Volume IV, Number 2
Thanks to the efforts of CSMS Treasurer Jonathan Pearl, we now have a set of bylaws for our organization. We invite you to examine them by clicking on the following link, BYLAWS. We would very much appreciate any feedback you may wish to give. To ratify our bylaws, send a message to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Clubs, Secret Societies, and Other Organizations
The Czech and Slovak Music Society has been in existence now for almost fifteen years. Whether or not it has been a successful organization is a matter of opinion. We have a list which, though not as popular as some, still has both discussions and exchanges of information from time to time. The newsletter is read and found useful by a number of viewers. The links we have provided are valuable resources.
Still, we may ask, what kind of organization are we and who are we? The world is filled with strange and eccentric folk. Some collect snow domes, others amass vast quantities of porcelain dogs. Certain people become rabid experts on the Civil War battle of Manassas, while others happily spend their leisure hours discussing quilt patterns or collecting 19th century Swedish newspapers. Each of these collections of individuals has at least one organization, now more and more websites, providing information on the particular hobby (or vice) and especially a newsgroup where members of thousands upon thousands of groups can chat, get to know each other, and talk about their shared interest.
In such groups, the fine points of lumping and splitting are not usually of grave concern. The fact that, for example, a Golden Retriever is not so terribly different from an Irish Setter when it comes right down to it is irrelevant to such people. They are not worried that they might "essentialize" a European Goldfinch by depriving it of its "real" connection to a canary. The whole point of such clubs is to provide a compartmentalized experience, a kind of idyllic space.
Czech music could easily be the subject of such a club, and it is in some places. The Czech music club could be part of a natural human attempt to discover "that-which-makes-us-different-from-everyone-else." It could be a secret society, with special hand signals, codes and insider-speak. We could derive pleasure from this exotic world because in it we truly belong! A Czech music club might be terrific, we would have no quarrel with it. But it is not, and should not be what we do, for such pleasant and potentially self-congratulatory organizations are by and large the enemy of skepticism, the enemy of real investigation, in short, the enemy of ambivalence and ambiguity.
I believe that our Society has, in principle, adapted the ideal of scientific integrity, that is, you can never pre-judge your results, difficult questions cannot be sidestepped and unpleasant answers cannot be discarded. Some of us have been asking, from the very beginning what "Czech music" could possibly be, or what relationship it has to "Slovak music," and why "Czechomoravojudeoromanymagyarpolskosilesiagermanoslovak Music," is not a far more accurate term than either of these.
It seems astonishing to me that despite all that has happened in our century, we students of music still persist in the most naive compartmentalization, thinking of the notion of "Czech music" as unproblematic. Think of only these events:
1. After World War II millions of Germans were ethnically cleansed from the
"Czech Lands" to create a post-war Czechoslovak
"democracy." German buildings, street names, and institutions
were destroyed in a conscious policy of de-Germanization, as innocent and
guilty alike were driven West. Tens of thousands of innocent people,
including women and children were ruthlessly killed. How can this not be
considered a factor in our discussion and reception of "Czech Music?"
2. The Czech musical institutions we deal with almost all grew up during the period of "normalization," where they reflected and absorbed Stalin's notion of denuded nationalities subservient to Russian hegemony. How can this not be considered a factor in our discussion and reception of "Czech Music?"
3. Since the Velvet Revolution Czech and Slovak attitudes to minorities, particularly Roma and Magyar, have been dangerously volatile. How can this not be considered a factor in the reception of "Czech Music?"
Much as we might like to preserve a utopian view of the lyrical charm many have associated with our subject, we must acknowledge that much of the music we study was composed, performed, and received in highly problematic contexts.
Okay, so we are not "The Czech Music Club." Does that then imply that we should be political militants, as one might conclude from my brief list above? The answer is no. We are scholars, scientists, investigators. While, it may be true, that in our efforts to get works performed, we sometimes ally ourselves with propagandists peddling Czechness, selling ethnic music is not our job. I believe it is our task to do the painful work of exploring, discussing, and examining subjects we love in all their vibrant complexity. If that means letting go of rather innocent notions of what "national music" is, so be it. There already is a wonderful and beautifully run organization in England that does such things, in addition to providing a good deal of scholarly information. It is and has been our fate to be something else.
It is also our job, more or less, to put ourselves out of business. To some extent the idea of Czech music was and is a response to a Germanocentric view of music history which saw German music as the sun and national schools as small, far less significant moonlets. That members of such national schools both internalized and objected to this view makes the situation more complicated and fascinating. It is my sense that we will have done our job when there is no more "Czech music." We can close down shop only at such time that music historians and audiences come to understand that Smetana is not a "Czech Wagner," nor is Dvorak a "Czech Brahms," but that both are, first and foremost, simply Composers who wrote Music. And of course, that will lead to an entirely different set of equally difficult questions.
-submitted by Michael Beckerman
Musical Intersections - Toronto 2000
Flying into Toronto for the first time to attend the American Musicological Society's annual conference in November last year, I was amazed at the expanse of this city just across the border. It seemed literally a world away from my home in St. Louis, which diminished into a mere small town by comparison. And if I had been expecting a meeting along the lines of the many I had attended before, I would have been equally in awe. But here I was a bit more prepared.
In special consideration of the year 2000, this gathering was by far the largest in the history of the societies represented. While some of the groups had meet concurrently in years past, this was the first time so many organizations had pooled their efforts and resources, resulting in an overwhelming choice of sessions and special events. Such a wide range of delicacies presented simultaneously made the decision of which offering to "try" a difficult one. Would it be powwows in North Carolina or Charles Ives and his music about baseball? A session on Neuromusicology or Trends in Contemporary Japanese Music?
Yet with all the choices, for someone interested in the music of the Czech lands, there were two items which had no competition - Brian Locke's insightful paper on The Dvořák Affair : Composition, Criticism, and Crisis in Prague, 1911-14 and the evening session devoted to Defining Czechness in the Context of Fin-de-siecle Modernism.
Brian's solo contribution completed a series of four papers presented under the general title of Twentieth Century Nationalisms. [The remaining presentations considered the Hungarian style of Bartók's early career, Szymanowski's Highland Mazurkas, and Contemporary Music for a "New Era" in France (1940-44).] The abstract for Brian's paper has been reprinted here from the published abstracts with his permission:
During the final years of Habsburg rule in Bohemia, music
criticism became a major site for debating issues of nation, modernity and the
social function of art, particularly within the Czech-speaking community of
Prague. Memorial celebrations planned for Dvořák's seventieth birthday in 1911
sparked a controversy involving almost every leading composer, musicologist,
and critic of the city. For three full years, a polemic raged in rival music
journals, providing a focus for competing standpoints on nationalism,
modernism, and tradition in music.
[Brian's discussion focused] on the contentious musicologist Zdeněk Nejedlý (1878-1962), a major figure in Czech musical life of the twentieth century, in which he argued that while Nejedlý's ideology controlled one side of the controversy, his criticism defined the terms of the debate that were subsequently used by musicians from a variety of aesthetic viewpoints.
Drawing on a range of journalistic and academic writings from the time, Brian discussed how Nejedlý sought to delineate "Czech" music according to two main compositional legacies: those of Smetana and Dvořák. For Nejedlý, Smetana's music represented an absolute role-model for "Czech" music-making, encompassing tradition, modernity, and the "soul" of the Czech people. Conversely, Dvořák represented foreign bourgeois influences and reactionary conservatism. Using these criteria to attack composers such as Suk and Novák while promoting Foerster and Ostrčil, Nejedlý was able to delineate the factions themselves. Ultimately, the debate provided an impulse for the musicians of pre-war Prague to renegotiate their identities in the modern era, shaping the discourse for years to come.
While Brian introduced what many consider the "darker side" of Czech musicology, the evening session expounded on some no less "tragic" topics.
