević (Saul, King of Israel), Helena Hozová (Jonathan, son of Saul), Jiří Miroslav Procházka (Abner, warlord) and Aneta Petrasová (Eliab, David’s brother). The concert was directed by Rocc; the choreography was designed by Sanja Nešković Peršin and costumes were rendered by Borjan Litovski.  more

American singer-songwriter Leyla McCalla is claiming her Haitian roots. She lives in Louisiana and connects the traditional musical genres of the U.S. South with the culture of the island where her ancestors came from. On Tuesday, 27 July, we will be able to hear her voice and songs live at the festival of Folkové prázdniny (Folk Holidays) in Náměšt' nad Oslavou.  more

Yesterday's concert, which took place as part of the Concentus Moraviae festival, entitled Scarlet Venice and featuring violinist, flute and piano player Anna Fusek along with lute and theorbo player Gianluca Geremia, was among the very first evenings indoors that classical music lovers were able to attend after the long, pandemic-forced pause. The chronologically compiled agenda presented those who paid a visit to the Church of All Saints, Moravský Krumlov, with works by early 16th century composers, the origins of the new style and compositions by late Baroque masters.  more

On this very day (19 May) an event will start in Valašské Meziříčí which all the dulcimer players from almost all over the world have been looking forward to for two years. It is the 14th International Dulcimer Festival, which has been held in this town every odd year since 1995. This year, it is sure to be rather modest due to the pandemic situation; the organizers are going to stream some of the concerts, while others will be broadcast on the Czech Radio stations Vltava and Brno. This year, Michal Grombiřík, a dulcimer player, became the first ever such musician admitted to the Jazz Music Interpretation Department of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (JAMU). What is the path from a traditional folk song, through classical music to jazz music, and what exactly is Michal going to do at the aforementioned dulcimer festival? We covered all these topics in our conversation.  more

Ód ... The artistic name evokes singing, narration, poetry, odes… It is also a guide to pronounce the first name in Czech of the protagonist, a French singer settled in Brno, Aude Stulírová Martin. She has been living in Moravia for ten years and is an excellent Czech speaker. In that time she has co-founded a band called Šarivary as well as the theatre company of Le Cabaret Nomade. She was also active as an artistic director of the Bonjour Brno festival. Bébé Lune is her current, second album – a collection of lullabies from around the world, it was created by Ód as a result of her winning Expats for Brno, a competition seeking innovative projects. So, while the project is international in its content, it is very closely related to Brno.  more

Anyone who knows the B-Side Band, especially through performing international hit songs with the singer Vojtěch Dyk, or last year’s album Folk Swing, may be surprised by their unique take on a production of Jaromír Hnilička’s Missa Jazz. In fact, the big band’s history is tightly interwoven with the composer’s legendary Jazz Massmore

On the occasion of his 66th birthday last year, documentary film-maker, singer-songwriter, musician, author of theatre plays and writer Jiří Vondrák released a double album, one representative of his musical activities at large rather than a selection of his best-known material. Despite the title this is no “best of” collection, instead it’s a noteworthy mix of hits and rare pieces, old songs and new songs, and modern folk and rock pieces. As such it serves as a great introduction to Vondrák, a Renaissance man of culture in Brno, as well as a collector’s item featuring recordings not released elsewhere or almost impossible to find. The first half of the double CD really packs a punch, too.  more

Hajcman, a tramp-swing group with its roots in Brno, released their expected debut album Jednou to bude (It Will Come to Pass). The band’s name, derived from the Czech word for a supporting steel frame in coal mining, is a reference to cave exploring, the hobby of the group’s leader Martin Škrobák, whose first band was called Stalaktit (Stalactite). While the album largely showcases the talents of the tramping legend, it does feature a sample of the band’s work in the form of two songs by Martin, hinting at the direction of the band’s future album of author's songs. It’s Jaroslav Velinský aka Kapitán Kid who is the author of the most of the debut’s collection of songs, the result of over a decade’s effort. An old friend of Martin’s, as well as a fellow musician and inspiration to him, the tramping music king Kapitán Kid had planned to record some “blasts from the past” in 2005 with his previous outfit the Banjo Gang, as described in the sleeve notes and associated songbook. Joint recording sessions with Martin and his friends took place subsequently, but Velinský’s best-known tramping songs from the CD Tempo di kůň (Tempo de Horse; released in 2007) were eventually preferred. This is how these tracks came to be short-listed, with the blessing of Kapitán Kid himself, and recorded just a few years after the songwriter’s death, making it essentially a tribute to him.  more

While concert halls and opera houses are rather on the empty side, seven hotels in the city have seen a lot more activity thanks to the Brno Contemporary Orchestra – a chamber music group led by Pavel Šnajdr and the arts platform Terén – Pole performativního umění (Terrain – Fields for the Performing Arts). Every night of the week, from 15 to 21 March, fans of modern artificial music had the opportunity to visit one of the hotels via YouTube. Not only was the atmosphere of the empty rooms and corridors absorbing, but also the drama in combination with unusual the visual stimuli. Please, do not disturb, as the series was named by its creators - the Brno Contemporary Orchestra and Terén, featured more than just standard recordings of concerts. Indeed, a narrative thread ran through every evening’s experience, which was directly or subtly connected with the musicians or the space itself.  more

