Czech music every day events at home and abroad.
The major summer contemporary music event was August's Ostrava Days festival of new and experimental music, which this year over nine days again presented works by renowned 20th-century avant-gardists, as well as numerous pieces by contemporary creators of all generations, including young participants in composition courses run by the Ostrava Days Institute, preceding the festival itself. When it comes to Czech artists, this year's festival audiences heard world premieres of works by Petr Cigler, Petr Bakla, Michal Rataj, Ian Mikyska and Jan Podracky, and the European premiere of a chamber opera by Rudolf Komorous (see the separate article in this issue dedicated to Ostrava Days). Several other pieces were given world premieres within festivals of a wider focus: for instance, new opuses by Lukas Hurnik, at the Znojmo Music Festival, and Otomar Kvech, at the Kuks Music Summer. The following summary also includes the world premiere in September of a composition by Frantisek Chaloupka at the Gaudeamus Muziekweek in the Netherlands.
As regards somewhat older music, works by Czech creators continue to enjoy great interest on the part of foreign institutions and festivals. During the summer, new productions of operas by Leos Janacek, Bedrich Smetana and Bohuslav Martinn were presented abroad. High demand for Czech music was, not surprisingly, shown by neighbouring Germany, yet a new production of Janacek's Jenufa was also staged at the Des Moines Metro Opera festival in Iowa. Beyond the sphere of opera, most noteworthy was the concert in homage to Jakub Jan Ryba, whose anniversary we celebrate this year, which took place in July in Bavaria. The following summary of music events corresponds to the focus of the blog run by the Czech Music Information Centre, the publisher of this magazine, newly, and simply, called "HIS Blog", whose aim it is to inform readers of the most significant events pertaining to Czech music in the Czech Republic and abroad. The criterion of "significance" was more thoroughly described by Bohumil Klepal in this year's first issue of CMQ. In a nutshell, this listing should include premieres of pieces by Czech composers, on the one hand, and, on the other, performances of Czech works abroad which are deemed important primarily owing to their unusual format, scope and challenging rendition, as well as the prestige of the institutions and/or artists who have presented the particular piece. In conclusion, I would like to cordially invite our readers to send us tips for events that should not escape our attention, or any other comments and remarks, to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. We would appreciate your observations and will do our utmost so that the HIS Blog serves as a useful information source and reliable guide to the universe of Czech music.
July 4, 6, 9, 10, 12, 15, 16 and 17, Frankfurt, Germany. Three Bohuslav Martini! one-act >operas. Stage director: Beate Baron, conductor: Nikolai Petersen.
Oper Frankfurt premiered a production made up of three not overly frequently performed one-act operas by Bohuslav Martinu: Les larmes du couteau (1928), Alexandre bis (1937), and Comedy on the Bridge (1935). All three works, each lasting about half an hour, were written at the time the composer was living in Paris and show his evidently being influenced by the music of Les Six, Neo-Classicism and jazz. Martinu did not live to see two of them performed. The comic opera Alexandre bis, on the subject of a test of loyalty, was only premiered in 1964, while Les larmes du couteau, to an eccentric libretto penned by the Dada poet Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, was first staged in 1969. Comedy on the Bridge, one of the first-ever radio operas, was premiered in 1937 and 11 years later was given a stage performance. The production, directed by Beate Baron, was performed in German at the Bockenheimer Depot in Frankfurt.
July 5, 7, 10, 16 and 18, Indianola, Iowa, USA. Des Moines Metro Opera festival. Leos Janacek: Jenufa. Stage director: Kristine McIntyre, conductor: David Neely.
Leos Janacek's Jenufa was one of the three operas performed within the 43rd edition of the Des Moines Metro Opera summer music festival. The production was staged by the seasoned director Kristine McIntyre and conducted by David Neely. The lead roles were portrayed by Sara Gartland (Jenufa), Brenda Harris (Kostelnicka), Richard Cox (Laca) and Joseph Dennis (Steva). It was the first-ever staging of Jenufa in the history of the festival, as well as the first performance sung in Czech (with English surtitles).
July 11, Znojmo, Czech Republic. Znojmo Music Festival. Lukas Hurnik: Sturm und Drang for Classicist clarinet and period instruments orchestra (premiere).