Chair Michael Beckerman began the session with a renewed look at the question of the continually illusive commodity that makes Czech music "Czech," if in fact such a secret ingredient exists. Session participants Derek Katz (Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin), Brian Locke (SUNY at Stony Brook), Diane Paige (Hartwick College, New York), and Jan Smaczny (Queen's University, Belfast) investigated equally intriguing topics.
Jan dealt with aspects of social context in turn of the century (19th into 20th) Czech opera libretti, in particular the consequences for "fallen women" in Moravia and Vienna, drawing thought-provoking connections to the disposition of certain real-life situations of the time. The second part of the discussion proposed Kvapil's Rusalka as an allegory of the fate of Czech maidservants in Vienna.
Brian further illustrated the turn of the century atmosphere and the problematic notion of Czech modernism with the changing attitudes towards Vítězslav Novák's symphonic cantata Bouře from 1910. This orchestral work was first received as the flagship example of Czech modernism in music, but within a few years was dismissed as the epitome of all the backward thinking of Novák's generation, and thus represented both the hero and the victim in the contemporary battlefield of cultural politics.
The period also witnessed an emphasis on portrayals of a more aggressive feminine. Modernism, while traditionally configured as an identification with masculinity, certainly tipped its hat to the feminine on multiple occasions. Diane illustrated the frequency of this occurrence by means of Janáček's drowned heroines, exemplifying another archetype of the period, the woman plunging to her death, an active figure who demonstrates her own agency and vitality by choosing her own death.
Derek presented the final contribution to the session's illustrations of trends at the turn of the century with an examination of speech melody as a construction of Czech Naturalism which he exemplified with Janáček's sketches and drafts for Kát'a Kabanová. Derek argued that the influence of Janáček's "speech-melody" theory on his operatic style has been overemphasized. The sketches for Kát'a Kabanová show that Janáček often tried a number of musical solutions for a given line of text, and that some of the passages that seem to closely resemble "speech-melodies" were the result of extensive revisions.
And from this to the acquisition of an antique. An unlikely ending, you say. But one well presented and touchingly relevant as Michael Beckerman shared his personal story of purchasing the internal workings of an old Czech music box, all that was left of a once precious possession that played the Czech and Slovak anthems of a once-unified nation. This discussion served to emphasize the flexible nature of the concepts of "nation" and "national music," since these anthems have represented different political and cultural entities over the course of the last century and a half.
Overall, both the panel discussion and Brian's paper were
well attended, each followed by engaging discussion from the audience
members. The events served to spark interest in the activities of the
Czech and Slovak Music Society, and we look forward to many more such
opportunities at future AMS meetings.
-submitted by Judith Mabary
Czech and Slovak Music Society
Annual Meeting (2000)
The Czech and Slovak Music Society held their annual meeting for the year 2000 on Saturday, November 4 in Toronto during the conference Musical Intersections. Members attending were: Michael Beckerman, Derek Katz, Brian and Donna Locke, John Novak, Judith Mabary, Diane Paige, Jonathan Pearl, Jan Smaczny, and Anne Swartz. The lunch/meeting was arranged by President Brian Locke and held at the restaurant Al Frisco's. A special thanks to Brian for a fine choice of location and to Jan for picking up the tab.
The meeting was brought to order by Brian Locke. Officer positions for the Society were revised with Brian assuming the title of President (from Acting President). The designation of Vice President was also added to the officer roster. Diane Paige was nominated and elected by those present to fill the position.
The main portion of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of the content of the drafted by-laws, submitted by Treasurer Jonathan Pearl, which included whether or not the Society should continue under its present name, the suitability of the annual conference of the American Musicological Society as the venue for the annual meeting of the Czech and Slovak Music Society, the feasibility of annual membership dues, defining a member "in good standing," and the duties of each officer of the Society. Also of concern, and discussed in general terms, was the viability of the Society itself, its future and anticipated function. Diane Paige and Judith Mabary submitted additional proposed changes to the wording of the by-laws which were accepted for incorporation. Judith Mabary agreed to revise the by-laws per the meeting discussions and send by e-mail attachment to the officers for approval.
(NOTE: The official and final version of the by-laws as changed and accepted can be viewed at the CSMS BYLAWS site).
- Report submitted by Judith Mabary, Secretary, CSMS
Musicology at SVU 2000
The annual meeting of the Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Sciences took place in Washington, D.C., at American University, August 9-13, 2000. The conference included a special presentation by Alan Houtchens in the opening ceremonies as well as two sessions on musicology, one of which was composed completely of members from CSMS, organized by Judith Mabary. Entitled "Besides, What's so Great about Dvořák," Houtchens' talk concentrated on the aesthetic issues surrounding the composer in the attempt to distance his music from the problematic burden of nationalism it has borne, both Czech and American, for more than a century. The subsequent musicology session proved to be a wonderful opportunity to reaffirm old acquaintances and develop new ones, with six participants from all over North America. Erik Entwistle examined the long and fruitful relationship between Martinů and pianist Rudolf Firkušný in his paper "Vzpomínky: Rudolf Firkušný and Bohuslav Martinů," touching on some of the more problematic aspects of Martinů's career in exile. Judith Mabary's paper, "Greek Myths and Native Americans: Martinů and the Avant-Garde," continued this discussion, focussing on a somewhat bizarre dance drama, The Strangler, which was a collaboration between Martinů and choreographer Erick Hawkins from 1948, and on the various reasons for its lack of success in penetrating the permanent repertoire. Judith Fiehler's paper, "Martinů as Reflected in Correspondence with Koussevitzsky and Coolidge," summarized the results of recent discoveries in the Library of Congress archives. Brian Locke's contribution, "Jaro na Broadway: Images of Americanness and the Music of Jaroslav Ježek," examined the Czech jazz composer's perception of American culture during the interwar period, with a special focus on the repertoire from the Osvobozené divadlo. Jonathan Pearl, in his paper "Leoš Janáček and the Issue of Meaning," gave us an overview of his plans for future research into the neurological basis for the composer's theoretical writings and his practice of speech melody, with a particular emphasis on intonation and linguistic perception. Diane Paige concluded the session with a discussion entitled "The Reception of Janáček's Operas in America," providing an overview of American Janáček productions since the 1924 Jenůfa premiere, concentrating on the general warming of audiences towards the composer's music, a situation which bodes well for future operatic endeavours.
All in all, the weekend was a smashing success, with many opportunities for discussion, both within the context of the panel and outside it. Such occasions, regretfully brief and infrequent, are always fruitful for generating and sharing ideas, and are often the stimulus for further events!
-submitted by Brian Locke
Zdeněk Fibich in the Spotlight
The year 2000 marked a double anniversary for Czech composer Zdeněk Fibich (1850-1900). In October and November several events were held in Prague to honor this exceptional and prolific artist. While Fibich's efforts produced outstanding additions to the genres of song, piano music and opera, the area in which he was not only a contributor but a founder was that of the musical melodrama. It was to the extraordinary results of his work in this field that the events were dedicated.
Throughout the month of October the concert melodramas of
Fibich, his contemporaries and successors were performed during the Third
Annual Festival of Concert Melodrama in Prague. Works ranged from Fibich's Hakon
to Ostrčil's Balada česká and Foerster's Z 30leté války. Věra
Šustíková and Lubomír Poživil directed performances by a variety of excellent
reciters and pianists. Additional programs in October and November were held in
the concert hall of Klub Lávka on the banks of the Vltava in Prague. Featured
performers included the well-known Marta Hrachovinová as reciter with acclaimed
pianist Boris Krajný. Complete programs are contained in the following .pdf
Festival Performances and Klub Lavka
In the interest of insuring future performances of
melodrama and cultivating interpreters of these works, the First International
Zdeněk Fibich Competition in the Interpretation of Melodrama was organized
under the auspices of the Czech Music Society, the Zdeněk Fibich Society, Czech
Ministry of Culture, Czech Ministry of Education, and the City of Prague as
well as through the diligent efforts of the organization committee director Dr.
