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Vojtech jouza: is a musician of multiple interests...

You hail from a fanily of musicians in which euerybody except you plays the violin. How did you get to the oboe?

I got to playing the oboe gradually. Originally, I was supposed to become a violinist -just like my clad, sister and brother. The sounds of my childhood are synonymous with the sounds of three violins. It was thus absolutely natural that, at the age of six, I got one too. Yet it turned out to be a bad idea. Several weeks later, I hid under the bed and then ran riot until I was promised I would get to choose another instrument and no one at home would interfere. Those three kept standing above me, laying their heads together, and I could no longer endure it. So I chose the cello.

Why? Did you want to stick with a string instrumert?

At the time, it seemed to me that's the way it should be. But I gave preference to listening to music and did not practise much on the instrument, usually just the day before the lesson, and that certainly wasn't enough. As soon as it became clear that I wouldn't be a cellist either, dad took me to a Czech Philharmonic recording session so as to look around For a wind instrument. I was about 13 then, and ill were to devote to music, which I really wanted, it was high time to do something about it. At that time, the first oboe was played by Jiti Mihule, a legend of the Czech oboe school. His charisma and, particularly, the beautiful, noble tone simply overwhelmed mc. And so that was that. I also liked the fact that you don't have to toil with the oboe as many hours a day as with the violin. But I continued to play the cello too and completed the first cycle at the music school in due course. I concurrently learned to play the oboe, which I really enjoyed, and after finishing primary school I was accepted at the conservatory.

Your famity must have been relieved...

I think so, I remember us soon playing together quartets for oboe and three violins.

At the conseruatory you were taught by Professor Frantisek Xaver Thuri (b. 1939), a composer and one of the pioneers of early music performance in our country. What did it mean to you?

Prof. Thuri is rightly said to be the "last living Czech Baroque composer". He is a great connoisseur of early music, an amazing person, pedagogue, and besides the oboe he can also play the harpsichord and organ. During the time of my studies, in the 198os, he was one of the few capable of playing the Figured bass according to the numbers. Seeing him every day was extremely beneficial for me. It was he who acquainted me with Jan Dismas Zelenka a.nd drew me towards sacred music. He was also the chorus master of the Czech Madrigalists, an outstanding amateur ensemble singing vocal polyphony very nicely. The other students and I used to accompany them. This actually led me to the idea that that I too could have my own choir.

First you established a chamber orchesira - the Prague Baroque Ensemble.

Yes, it came into being back in 1983, when I was in my third year at the conservatory. My model was Ars rediviva, an ensemble performing both chamber music and grand orchestral works, which I liked very much. My father used to play with them too, so I had easy access to their productions and could observe the work of their artistic director - and founder - Milan Munclinger, another splendid champion of early music in our country. Later on, I even had the honour to perform with them. At the time, everything was played on modern instruments, which was a common practice. Today's trend is the very opposite.

Have the Prague Baroque Ensemble continued in this tradition?

Yes, we still play modern instruments, being aware that it's somewhat anachronistic as regards most Baroque ensembles playing historical instruments. But I don't think that our approach is wrong. We play differently, we sound different, while being inspired by historically informed performance. We don't strive to imitate the sound of old instruments at all costs. I don't really like it since, in my opinion, it would be unnatural vis-a-vis modern instruments. What's more, the people I work with and want to work with play contemporary instruments and cannot pass over to the old ones owing to lack of time. As for myself, I am not a purist, I like both.

You yourself play a copy of a historical instrument.

Yes, I do, but rather recreationally and, frankly speaking, only when someone wants me to.

Is Baroque music the closest to your heart?

I primarily resonate to the music of the first half of the 20th century. When I was an adolescent, I would listen, for instance, to one JanaCek opera a day. I like Stravinsky, Bartok, Martina. And I also like Art Nouveau music very much. But what appeals to me about Baroque music is its inexhaustibility.

Let us return to your teachers. In the beginning, you were enthralled hy firi Mihule (b. 1937), with whom you achually rounded off your studies at the Academy of Performing Arts. What are your memories of him like?

Jiff Mihule remains my unrivalled model. His requirements are so high that virtually no one can meet them. We, mere mortals, often didn't understand at all what he wanted from us.

Was it depressing?

Pretty much so, initially. Throughout my studies I didn't actually know what to do. For instance, we would work on a single bar for a long time and couldn't move forward. Later on, fortunately, I made sense of it all and experienced something amazing - I could play in the orchestra next to him, be right there, witnessing how his wonderful tone came into being.

Was he as strict on himself too?

Absolutely! At one time, at his own request, at the Czech Philharmonic he even changed from first to second oboe, because he was convinced that the quality of his playing had dropped. But of course he still played brilliantly! Or before a concert beyond the orchestra he took time off so as to be able to prepare one hundred per cent; he was getting his reeds ready half a year in advance. Stuff like that.

Has this passed over lo you?

Yes, in the sense that when I remember it and look at what I'm doing, I feel somewhat ashamed. Today's style of work, when you have to do plenty of things in parallel, definitely wouldn't be For him.

You studied at the time of the totalitarian reaime in our country. Don't you regret that you couldn't have studied in, let's say, Paris?

Not in the slightest, since I was extremely lucky when it comes to my teachers. Prof. Thuri was fabulous, and Jiff Mihu-le simply served as a role model for all oboists. I had the great luck to have got to him at all. In addition, I was also given work opportunities and established myself here. First in the Film Symphony Orchestra, then in the Prague Symphony Orchestra. All the same, I did get abroad as well, in r988, to the Gustav Mahler. Jugendorchester. It was an immense experience and I learned a lot there.

So you encountered Claudio Abbado's work?