The Znojmo Music Festival saw the world premiere of a Lukas Hurnik piece, created to commission for the festival. The concert, held at the Louka Monastery, was titled "Tribute to the Czech Symphony Orchestra" and also featured works by Jiri Antonin Benda, Frantisek Kramar and Pavel Vranicky. The name of Hurnik's composition, Sturm und Drang, directly refers to the pre-Romantic literary movement of the second half of the 18th century. According to Jin' Ludvik, the director of the Znojmo Music Festival, the piece is a novel attempt at combining historically informed performance and the sentiment of a modern-time composer. The solo clarinet part was delivered by Ludmila Peterkova, who was accompanied by the Czech Baroque Ensemble, conducted by Roman Valek.
July 11, Arzburg, Germany. Festival Mitte Europa. Hommage an Jakub Jan Ryba.
"Music knits together minds and friendships, tames animosity and drives away maladies resulting from animosity." These words, uttered by Jakub Jan Ryba (1765-1815), served as the motto of the 24th edition of the Czech-Saxon-Bavarian Festival Mitte Europa.
A special concert, titled "Hommage an Jakub Jan Ryba", which marked the 250th anniversary of the birth and 200th of the death of the Czech composer, was held at the Rothenbach chateau. The M. Nostitz Quartet played, among other pieces, Ryba's String Quartet in A minor (1801) and, together with the flautist Jan Ostry, the Flute Concerto in C major (1811). The concert was co-organised by the Czech Centre in Munich.
July 11/October 9,17, 23 and 29/November 11, Hanover, Germany. Leos Janacek: Jenufa. Stage director: Floris Vissner, conductor: Karen Kamensek.
A new production of Leos Janacek's opera Jenufa was presented at the Staatsoper Hannover. The final premiere of the theatre's 2014/15 season, it was broadcast live by the radio station NDR Kultur. The opera was staged by the Dutch director Floris Vissner, whose work on Jenufa was his first-ever collaboration with the Staatsoper Hannover. The music was explored by the institution's chief conductor, Karen Kamensek. Cast in the lead roles were the Dutch soprano Kelly God (Jenufa), Hedwig Fassbender (Kostelnicka), Austria's Robert Kunzli (Laca) and Martin Homrich (Steva). The production is performed in Czech, with German surtitles.
July 17, Munich, Germany. Martin Smolka: Psalmus 114.
The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus presented in Munich Psalmus 114 by Martin Smolka. The concert rounded off the cycle Paradisi gloria, during which they performed at the unique venue of the modern Herz-Jesu-Kirche mainly recent and contemporary works on spiritual themes. In his almost 30-minute, five-part 2009 piece for 16-voice mixed chorus and small symphony orchestra, Smolka set to music the Latin text of Psalm 1x4, which in an extraordinarily playful language describes the miracles that accompanied the Israelites' escape from captivity in Egypt. The concert also featured compositions by Olivier Messiaen and Einojuhani Rautavaara.
July 18, 19, 22, 24 and 25, Bad Aibling, Germany. Bedrich Smetana: The Two Widows. Stage director: Stefan Kastner, conductor: Richard van Schoor.
A new production of Bedrich Smetana's opera The Two Widows was premiered at the Maxlrain chateau, near Bad Aibling, in Bavaria. Over the past few years, the organiser, Operbuhne Bad Aibling, has every summer given a premiere of a production of a not frequently staged opera, with the roles being entrusted to fledgling singers, thus affording the audience the opportunity to familiarise themselves with a repertoire slightly different from that of large opera houses and the artists to gain valuable professional experience. The Two Widows is the first Smetana opera to have been presented by Operbuhne Bad Aibling. The orchestra was led by the South African pianist, composer and conductor Richard van Schoor, while the staging was undertaken by the German singer, director and composer Stefan Kastner. The lead roles were portrayed by Doris S. Langara, Lisa Koroleva, Virgil Hartinger, Philipp Gaiser, Andreas Stauber and Kristina Scherer. James Barner was in charge of the opera's conception. The production was performed in German.
July 25, Kuks, Czech Republic. Kuks Music Summer. Otomar Kvech: Fantasy Variations on the "Hare Aria" (premiere). Jaroslav Halir--trumpet, Pavel Cerny--organ.
The Kuks Music Summer festival saw the world premiere of a new piece by Otomar Kvech, Fantasy Variations on the "Hare Aria", for trumpet and orchestra, written to commission for the festival. Over the six years of its existence, it was the third time that the festival had included in its programme a contemporary composer's work inspired by the music connected with the exquisite historical milieu of the Baroque Kuks Hospital complex. Such works performed during the festival's previous editions were Emil Viklicky's and Ivan Kurz's Fantasy Variations on the theme of one of the so-called Sporck arias.