Věra Šustíková. The competition was conducted in three rounds - the first
devoted to the concert melodramas of Fibich (Štědrý den or Vodník),
the second to works composed during the 19th century or the first half of the
20th, and the third to selections written in the second half of the 20th
century. Winners of the competition were featured in a program held October 10
in the Galerie HAMU, Malostranské náměstí. A list of the winners and the
final program are attached.
In addition, the events commemorating Fibich included the
International Academic Conference titled Fibich - Melodrama - Art Nouveau,
with scholars from throughout the Czech lands combining efforts with representatives
from England, Ireland, Germany, Austria, and the United States for a three-day
investigation of his life and works. The schedule for the conference as well as
a list of the participants and their papers can be found in the attached
Certainly one of the most stunning achievements of the entire endeavor was the exhibition of the National Museum, prepared by the Museum of Czech Music and indebted in great measure again to the work of Věra Šustíková. The various displays contained manuscripts, photographs, personal belongings and other items related to the composer's life, including his piano, donated to the Museum by Mrs. Zdena Fibichová in 1989, and examples illustrating the composer's love for butterflies, including several of his own drawings. The Museum has also published a handsome commemorative book which presents elements from Fibich's life story illustrated by representative items from the exhibition.
-submitted by Judith Mabary
The International Bohuslav Martinů Society
Certainly one of the most promising new organizations in Czech music is the recently-formed International Bohuslav Martinů Society (IBMS). Founded on February 1, 2000, the Society's official headquarters are located in Belgium with the Bohuslav Martinů Institute in Prague designated as the coordination center for the organization's activities. The goal of the Society is to promote Martinů's music on an international level and to serve as a central point for locating and disseminating information about his life and work.
The formalized list of the Society's activities include:
Karel Van Eycken and Jana Honzíková have accepted the difficult challenge of serving respectively as the Society's first President and Secretary. Jana also acts as Editor for the Society's newsletter along with Sandra Bergmannová as Associate Editor. The Board of Directors consists of Aleš Březina (Prague), Gauthier Coussement, Karel Van Eycken, and Harry Halbreich (Belgium), Jana Honzíková (Prague), Walter Labhart (Switzerland), Gerd Lippold (Germany), Judith Mabary (USA), Gregory Terian (England), and Mari Tokuda (Japan) with Max Kellerhals named as an honorary member.
Among the Society's earliest members are several whose efforts to promote Martinů and his music have been particularly vigorous, including Sir Charles Mackerras, conductor; chaplain Max Kellerhals, friend of Martinů; Christopher Hogwood, founder of the Academy of Ancient Music; and Graham Melville-Mason, chairman of the Dvořák Society for Czech and Slovak Music.
Membership fees for the Society help support its activities and publication of the newsletter. Members automatically receive the Society newsletter (currently published three times per year) and the CD of the annual Martinů Festival in Prague, which is not available commercially.
The first issue of the newsletter (October-December 2000) included a welcome and introduction from the Society's president as well as an interesting array of articles on The Greek Passion, Martinů and Koussevitzky as well as newly discovered letters from Martinů to Koussevitzky and Copland, the premiere of the Suite Concertante at the Prague Spring Festival, Alan Hovhaness, and the theremin in the new museum of instruments in Brussels. Also detailed were the numerous Martinů events scheduled for 2000 and 2001. Contributors included Aleš Březina, Karel Van Eycken, Judith Fiehler, Michael Grundy and Petr Veber.
Membership dues for the current year (2001) are set at 20
Eurodollars [seniors and students - 12 Eurodollars] net of conversion charges
from other currencies. For members outside Europe, the annual dues have been
fixed at $25 USD (or the equivalent) [seniors and students - $15]. If you
reside in the United States and would like to become a member, please contact
Judith Mabary (email@example.com) for
additional details on where to mail annual dues. Application forms and
additional information regarding membership are also available on-line at the
website of the Bohuslav Martinů Institute (http://www.martinu.cz/ibms.htm).
-submitted by Judith Mabary
The Bohuslav Martinů Festival 2000
The sixth annual Bohuslav Martinů Festival, marking the 110th anniversary of the composer's birth, was held December 1-21, 2000 as part of the project titled Prague 2000 - European City of Culture, sponsored by the Major of the City of Prague. The inclusion of the Festival in this larger undertaking is indicative of a political and cultural acknowledgment of Martinů's importance to the history of Czech music. Several organizations whose principal focus is the promotion of Martinů and his music, including The Bohuslav Martinů Foundation, The Bohuslav Martinů Institute, and the Czech and International Bohuslav Martinů Societies, have helped insure his music a greater acceptance both at home and worldwide. In the words of composer and president of the Bohuslav Martinů Foundation Viktor Kalabis, "Where Martinů's music speaks, the composer himself is heard... There is no longer any need for our words..." [taken from the Program for the Festival, p. 5]
As if to reiterate Dr. Kalabis' statement, there was no shortage of Martinů's music heard during the Festival. Each day presented a different dimension of his musical personality and by the end of the event, the breadth of the composer's talent was indisputably proven. The festival opened with the Foundation's Violin and Violoncello Competition culminating in a concert of Laureates of the Competition in Prague's Martinů Hall on December 3. The subsequent several evenings incorporated samples of Martinů's works with those of other important composers on a series of topical concerts, including "Martinů and German Music" with works by J.S. Bach, Paul Hindemith, and Ervín Schulhoff together with Martinů's Four Madrigals for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon and his Sextet for violin, viola and cello; "Martinů and the Concerto Grosso," featuring J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 as well; and "Martinů and Hungarian Music" with some of Martinů's smaller scale works interspersed with compositions by Bartók and Kodály. The closing concert on December 21, featuring cellist Christoph Richter with the Czech Philharmonic, included Martinů's Half-Time, Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, No. 2, and his Symphony No. 3.
Certainly one of the most anticipated portions of the festival was the Prague premiere on December 15 of Martinů's first opera Voják a tanečnice (The Soldier and the Dancer) directed by David Pountney and Nicola Raab and conducted by Vojtěch Spurný. (The Festival Program, sections of which have been paraphrased below, describes some of the interesting points of the opera's history and style.)
Martinů's first opera, The Soldier and the Dancer (1926-1927) ranks among the most remarkable operatic works of the 20th century. Here Martinů attempted a new form reminiscent of live musical theater. The libretto is based on Plautus' comedy Pseudolus the Fox and presented as an operatic revue, combining a story from antiquity with modern features, including the principal of theater within theater and a play within a play. Its overall atmosphere resembles the playful poetics of works from the Liberated Theater (Osvobozené divadlo) with a musical language that employs both neo-classical and jazz elements, including opera parody and the grotesque. The work has been staged only three times - the world premiere took place on May 5, 1928 in Brno; the next production in 1966 (Olomouc) and the third in 1990 (Ostrava).
As part of a longer-range production plan by the State Opera in Prague, Martinů's work represents the middle section of a project to introduce three Czech operas from the late 1920s that, through their experimental compositional natures, are particularly reflective of the time in which they were written. The project began with the opera Bubu z Montparnassu (1927-1929) by Emil František Burian (1904-1959) premiered by the State Opera in 1999, and will culminate in the 2002-2003 season with Bílý pán aneb těžko se dnes duchům straší (1927-1929) by Jaroslav Křička (1882-1969).