Yes! The most striking encounter was the dynamic scale. We most frequently heard: "Leise! Sehr leise!" Quiet, very quiet! I experienced softening to the maximum pianissimo with the maximum orchestra, when we played with 22 First violins, for instance. Until then we had no inkling it was possible to play this softly.

Is being a member of the Philharmonic a dream come true?

Throughout my childhood I attended Czech Philharmonic concerts and knew very well how they play. It didn't cross my mind that I would perform with them one day. Even while I was studying, it was an orchestra inaccessible to me. It is the coming true of a dream I didn't even dare to dream to the end.

The Czech Philharmonic madly underwent an unpleasantly instable period (2009-2011), with several directory taking turns within a short time. One of them became minister of culture and soon fired the curtent one. After all, in connection with the political development, ministers of culture have come and gone pretty quickly. The orchestra didn't have peace for work, you even went on strike. At the time, the Czech public Mil commented on your activity, rind various internet debates included remarks whose gist was that the orchestra's existence is good nothing, that its players don't create any tangible value, and the like. It showed that culture in our country occupies an in morposititrn. How do you poreive this?

I am very glad that after 20 odd years I can see that the Czech Philharmonic is now managed by true professionals: the director David MareCek and his team, working For the orchestra and its future. I had even lost hope that it would ever happen. The fact that here culture is considered something inferior annoys me a lot, especii-dly when I see the situation of cultured nations in Western Europe or the position of classical music in Japan. Every city, small town even, in Japan has an outstanding concert hall, of the level we will probably never have here. When we look back and realise how in the tgth century culture helped the Czech people not to perish, it is a colossal decline.

How did rou arrive at the decision to become a conductor?

I felt the desire to conduct, yet it took me a long time to muster up the courage to get down to studying. I assumed that a conductor should be a superlative violinist and pianist. I am neither of those, which I deem a handicap. But I ultimately did give it a try and five years ago completed my conducting studies at the Academy of Performing Arts. I am happy about it.

You founded the amateur chamber choir En Arche, with whom you primarily devote to sacred music. This year you have entered your 20th season. This may be a stupid question, but wlry "En Arche"?

The name is connected with out repertoire focus. "En arch 6 6n ho Logos" are the first words ofjohn's gospel: "In the beginning was the Word."

How do you choose the members of the ensemble? I know that you do not overly test anyone. fit you must also have been approached by people who are not very suitable, do not have a good sense of judgment, and so on.

This has happened of course. But when I sense imminent conflict, 1 back off and behave in a somewhat cowardly fashion. So I let everyone sing with the ensemble and wait. Such a person either leaves of his/her own volition or simply learns how to sing. And several such choir members really have learnt to sing. One of them even went on to become the buttress of the whole group. Thanks to his sheer diligence. Naturally, the selection could be very strict and rigorous, but 1 have never done it that way and am not going to change it.

Besides En Arche, you also head Me Ceska pisen (Czech Sang) choir in Plzen. Mat kind of choir master an: you?

Terribly impatient, choleric, 1 get furious and sometimes extremely irksome. When my professional colleagues play with us, they say that I am too tough. And I reply that I quite tame my passions when they are around...

So Professor Mihule's perfectionism has left its mark...

Well, I should also take his example as regards patience! Do you think that choral music can better convey to the listener a certain message owing to the existence a text delivered by, a larger group of people? Does this mean anything to you? Sung texts carry a great significance. I tell my choir that they are just as, perhaps even more, important than the music! And I always try to make sure that the listeners have translations of the lyrics available. I for myself am glad to be forced to think about the contents and get to the depths when we pass on a certain message.

Vojtech Jouza (b. 1966) is the youngest of the three children of Vojtech Jouza, Sr, a former member of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. His brother Jan is a member of the Czech Philharmonic and his sister Vlasta Beranova a member of the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Vojt6ch studied the oboe at the Prague Conservatory with Prof. F X. Thuri and at the Academy of Performing Arts with Prof. JiI Mihule. In 1988 he performed with the Gustav Mahler. Jugendorchester, from 1989 to t991 was solo English horn player of the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Since r992 he has been a Czech Philharmonic oboist. In 1983 he founded the Prague Baroque Ensemble, in which he plays the oboe, serves as artistic director and occasionally conducts, and with whom he has performed works by Zelenka, Vivaldi and other composers, and in 2007, in collaboration with the Prague Chamber Choir, his own reconstruction of Bach's St Mark Passion. In 1995 he established the En Arche chamber choir, in which he works as chorus master and conductor. He also heads the Plzen choir Cka pisen. In 2009 he completed his conducting studies at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. Vojtech Jouza has also conducted the Czech Philharmonic, Prague Philharmonia. State Philharmonic Orchestra Kogice, Prague Chamber Choir, Kuhn Mixed Choir, Martina Voices, Talich Philharmonia, South Bohemia Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra 6eske .Buclejovice, Pardubice Chamber Philharmonic, Plzen Philharmonic and Bohuslav Martina Philharmonic Orchestra Zlin. He and the Berg chamber orchestra participated in the staging of Martin's operas Comedy on the Bridge and The Marriage.

... and a broad heart. He claims to be lazy, yet the sheer range of his activities would suggest the very opposite. He is a Czech Philharmonic oboist, leads two choirs, a chamber orchestra, and also devotes to educational projects. I wonder how it is possible that whenever I speak to him he never appears to be in a rush or agitated. It's as though he has discovered the secret of attaining inner peace, still sought by many people. During the course of his career, he has encountered the leading figures of Czech music, and all his experience has interconnected with that which he gained at home. Therefore, we opened our conversation with his childhood.
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Author:Snajdarova, Dina
Publication:Czech Music
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:4EXCZ
Date:Jul 1, 2014
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