August 22, Lucerne, Switzerland. Bohuslav Martinu: La Revue de cuisine. Soloists of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.
The suite from Bohuslav Martinu's 1927 one-act ballet La Revue de cuisine was performed in Lucerne, Switzerland. The concert was given within the summer section of the Lucerne Festival, whose theme this year was humour and removal of the prejudices pertaining to the "seriousness" of classical music. Martinu's work, inspired by jazz and civilisation themes, was included in the programme between William Walton's setting of Edith Sitwell's poem from the cycle Facade and Arnold Schonberg's Pierrot Lunaire. The Late Night concert, which aimed to evoke the atmosphere of cabarets at the beginning of the 20th century, took place at the KK1 Luzern hall.
August 24, Prague, Czech Republic. Prague Shakuhachi Festival. Matous Hejl: Recasting (premiere).
The ninth edition of the Prague Shakuhachi Festival of Japanese and experimental music premiered the piece Recasting by the young Czech composer and pianist Matous Hejl, for four cellos, double bass, electronics and--with respect to the festival's focus--the Japanese flute shakuhachi. A brief description in the programme read: "Global history enters nature; global nature enters history: this is something utterly new in philosophy." The festival also featured compositions by Marty Regan, Charles Ives and Peter Eotvos.
August 21-29, Ostrava. Ostrava Days. August 21. Rudolf Komorous: Lady Blancarosa (European premiere)
The first night of the festival's programme included a performance at the Old Baths of the Hlubina mine of a chamber opera by the Czech composer and bassoonist Rudolf Komorous, who has lived in Canada since 1969. It was the very first time his Lady Blancarosa, premiered in 1970 in Buffalo, New York, had been heard in Europe. Komorous worked on the opera back in the 1960s in Czechoslovakia, where, as he himself said, "all my friends and colleagues were of the opinion that the operatic form was obsolete and out of date. I agreed, when it comes to grand opera at least. But my idea of the opera of the future was different. Small theatres, small companies, rather smaller, Renaissance, voices." The text to Lady Blancarosa is based on the "strange sentences indeed" penned by the Czech poet and prose-writer Jan of Vojkovice (1880-1944), which the composer compiled as a collage into the libretto. The lead roles in the staging in Ostrava were performed by the Hungarian singers Sara Dezso and Katalin Karolyi. The production was created by the Prague-based artistic laboratory Handa Gote, headed by Tomas Prochazka. The opera was presented in English.
August 23. Petr Kotik: Variations for Three Orchestras. Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava, Ostravska banda, Petr Kotik, Johannes Kalitzke, Rolf Gupta.
The major Sunday evening event at Ostrava Days was the Concert for Three Orchestras. So as to give performances of pieces for this unconventional configuration, which were held at the industrial premises of the Triple Hall Karolina, the Janacek Philharmonic, extended by numerous other musicians, divided into three groups. Besides Karlheinz Stockhausen's feted Gruppen (1955-57) and a simultaneous performance of John Cage's Atlas Eclipticalis (1961) and Winter Music (1957), they also delivered the Variations for Three Orchestras by Petr Kotik, the festival's founder and artistic director. The over 30-minute-long piece, written between 2003 and 2005, was premiered in its current version at Ostrava Days 10 years ago. In his Variations, Kotik primarily engages with the question of interplay and the possibilities of various tempos of the three orchestras within a single composition.
August 25. Ian Mikyska: Settings; Stillness (On Romantic Style) (premiere).
The young composer Ian Mikyska was one of this year's residents of the Ostrava Days Institute. During the festival's fifth evening and the Night Solos block, the audience at the Philharmonic Hall of the Ostrava House of Culture heard the premiere of his work Settings; Stillness (On Romantic Style), a series of settings of the "Wanderer's Night Song", in which the composer makes use of historical material--J. W. Goethe's poems and their musical settings. The work was performed by the mezzo-soprano Annette Schonmuller and the pianist Keiko Shichijo. Settings was followed by a composition created by Martyna Kosecka, another of the Ostrava Days Institute's residents, which rounded off a concert made up of pieces by a number of renowned contemporary music composers (Kaija Saariaho, Wolfgang Rihm, Christian Wolff, Iannis Xenakis, and others).
August 26. Petr Cigler: Jagdtrio (premiere). Elole Trio.