The Festival also featured two examples of a method for which Czech artists were in the forefront worldwide in the last century and which still serves admirably as a means of promoting Czech composers and their music - i.e., via the medium of film. The first example follows in the footsteps of similar endeavors for Janáček and Dvořák as well as a series of films on Martinů himself, but this time the presentation takes the form of a carefully-constructed documentary focusing on a particular period in the composer's life. Martinů and America, narrated by Aleš Březina, represents in part a continuation of Return from Exile, a film portrait of the composer made in 1998 by the same team of authors. In the present film, several of Martinů's friends (James F. Rybka, Boris Rybka and Hope Bogorad, all of whom he stayed with for a period during his time in America, as well as composer David Diamond) and students (Charles Rosen, Michael Steinberg, Peter Stearns, and Zaidee Parkinson) discuss his personality as well as external and internal aspects of his success. The film also makes expert use of photographs, posters, newspaper clippings, letters, and other archival materials supported by appropriate examples from Martinů's music to result in a captivating one-hour portrait of the composer. The collaborative efforts of Jiří Nekvasil and Aleš Brežina, derived from countless hours of interviews at various locations in the US, have thus produced a unique and important source of information about Martinů's life in America from some of those who knew him best.
The second example was of quite a different sort - a film adaptation of Martinů's one-act radio opera Hlas lesa (The Voice of the Forest) based on a text by Vítězslav Nezval. The screenplay for the film was produced by Jiří Nekvasil, who also serves as director and author of the larger film series project Bohuslav Martinů - scénické bibeloty of which Hlas lesa is the third part. The series opened two years ago with the film adaptation of Martinů's one-act opera Slzy nože (Tears of the Knife) and the mechanical ballet Podivuhodný let (The Amazing Flight). These films were exceptionally successful at home and abroad and presented at a number of festivals. At the Golden Prague 1999 international television festival they won the top prize Czech Crystal and the Student Jury Prize. In addition, Tears of the Knife won the Grand Prix for the most original direction at the Screening Stage Arts Prize festival in Brussels.
The Voice of the Forest was written specifically for radio in 1935. This experimental work for the "pictureless home theater" called for a different treatment of dramatic time than would be typical for a staged work. Martinů's collage-like construction and a plot interrupted by lyrical interludes invited the filmmakers to employ similar techniques along with elements of free association and the unique capabilities of the film medium to capture the wealth of expression and diversity of genres Martinů employed in this opera.
The Festival also served as the opportunity to construct an ongoing exhibition titled Bohuslav Martinů's Stage Works through the Eyes of Contemporary Artists, housed at the State Opera in Prague. The exhibition was the work of Sandra Bermannová of the Bohuslav Martinů Institute and continued on display until February 2001.
Martinů Festivals have not been complete in recent years without a symposium at which scholars of the composer's work can present the results of their research. This year was no exception. Following the theme of the exhibition and in support of the opera and film adaptation presented during the Festival, the symposium focused as well on the Stage Works of Bohuslav Martinů in the Context of Their Time.
Organized by Aleš Březina, Jarmila Gabrielová and Jürgen Maehder, sessions held in the Zdenka Podhajská Hall at the Martinů Institute included:
as well as a round table on Martinů's Dramaturgy and Staging Practice with participants Marcus Gammel, Daniel Kötter, Jiří Nekvasil, David Pountney, Nicola Raab, Josef Svoboda and moderator Aleš Březina.
The symposium schedule as well as a list of participants and the papers
presented may be viewed in the attached .pdf file, Martinů
-submitted by Judith Mabary
Upcoming Conferences and Festivals
From Musicology at Charles
Muzikologické a mezioborové konference na jaře 2001 / Musicological and Interdisciplinary Conferences in Spring 2001:
March 8 - 10, 2001, Plzeň / Pilsen: Mezioborové kolokvium k otázkám umění a
kultury v českém 19. století / Annual Interdisciplinary Colloquium on
the Problems of 19th Century Culture in Bohemia
April 5 - 6, 2001, Prague: Habsburský dvůr a Praha / The Hapsburg Court and Prague (4th workshop within the long-term research project "Höfe des Hauses Oesterreich")
April 19 - 20, 2001, Olomouc: Psychologické aspekty hudební vychovy (ontogeneze, diagnostika, muzikoterapie) / Psychological Aspects of Music Education (Ontogenesis, Diagnostics, Music Therapy)
June 6 - 7, 2001, Ostrava: Janáčkiana 2001 - Čeští hudební klasikové na prahu 21. století / Janáčkiana 2001 - Czech Classical Composers on the Threshold of the 21th Century
June 15 / 16, 2001, Turnov: Antonín Dvořák a současníci / Antonín Dvořák and his Contemporaries
for more information, visit the website: < http://www.ff.cuni.cz/~jarmila/Asociace/spolecnost.html >
Leamington Czech Music Festival 4-9 May 2001 [England]
The links between the Czech Republic and Leamington and the Warwick Arts Society go back a dozen years. We have consistently programmed Czech music and winning exchanges have been made with Czech festivals. There is a genuine raison d'etre for this, besides the wonderfully rich musical repertoire, in that the Czech Free Army was based in Leamington Spa during World War II and the Royal Pump Rooms (where all but one of the concerts take place in May), hosted concerts by choirs and instrumentalists drawn from the Czech soldiers.
During this year's Leamington Czech Music Festival, Czech food and drink will be available at the Royal Pump Rooms. The Festival is organised in association with The Dvořák Society. The Festival brings together leading musicians from the Czech Republic and British musicians who have made a speciality of playing Czech music. All the concerts in 2001 are at the Royal Pump Rooms, Leamington Spa (except 5th May evening which is at St Mary's Church, Warwick, 2 miles from Leamington Spa).
SCHEDULE OF CONCERTS
Friday 4 May 7.45pm: Martinů String Quartet with Douglas
Smetana: Quartet No 1; Martinů and Dvořák Quintets
Saturday 5 May 11am Coffee Concert: The Schubert Ensemble of London
Dvořák: Dumky Trio; Martinů, Pavel Novák Piano Quartets
Saturday 5 May 1pm Lunchtime Concert: Members of Martinů String
Martinů, Schulhoff and Dvořák Duos and Trios
Saturday 5 May 3pm Tea Concert (followed by Dvořák Society Social):
Victoria Soames clarinet, Jane Salmon cello, William Howard piano
Bodorová: La Speranza; Martinů: Clarinet Sonata; Janáček: Pohádka; Škroup: Trio
Saturday 5 May 7.45pm Choral Concert: The Scholars Choir conducted by
Chris Monks with Lenka Škorníčková soprano
Dvořák: Biblical Songs and Three Spiritual Songs; Slavický: Cantus Sacri; Janáček: Mass in E flat, Our Father
Sunday 6 May 12 noon Coffee Concert: Pirasti Trio
Fibich and Dvořák Piano Trios; Martinů: Bergerettes
Sunday 6 May 2.00 pm Leamington Walk: Czech Free Army
Sunday 6 May 3.30pm Tea Concert: Lenka Škorníčková soprano, Jitka
Dvořák: Love Songs Op 83; Songs Op 2; Gypsy Songs; Foerster: Liebeslieder Op 96; Hanuš Barton: Five Songs on Renard poems; Martinů: Nový Spáliček
Sunday 6 May 7.45pm: Martinů String Quartet/William Howard
Dvořák: Piano Quintet Op 5; Martinů: Quartet No 5; Bořkovec: Quartet
Monday 7 May 1pm Lunchtime Concert: Janáček String Quartet
Janáček: Quartet No 1; Suk: Meditation; Martinů: Quartet No 2
Monday 7 May 3pm (followed by tea and talk by John Tyrrell): William
Howard piano, Walter van Dyk actor
Ullmann and Fibich "melodramas"; Janáček: On an Overgrown Path
Monday 7 May 7.45pm "Janáček and his pupils": Afflatus Wind
Quintet, Pavel Šporcl violin and Petr Jiříkovský piano
Janáček: Mládí, Violin Sonata (original version); Haas: Wind Quintet; Other works for violin, wind and piano
Tuesday 8 May 1pm Lunchtime Concert: Pavel Šporcl violin, Petr
Smetana: 'From My Homeland'; Kocian: Spring Song; Dvořák: Mazurek Op 49; Drdla: Czech Serenade; Nováček: Moto perpetuo; Fibich: Poem; Korngold: 'Much Ado About Nothing' - Suite Op. 11; Ševčík: Czech Dance No 1 - Holka modrooká/Girl with blue eyes
Tuesday 8 May 7.45 pm: The Schubert Ensemble of London
Sylvie Bodorová: Piano Trio (premiere of commissioned work); Piano Quartet by Dvořák
Wednesday 9 May 7. 45pm: Janáček String Quartet, Petr Jiříkovský piano
Janáček: Quartet No 2; Dvořák: Quartet Op 106; Suk: Piano Quintet
You may visit the "Leamington Life" website at: http://www.dreamwater.net/leamington
The Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU) announces a Special Conference The Czech and Slovak Legacy in the Americas: Preservation of Heritage with the Accent on Youth Lincoln, Nebraska, August 1-3, 2001. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will host the 2001 Conference of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU). The conference is sponsored by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Modern Languages, European Studies, and by the following community and regional groups: the Czech Language Foundation, Komensky Club, the Nebraska Czechs of Lincoln, and the Nebraska Czechs of Wilber. The dates of the Conference have been selected to coincide with the 45th Czech festival held each year in Wilber during the first weekend in August. The conference will focus on three main issues of interest to Czechs and Slovaks in the Americas:
(1) Ethnicity and Preservation of Language and Culture
(includes presentations on history and genealogy)
(2) Historical and contemporary settlements of people from the Czech and Slovak Republics in the Americas
(3) Future relationships between Czechs and Slovaks living in the Americas and those in the Czech and Slovak Republics.