“It’s absolutely perfect, I play it all the time and it plays in my head all the time,” commented Matěj H., a music studies graduate and Brno politician. In another Facebook debate, a musical editor with a pen name of Max B. depicts it to be “totally horrible stuff.” Few domestic albums recorded in 2020 received such varied responses as Folk Swings, a collection of what were initially contemporary folk songs, re-arranged to become big-band pieces and performed by B-Side Band with Josef Buchta as the bandmaster.  more

In late 2020, the Brno Philharmonic released two recordings of works by Antonín Dvořák and Antonín Rejcha. We have already reviewed the “Dvořák” CD with the composer’s Symphony No. 1 and his Maličkosti (Bagatelles); the adaptation and instrumentation of the two works was provided by Dennis Russell Davies, the chief conductor of the orchestra. Now we are going to look at the recording of Lenore – a musical picture composed by Antonín Rejcha to the text of Gottfried August Bürger’s ballad of the same name. The CD features Martina Janková as Lenore, Pavla Vykopalová as Lenore’s mother, Wojciech Parchem as the narrator and Jiří Brückler as the late soldier William. The Czech Philharmonic Choir of Brno also performed side by side with the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Petr Fiala as the choir director. As with the recording of Antonín Dvořák´s works, this project was also directed by conductor Dennis Russell Davies.  more

Following the concerts streamed online in January and complete with a series of innovative video trailers, The Czech Ensemble Baroque returned with live streaming yesterday night. This time it was the second concert from their series entitled Bach & Mozart in Focus (Czech: Bacha na Mozarta); it was planned for 21 October, but rescheduled. From the Brothers of Mercy Convent, it featured, as the central part of the performance, the psalm of Dixit Dominus by Georg Friedrich Händel.  more

The coronavirus crisis of 2020 (and 2021) has had such an impact on the form of the musical market that researchers, with hindsight, will probably ask whether there are any recordings released at that time and not affected by it. Robert Křesťan and Druhá tráva (Second Grass) wanted to work on a double album containing cover versions of songs by his favourites and new own works next to each other. The British producer Eddie Stevens became a part of this ambitious project but the interrupted opportunity of travelling between the Czech Republic and London also stopped work on the 2CD. The band decided not to wait for the easing and released the Díl první (Part One) separately. This is not the exact form of the initially intended first disc. “Releasing cover versions only without any apparent relationship between them and the original works seemed inadequate to us and the production style of Eddie Stevens is individual and unifying in a specific way  to such an extent that we decided to release a mix of the two on the first medium and delay the second part,” explains Křesťan. Therefore, we have Díl první in front of us, but this is not any half-hearted recording or unfinished work. In spite of the Act of God, Druhá tráva has succeeded in recording one of the strongest Czech discs of 2020.  more

Editorial

Today marks the start of the ReConnect conference. Its main theme is the post-COVID music scene. SoundCzech is hosting the event together with BACH (Brněnská Asociace Clubové Hudby – the Brno Association of Club Music) and the Music Managers Forum of the Czech Republic.  more

Cellist Michaela Fukačová launches her domestic tour My Musical Home through tomorrow's concert in Brno's Besední dům (Community Hall) venue. Accompanied by pianist David Mareček, she will perform – in Brno, Hradec Králové, Prague and Karlovy Vary – a programme consisting of compositions that have shaped her extraordinary musical career.  more

Brno’s Alfa passage invites you to the first event of a series entitled Hudební čtvrtky (Music Thursdays) during which the band Hazafele will perform.  more

For the fifth time, the festival will enliven the River Svitava’s waterfront. The programme, which is free of charge to visit, includes concerts, theatre performances, “neckyáda” (a show with boaters using unconventional and funny ways of boating or vessels) and much more. Performers will include Fast Food Orchestra, Phil Shoenfelt & Band of Heysek and more.  more

The 6th year of PonavaFest, an annual multi-genre festival, will take place at the end of July. The programme will offer musical and theatrical performances and workshops for children at the festival’s venue, which is the Lužánky park, Brno. Performers include Meow & Jim Black, Tygroo, The Which (Frank Zappa Tribute Orchestra) and Fly.  more

The Janáček Opera’s Choir and Orchestra of the National Theatre Brno has prepared a charity concert featuring Carmina Burana; the proceeds are to be used to support the municipalities affected by the tornado. The concert will take place on the piazzetta in front of the Janáček Theatre.  more

The Faculty of Music of the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts Brno organises, in collaboration with the Concentus Moraviae festival and the French Institute in Prague, a three-day master class with harpsichord player Jean Rondeau, who is also going to have two concerts in Moravia.  more

The premiere of La bohème has been announced to take place this evening, with Magdalena Švecová as the director and Jakub Klecker as the author of the music production.  more

The culture newsletter details what’s on in Brno, the latest news and opportunities in culture.   more

As the designated UNESCO City of Music, Brno is all set to be filled with harmonious sounds of music once again. Hundreds of musicians will perform in the city over the four days of the festival, with dozens of concerts scheduled that shall make the squares, streets and concert halls resound with music. Encompassing a variety of genres, this year’s Brno Music Marathon will take place in mid-August, just like before, and it’s going to be one of the few public events to happen this year. The line-up includes Lenka Dusilová, Juwana Jenkins, Sisa Feher, Fanfara Transilvania, Malalata, Circus Brothers, Horňácká cimbálová muzika Petra Mičky (the Horňácko Cimbalom Band of Petr Mička), Javory and a host of others. Street “rooms” by Kateřina Šedá is not absent from it, either.  more