The composer and scientist Petr Cigler's new work Jagdtrio is a classical piano trio (violin, cello, piano), yet, according to its creator, it "does not steer towards the classical form or home music-making, as it deals with,"--as the title indicates--"hunting". In the piece, Cigler explores the universe of animal sounds--"the hare's braying, the boar's grunting, the deer's shrieking and the duck's quacking". The Jagdtrio was performed by Dresden's Elole Trio (Uta-Maria Lempert--violin, Matthias Lorenz--cello, Stefan Eder--piano). That evening's concert also featured works by Petr Bakla, Makiko Nishikaze, Salvatore Sciarrino and others.
August 26. Petr Bakla: Classical Blend/Weihnachtsoratorium, Michal Rataj: Temporis (premieres). Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava, conductor: Rolf Gupta.
On the sixth day of the festival, the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra Ostrava premiered two Czech compositions: Petr Bakla's Classical Blend/Weihnachtsoratorium and Michal Rataj's Temporis. The former, written in 2014 and 2015, consists of two parts, with the first examining the major third, while the second, titled after Ivan Pinkava's photograph, is, as Bakla himself put it, "akin to the atmosphere of the windy weeks around last year's Christmas". Rataj defined Temporis, a concerto for dulcimer and large orchestra, as a "sort of 'bowing' to cosmological time and the events that accelerate with the universe's development". The Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Norway's Rolf Gupta, while the solo dulcimer part in Rataj's piece was delivered by Jan Mikusek.
August 27. Peter Graham: Death Has a Smile on Its Face ..., Jan Podracky: Pre/Pro/For / Fur Anet I (premiere).
The programme of the evening at the Saint Wenceslas Church, titled Voices & Instruments, featured Peter Graham's work Death Has a Smile on Its Face ... (Church Concerto in Memoriam Reinhardt Oehlschliigel, for bass-clarinet, two trumpets, strings, organ and mixed chorus). As the title indicates, the extremely expressive, almost half-an-hour-long, 2014 piece pays tribute to the late German music journalist, whom the composer knew in person and highly respected. It is dedicated to Oehlschlagel's widow. Graham wrote the solo clarinet part directly for Pavel Zlamal, who performed the work in Ostrava together with the Ostravska banda ensemble. The second half of the concert featured the premiere of a piece by Jan Podracky, a fledgling composer and resident of the Ostrava Days Institute 2015. A student of musicology and a private pupil of the composer Pavel Zemek Novak, Podracky presented at the festival his 2014 minimalist work Pre/Pro/For/FiirAnetl, for soprano and recorder, in which he probes into the relationship between beauty and simplicity in music. The composition was premiered by the soprano Aneta Bendova and the bassoonist and flautist Stefanie Liedtke. The concert's programme also included the premiere of Rolf Riehm's Adieu, Sirens and performances of other works.
August 28. Petr Kotik: Master-Pieces (2014-15). Staged by Jiri Nekvasil and David Bazika.
The penultimate evening at Ostrava Days featured the staging of Petr Kotik's opera Master-Pieces. The work, premiered within the festival's previous edition, returned to Ostrava in a revised version and a new production. The libretto to Master-Pieces is based on texts by Gertrude Stein, particularly the lecture she gave in 1936 on the topic "What are masterpieces, and why are there so few of them?", in which the celebrated writer pondered the nature and process of the creation of works of art that would later on be labelled as masterpieces, as well as the diary Stein wrote during World War II, which was published under the title The Wars I Have Seen. This year, the lead role in the opera was again portrayed by the American soprano Kamala Sankaram, accompanied by Pauline Kim Harris's solo violin, three male voices, three narrators and the Ostravska banda, conducted by Petr Kotik himself. The performance was held at the Antonin Dvorak Theatre in Ostrava. (In this issue, you will find a review of the Ostrava Days festival and more information in a separate article.)
September 10, Utrecht, the Netherlands. Gaudeamus Muziekweek. Frantisek Chaloupka: Stockhausen on Sirius (premiere).
The world premiere of the Czech composer Frantisek Chaloupka's Stockhausen on Sirius was given within the New Masters of Contemporary Music evening at the Gaudeamus Muziekweek, which took place between 9 and 13 September in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The piece was created for the International Ensemble Modern Academy (IEMA), in which Chaloupka is currently a composer in residence. The title refers to the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's fascination with the star Sirius. The concert's programme also included works by other young composers: Stylianos Dimou (Greece), Christiaan Richter (the Netherlands) and Sergej Maingardt (Germany).
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|Date:||Jul 1, 2015|
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