The open format of the conference will allow discussion of other topics of interest. Conference participants will have the opportunity to attend various cultural and social programs scheduled during the two-day conference, as well as attend the Wilber Czech Festival on Saturday and/or Sunday. There will be live performances of the Czech and Slovak heritage music, dances and other cultural programs as performed by local groups, as well as a Czech film. The Opening Ceremony will take place on Wednesday, August 1 at 7:00 p.m.
Hotel accommodation for SVU members is available in the University dorms. Other accommodations can be made directly with Lincoln hotels (http://www.Lincoln.org/cvb/lodging/lodging.htm).
Application for a Panel or Presentation and Registration Form: Send your application along with your registration fee (made payable to SVU) A.S.A.P. to: Cathleen Oslzly, Department of Psychology, 238 Burnett Hall, UNL, Lincoln, NE
COLLOQUIUM BRNO 2001
SOCIALIST REALISM AND MUSIC: ANTIMODERNISMS AND AVANT-GARDES
OCTOBER 1-3, 2001
The Institute of Musicology at the Masaryk University
Brno (Czech Republic) will host the annual musicological colloquium, that will
examine the rather dubious term socialist realism in its relationship to
music. On this occasion, a rather broad scope of topics should be addressed:
the origins of socialist realism in the context of art and literature, the
doctrine of socialist realism in the aesthetics of music and its developments
in various countries, the mechanisms by which the doctrine was transmitted, and
its native sources and ingredients, socialist realism and the left avant-garde,
socialist realism and various anti-modernisms in 20th century music (Third
Reich era, Hollywood aesthetics etc.), musical style and socialist realism, and
the institutional background of socialist realism in musical life.
Both interdisciplinary approaches (especially literary criticism, history of art and social sciences) and papers in various branches of musicology (history, sociology, aesthetics, semiotics, analysis etc.) are welcome. Comparative approaches to this topic are especially welcome.
All prospective participants should submit by May 30,
2001 a 300-word abstract, a brief curriculum vitae, and their postal and e-mail
The presentation of a paper should not exceed 30 minutes. Papers are accepted in English, German, and French. There are no interpreting facilities available in the conference rooms.
The active participants will be offered accommodation in an international hotel free of charge.
More information will be available progressively on the web page of the Institute of Musicology of the Masaryk University Brno: http://www.phil.muni.cz/music/ under the heading Kolokvium.
Paper abstracts or questions may be directed to:
Prof. PhDr. Jiří Fukáč,
PhDr. Mikuláš Bek, Ph.D.
Masaryk University Brno Chair of the Board of the Colloquium Head of the Institute of Musicology
Arne Novaka 1 Masaryk University Brno
CZ 660 88 Brno PhDr. Petr Maček, Ph.D.
Phone and fax: +420 5 41121434 Secretary of the Colloquium
-from the CSMS discussion list
Timothy Cheek's book Singing in Czech: A Guide to Czech Lyric Diction and Vocal Repertoire, with a foreword by Sir Charles Mackerras, is in production and due to be in print with Scarecrow Press in April of 2001. The price, including a CD of Czech singers Dana Burešová and Miloslav Podskalský demonstrating all the Czech sounds, is $55 USD. It can be ordered now at Scarecrow Press, 1-800-462-6420. In the United Kingdom, Scarecrow Press is at 4 Pleydell Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT20 2DN.
A review by Dr. John Tyrrell, author of Czech
Opera, Janáček's Operas, and Executive Editor of The New Grove
Dictionary of Music and
Musicians, 2nd edition, follows:
"I cannot imagine the subject being better
treated. It's not often that one gets such a balance of practical common sense
and theoretical underpinning. What I particularly liked was the wonderful blend
of knowledge, experience, precision and enthusiasm. I was fascinated by the
discussion of the various pronunciation possibilities and the occasions when
one might be more appropriate than another. What will be particularly useful to
experienced singers will be the constant comparisons with other languages, and
the many practical suggestions for ways of overcoming problems particular to
"This is clearly the work of a born teacher with considerable experience in coaching singers new to the Czech language. It is very clearly expressed and so well organized that someone seeking guidance on a particular point will be able to find it without difficulty. The supplementary sections of the book are equally well judged and will be invaluable in providing good basic information about Czech song literature (what there is and how to track it down). Altogether this is an outstanding achievement."
Dr. Cheek presented a session "Singing in Czech" at the National Opera Association Convention at the Cincinnati Conservatory on February 11, 2000, and at the 2001 convention at the New Yorker Hotel in New York City he performed as a pianist the Lišák/Bystrouška duet from Janáček's Příhody lišky Bystroušky with sopranos Kira Slováček and Kathryn Alexander.
Other performances in early 2001
included: Three songs by Josef Suk and Rusalka's Song
to the Moon on a recital with soprano Kimberley Haynes, January 27, 2001 at
the University of Michigan Britton Recital Hall.
A recital with tenor David Adams of Dvořák's Písně z Rukopisu královédvorského, Cigánské melodie; Foerster's Hrst klasů; and Smetana's Večerní písně on March 24, 2001 at the University of Michigan Britton Recital Hall.
-submitted by Timothy Cheek
Recent Conferences, Presentations and Papers
On March 2-3, 2001, the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library <http://www.ncsml.org> presented its second annual Czech & Slovak History & Culture Conference entitled "The Czech and Slovak 20th Century in Retrospect: 1900-1938." The conference focussed on the First Czechoslovak Republic (1918-1938) with presentations by noted Czech and Slovak scholars. Saturday afternoon featured His Excellency Martin Butora, Ambassador of Slovakia to the United States and His Excellency Alexandr Vondra, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States. The Ambassadors Forum discussed how NATO has impacted the Czech Republic and what steps Slovakia must take for entry, and the struggles each country face in entering the European Union. Mr. Michael Novak, noted author and Director of Social and Political Studies at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, served as the forum moderator. For more information about the conference, go to http://www.ncsml.org/conference.htm
Central European Music Research
Department of Music, Cardiff University,
in collaboration with the Department of Music, Bristol University
Socialist Realism in Central European Music: 1945-1955
Saturday 10 March 2001
Welcome & Introduction: Adrian Thomas (Cardiff), Christopher Norris
Mikuláš Bek (Brno): 'Socialist Realism and the Tradition of Czech National Music: Czech Music of the 1950s'
Rachel Beckles Willson (Bristol): 'Realisms and Realities between text and music in Kurtag's pieces for the young'
Discussion session led by John Tyrrell (Cardiff)
Lorant Peteri (Budapest): 'Official and Unofficial Patronage of Musicology in Hungary under State Socialism'
Adrian Thomas (Cardiff): 'Hide and Seek: Lutoslawski's concealed cantatas as paradigms of a creative dilemma'
Discussion session led by Malgorzata Szyszkowska (Cardiff)
Toby Thacker (Cardiff): 'Relatively Content? Musicians and Republikflucht in the early GDR'
David Tompkins (New York): 'Composers' Unions in Poland and the GDR, 1948-1956: Comparing Methods of Composer Self-Organisation and Political Control'
Discussion session led by Jonathan Osmond (Cardiff)
Respondent to the Day: Jim Samson (Bristol)
'The Hidden Composer: Witold Lutoslawski and Polish Radio', an exhibition first seen in January 1997 at the Barbican Centre in London as part of the BBC's Lutoslawski festival 'Breaking Chains', will be on display during the conference.
Annual ČSHV Conference
The Annual Conference of the Czech Musicological Society (Výroční konference České společnosti pro hudební vědu) took place on December 1 - 2, 2000 at the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts, Charles University Prague. The main topics were 1) Ethnomusicology & Folklore Studies, and 2) Psychology of Music in the Czech Republic. For more details about the conference programme, visit the Charles University website
From the Czech Center, New York:
Tuesday, December 5, 2000
Bohuslav Martinů and America - a documentary about Bohuslav Martinů and the twelve years he spent in the United States, directed by Jiří Nekvasil and written by Jiří Nekvasil and Aleš Březina. Appearing in the film are: Charles Rosen, Michael Steinberg, David Diamond, Ned Rorem, Zaidee Parkinson, Peter Stearns, and personal friends of Martinů. Introduction by Aleš Březina, director of the Bohuslav Martinů Institute in Prague.
December 6, 2000 - January 29, 2001
The life and work of Bohuslav Martinů - a collection of reproductions of photographs and facsimiles of letters, drawings, and original scores from the holdings of the Bohuslav Martinů Institute in Prague.
Thursday, December 7, 2000
Erik Entwistle performed piano compositions by Bohuslav Martinů.
Tuesday, January 9, 2001
Return from Exile - video screening of a 1998 documentary on Bohuslav Martinů's life in Europe in Bohemia, France, Italy and Switzerland, which uses archival materials and interviews with Martinů's friends and contemporaries.
From our members:
Geoffrey Chew recently gave two papers:
"Soliloquies of Drunken Pianists: A Comparison of the Film Sequences in Martinů's Three Wishes and Weill's Royal Palace" (Prague, Martinu conference, 15 Dec 2000)
"Janáček's Immortal Beloved and her Literary and Musical Intertexts" (Washington DC, AATSEEL conference, 28 Dec 2000, together with first (?) North American performance of the Album for Kamila Stoesslová)
Cathryn Wilkinson, Assistant Professor of Music at Concordia University in River Forest, IL presented two papers this past year:
"Lutherans and Lutheran Music in Slovakia" at
the Liberal Arts Faculty Forum at Concordia University on February 18, 2000.
"Music of the Slovak Reformation" at the Central Slavic Society meeting in Kansas City, MO on October 13, 2000.
With the help of a Concordia University faculty research grant, she completed an article, "An Overview of Slovak Hymnody," to be published by the academic branch of Concordia Publishing House.
-from the CSMS discussion list
Reicha in Oneonta
Anton Reicha's Requiem Mass was performed in Oneonta, New York, December 1, 2000 by the Catskill Choral Society and Symphony under the direction of Jirka Kratochvíl. Kratochvíl, who is on the faculty at Hartwick College, first became acquainted with the work through the Supraphon recording directed by Lubomír Matl. The work was re-discovered in Paris in the mid 1960s by violinist Stanislav Ondráček, who prepared the edition used for this performance (available from Ceský hudební fond). The last movement, a fugue, was but partially orchestrated and the present edition includes a reconstruction of the Requiem's finale. Kratochvíl's production of the work is most likely its American premiere.
For more than a century after his death, Reicha's large-scale vocal works sat unknown in Paris archives. Prior to the discovery of the Requiem, Reicha was known primarily for his contributions to theory (Traité de haute composition musicale and Traité de melodie. . ., among others), his role as a teacher to such pupils as Liszt, Gounod, Lefebvre, and his twenty-four woodwind quintets.
The Requiem, scored for orchestra, soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists, and full chorus, dates from the first decade of the 19th century. While his setting of the Latin text is traditional, the use of counterpoint and inclusion of five fugues is notable. (These occur in the Kyrie, Quam Olim Abrahae, Hosanna, Requiem, and Cum Sanctis) Michael Beckerman, professor of music at the University of California, Santa Barbara and past president of CSMS, presented a pre-concert lecture on December 1. In his talk, Beckerman discussed why there are only two and a half Classical composers (Haydn, Mozart, and early Beethoven) and noted the incredible numbers of composers such as Reicha and Spohr, among others, whose works have been overshadowed by historians' classification of this stylistic period. Reicha's numerous fugues as well as use of musical imagery were other topics which Beckerman presented and elaborated on for a standing-room only audience.
-submitted by Diane Paige
Smetana in Toronto
From September 22 to October 7, 2000, the Canadian Opera Company gave six performances of Bedřich Smetana's opera Prodaná nevěsta (The Bartered Bride). Directed by Paula Suozzi, the production had been premiered by the Toronto company already in 1993. With the recent addition of soprano Eva Urbanová and tenor Miroslav Dvorský to the COC's roster of regular guest artists, however, the 2000 performance took on a sparkle that audience members will not soon forget. Indeed, Urbanová and Dvorský (in the roles of Mařenka and Jeník, respectively) sang impeccably, both in aria and ensemble passages throughout the opera. Canadian tenor Benoit Boutet as Vašek and American baritone Dean Peterson as Kecal contributed to the comedic quality of Smetana's work, as did the entire circus entourage in the final act. With regard to the latter, the COC production had the circus master (John Kriter) sing his solo segments in English and his ensembles in Czech, both with an exaggerated Texan accent, as though to emphasize the character's cultural distance from the Bohemian village world of Mařenka and Jeník.
Throughout the evening, it was easy to perceive the director's conscious decision to depart from the traditional presentation of Prodaná nevěsta, as the above example suggests. In general, the cast did not wear the traditional peasant costumes (with the exception of Urbanová, who looked out-of-place in her red and white village garb), nor did they perform the traditional dances associated with Smetana's music. These departures had a strange effect on the Toronto audience, a sizeable proportion of which consisted of the city's emigré Czech community. While on the one hand the non-Czechs in the audience were able to appreciate the humour of the opera more directly as a result of the director's artistic license, the Czech-Canadians I encountered mostly resented such 'tampering' with a work of perceived national importance. The absence of traditional costumes and dances particularly irked some audience members, who claimed the chorus looked like "proletáři" and that the Furiant resembled a scene from West Side Story. It seemed to many that the non-Czechs had simply misunderstood the significance and spirit of the most "quintessentially Czech" opera. Although I was sensitive to the feelings of cultural underrepresentation and neglect that the Czech diasporic community is apt to experience (feelings which the non-traditional production did little to alleviate), I found myself questioning the issues of cultural interaction and representation that the production raised in general. The realization that a non-traditional Meistersinger or I Lombardi (equally nationalistic works) would not raise so much as an eyebrow really gave me the sense of the dire need for the dissemination of Czech cultural products in an international sphere, both as a means to provide access to the traditional forms as well as to enable greater artistic experimentation in the future. The question becomes one of cultural preservation versus interaction; while the Toronto production was not the most visually exciting operatic performance I have seen, the music was performed at the peak of professionalism, such that Torontonians experiencing Smetana for the first time came away with memories of a scintillating evening. Such an audience would also likely return for further productions of Czech opera (to which the last ten seasons at the COC can attest). In these days of dwindling classical music sales, what greater result can there be?
-submitted by Brian Locke
Kaprálová in Toronto
The Kaprálová Society held a benefit concert and Canadian premiere of piano, vocal and chamber music by Vítězslava Kaprálová on Friday, October 6, 2000 in Toronto. The program consisted of the following:
Variations sur le Carillon de
l'Eglise St. Etienne du Mont, op. 16, for piano (1938)
Elegy, for violin and piano (1939)
Legend, op. 3a, for violin and piano (1932)
Burlesque, op. 3b, for violin and piano (1932)
Apple from the Lap, op. 10, for voice and piano (a four-song cycle) (1936)
April Preludes, op. 13, for piano (1937)
Ritornel, op. 25, for cello and piano (1940)
The Canadian artists Antonin Kubalek (pf), Coenraad Bloemendal (vcl), Gerard Kantarjian (vl), Dana Campbell (S) and Axel Gremmelspacher (pf) lent their talents to the evening's performance. The proceeds were used to publish Kaprálová's music which is now out of print.
-submitted by Karla Hartl
Janáček in Washington D.C.
On October 13 and 15, 2000, the Washington Concert Opera performed Janáček's Jenůfa, with Patricia Racette in the title role, Peter Dvorský as Laca and Eva Urbanová as the Kostelnička. The WCO specializes in operas less known to American audiences, and is able to attract soloists of international calibre to its stage at George Washington University. Although Racette's performance (which will be repeated for the Chicago Lyric Opera) earned strong praise, the audience favourite was clearly Urbanová, who received a standing ovation for her gripping portrayal of the tragic anti-heroine. Described as "shattering, spine-tingling," "hair-raising," and full of "Slavic edginess," Urbanová's Kostelnička left an indelible impression on the Washington audience. Dvorský, who had already sung with the WCO and who went on to sing a special concert that weekend at the Slovak Embassy, provided the emotional resolution to the opera's plot with Laca's "heartbreaking" reconciliation with Jenůfa in the final act. On the whole, the production was well received, including a positive review from the Washington Post's Philip Kennicott [Monday, Oct. 16]. We congratulate the WCO on its success, and eagerly await future productions!
-submitted by Brian Locke
From the Czech Embassy, Washington D.C.
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of statesman, philosopher and Czechoslovak president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the Czech Embassy presented the great Czech jazz pianist Emil Viklický and his ensemble, Ad Lib Moravia.
In preliminary remarks, Ambassador Vondra stressed the importance of this event. He mentioned the traditional celebration which also took place at the Embassy and Vladimír Kabeš's heartfelt, intelligent speech on Masaryk's legacy. This concert would reach the younger generation of Czechs and Slovaks by demonstrating a musical fusion like that of Czechoslovakia itself, giving them a glimpse of their democratic heritage. America's fusion of democracy and music inspired Masaryk to realize his dream -- to establish democracy in Central Europe as well. And the ensemble would also perform Masaryk's favorite songs as link with the man himself.
The ensemble's fusion of jazz, serious music, and traditional folk idioms resembles music of the First Republic which was rooted in the Moravian-Slovak folk music researched and developed by Leos Janáček. Ad Lib Moravia also uses Hungarian, Romany and Klezmer idioms to form a Central European music without boundaries, an expression of liberty through impulse, emotion, and sound.
Such fusion requires professional skill and sophisticated perspective. Notes were expertly, casually tossed into the musical stream like skipping stones -- very accurately, to achieve a subtle, precise effect. The ensemble consistently sustained an sparkling, interactive flow of beautiful sounds, whether playing jazz, folk music, or simply speaking through whatever musical style fit the mood.
The nucleus of the ensemble is a very capable jazz trio: there were Viklický's inspired riffs on piano (sometimes plucking the strings), an engaging combination of virtuosity and directness from Josef Feco on bass (also strumming mandolin-style, rubbing the strings to produce rumbles), and fiery outbursts from puckish Laco Tropp on drums (at times stroking his instruments to achieve sensuous sounds). They were joined by Zuzana Lapčiková, a folksinger, masterly cembalon player and ethnomusicologist; and Petr Rušička, whose raw, almost Cajun-like concept of folk violin extends seamlessly to the vigorous, demanding violinistic styles of Bartók and Enesco. Feco's father, leader of a Romany ensemble in Prague, is also an indirect influence on the ensemble.
The evening was graced by Lapčiková's rare, four-octave cembalon (concert dulcimer), made in 1875 by Josef Václav Schunda. It gave dramatic power to the Napoleonic era song "Jedna sestra měla bratra," portraying the battle of Austerlitz with a blazing explosion of sound and conveying grief in melancholy pianissimo. Her gentle voice and sensitive playing of this instrument provided a mood of contemplative enchantment for one of Masaryk's favorite songs, "Teče, voda, teče."
The ensemble received standing ovations from a crowd of jazz enthusiasts as well as young Czechs and Slovaks. Many said on the way out, "They're playing again tomorrow! Let's go!"
On cold, rainy nights, there is surely nothing better than to find a good friend -- someone who will not only understand you, but make you laugh at your problems and give you the courage to continue. And that's what the audience found during Jan Burian's recent presentation at the Czech embassy.
Burian belongs to an illustrious family of Czech entertainers which includes Emil František Burian, founder of the avant-garde theater D 34, playwright, composer and author. Thus it is not surprising that he is completely at ease on stage; he welcomed latecomers as naturally as if inviting them into his own home. And soon the audience did feel at home, in a comfortable mood, completely receptive to Burian's witty songs and wry jokes. One began to understand why jesters were valued by kings. Burian's imaginative, acute sense of humor has a marvelous effect even in print or in recordings. However, its impact is much stronger in a personal appearance, because his disarming grin and cherubic appearance throw one off one's guard, and the punch line comes as unexpectedly as a cream pie in the face in slapstick comedy.
As the show went on, one gradually became aware of Burian's adroitness and theatrical skill. Although he seemed to be improvising the entire show, there was no wasted motion. Every gesture evoked a response; every word was perfectly timed and conveyed for maximum effect. As he accompanied himself on the piano, he effortlessly slipped in sophisticated rhythmic patterns and complex jazz nuances, not for their own sake, but to provide subtle support for the mood which he was projecting. The cliche "art which conceals art" took on fresh significance here.
He jokingly described his material as belonging to the Prague folk tradition. With puckish gravity, he then compared Prague folklore to New York City folklore, and Moravian folklore to Washington folklore. But he did actually demonstrate a fact which surely is part of the tradition of his own family: the vigorous folk spirit of the Czech lands engenders art forms which persevere, even thrive in adversity. By mutating to fit time and circumstance, these art forms continue to give heart to artists as well as audiences.
On October 24, 2000, violinist Petr Macheček gave a recital at the Czech Embassy which demonstrated that the great Romantic tradition of virtuoso performance continues to flourish and develop into the new millennium. Even without the support of an accompanist, he was easily able to dominate the stage with bravura technique and the strength of his artistic personality.
The program consisted of some of the most challenging works ever written for any instrument. These works are sometimes presented by performers who seem proud to merely get through the notes without mishap. In contrast, Macheček surmounted their difficulties with ease and brought forth their profound musicality. He conveyed the emotions, spirit, and intellect - the full human experience - of each work. His pure, sweet violinistic sound and the humanistic breadth of his performing style continue the heritage of his close associate Josef Suk (who himself continues the tradition of his grandfather of the same name, one of the foremost violinists in Europe and a notable composer). But his empathetic, spellbinding interpretation of Slavický's Partita shows that he has succeeded in applying this tradition to contemporary works as well. Its technical obstacles - for example, a sustained melody consisting only of harmonics, a highly emotional passage which required simultaneous vibrato and left-hand pizzicato - seemed to disappear under the powerful impact of the music itself.
Macheček's own musical insight was particularly evident in Bach's Chaconne and Ysaye's Sonata no. 3. Few interpreters are able to bring the proportions of these massive works into balance. He achieved this balance, creating a sonorous web in which each note had musical and expressive purpose. For Tartini's Sonata in D and Paganini's first caprice, he provided a sunny, lilting context in which the technical fireworks fitted very naturally.
It is most heartening to discover that Macheček is also continuing another tradition of Josef Suk. As a soloist with the Suk Chamber Orchestra, he is transmitting a international tradition to its rightful heirs: the rising generation of Czech musicians.
-submitted by Judith Fiehler
Also from Washington...
Jiří Bělohlávek, internationally renowned Czech maestro and worthy student of Celibidache, was guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra for three concerts, January 25-27, 2001. The concert opened with a luminous, meticulous rendition of Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun, which sensitively displayed this fine orchestras broad capabilities for tone color and nuance. But there was a deeper current of musical intelligence which recalled Debussys influence on Czech music. Václav Talich records the following anecdote: not long before leaving for France, Bohuslav Martinů told his mentor, Josef Suk, that he would like to compose like Debussy; Suk replied, "So would I, if I could do it well." Liszt's Piano Concerto no. 1 followed, also meticulously played, but with the irresistible emotional power which is this orchestras heritage from its years under Rostropovich. As usual, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet gave an impeccable, captivatingly witty performance.
Bělohlávek had evidently carefully chosen these works, for they must have served as an excellent preparation for the most substantial composition of the concert: Suk's Asrael Symphony. Tone color, nuance, meticulousness, emotional power are all essential to interpreting this immense work - and the orchestra responded nobly. The National Symphony has a long tradition of strong Mahler performances - I particularly remember a moving rendition conducted by Klaus Tennestedt many years ago - and they drew on this tradition to give Asrael convincing coherence, to convey Suk's grief at the death of his beloved teacher, Dvořák - as well as the death of his wife, Dvořák's daughter Ottilie. And this orchestra also movingly showed that the work's finale has a kinship to Strauss's Death and Transfiguration. The pedal tone tone-color shifts of the second movement which anticipate Klangfarbenmelodie, and the difficult passages in the third and fourth movements, were also achieved to good effect.
The program notes by Richard Freed are well worth noting. He mentions the references to Dvořák's Requiem and Suk's own Radúz and Mahulena and Fantastic Scherzo (I would add, there are many others, including passages from Dvořák's Rusalka). He also makes an very interesting comment: many have noted similarities of this work to music by Sibelius and Mahler - but these similarities are to works which follow rather than precede Asrael.
Thanks to Bělohlávek for bringing this masterwork to Washington so successfully - and thanks also to the National Symphony for an extraordinary performance.
The Pražak Quartet performed in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress on February 1, 2001. The concert began with Alexander Zemlinsky's String Quartet no. 1 in A major op. 4, written in 1896. According to the excellent program notes provided by Norman Middleton, music specialist in the Library of Congress Music Division, this and other Zemlinsky chamber works were performed under the sponsorship of the prestigious Wiener Tonkünstlerverein (Vienna Musicians' Society). Brahms, who was the honorary president of this society, is said to have admired these works. Although this quartet is firmly rooted in the refined, beautifully constructed style of the Brahms tradition, it is also a forerunner of the great works of the Schoenberg circle. Thus, it was particularly appropriate to hear it in this historic hall, which has been graced by many memorable performances of twentieth-century music. This work also recalls the sophisticated, elegant spirit of Prague which delighted in Art Nouveau. Like many of Zemlinsky's works, it provides a wry commentary on Czech musical trends.
The work was approached with reverential care; every detail was scrupulously treated and placed convincingly within the phrase, the section, the work as a whole. The long line of the work in the expression of Leopold Mozart, the thread or "filo" -- was always there, serving as a current of emotional as well as structural coherence. The performers conveyed a serene, buoyant, tender mood which was highly appreciated by the audience.
The interpretation of Janáček's String Quartet no. 2 (Intimate Letters) revealed the coherent psychological basis of the work. As the composer himself indicated, the melodies of the work are ablaze with his love for Kamila Stösslová. Janáček's stubbornness, passion, even the sound of his beating heart were brought to life in burnished sound. The high standard of the ensemble's performance was evident in the technical precision with which the hauntingly beautiful effects were achieved - not merely harmonics, but harmonics which were fully appropriate to the emotional context; not merely sul ponticello, but a shiver of the soul.
The concert closed with Dvořák's Quartet in A flat major, op. 105, written partly in America at the end of Dvořák's sojourn in New York City and partly in Bohemia. This selection honored the Library's Music Division, which owns a fragmentary sketch of this work. It is interesting to note that this composition is roughly contemporary with the Zemlinsky quartet which opened the concert, but contains much more daring chromaticism and structure. The performers once again sought the personality of the composer to bring this shapely, high-spirited the work to life. The kinship to the composer's American Quartet was evident, but one also sensed his satisfaction at returning home, to a straightforward and satisfying family life among friends. It takes great skill to give transcendent beauty to such music without sacrificing its simplicity, and the Quartet met this challenge very successfully.
Like several other distinguished Czech ensembles, the Pražak Quartet was formed at the Prague Conservatory by students, and it sustains the distinguished performance tradition of that institution. It does not perform as four highly individualistic personalities who converse with each other, but as a fully unified group which can communicate musicality which is the product of shared experience. High professional standards, acute musical intelligence, and maximal use of a broad pallette of expressive means are taken for granted. The sound is resplendent but always appropriate to the mood which is conveyed. One senses a strong sense of responsibility for performance, an imperative to honor the composer and to satisfy the listener. And the Coolidge audience, by tradition one of the most critical of all audiences in America, responded with a standing ovation.
-submitted by Judith Fiehler
The Winter semester 2001 marks a new class at the University of Michigan, "Slavic Vocal Literature," taught by Timothy Cheek and Martin Katz. It consists of seven weeks of Czech art song repertoire followed by seven weeks of Russian art song literature, with guest lecturers. The class consists of six singers and three pianists, culminating in a class recital.
-submitted by Timothy Cheek
Projects in Progress...
A Note from the Secretary
Did you realize that it has been almost a year since the on-line bibliography for the Czech and Slovak Music Society was updated? Now I know you have been contributing great things to the world of knowledge since then, but I haven't heard from you. So I'm taking this opportunity to make a general plea for news of your activities in the Czech and Slovak realm. This includes books, articles, lectures, conference papers, concerts, courses taught, etc. For a review of what has been included in the bibliography so far, visit: http://uweb.ucsb.edu/~jpearl/csms/csmsbiblio.html
CSMS Secretary and News Gatherer
Editio Resonus Prague presents
A Collection of Musicological Papers and Essays (A Commemorative Book for Oldřich Pulkert)
Ivan Bittner: Sbírka autografů ze Státního oblastního archívu v Litoměřicích
Jaroslav Maček: Litoměřická katedrála sv. Štěpána a hudba
Hans-Werner Kuethen: Eine Miszelle zur Beethoven-Ikonographie
Wolfgang Reich: Vide Domine laborem meum
Hubert Unverricht: Die Auseinandersetzung um das Pianoforte in Schlesien vor 1800
Jiří Vysloužil: Alois Hába von heutiger Sicht gesehen und gewertet
- Zikmund Michal Kolešovský
- Joseph Haydn, Koncert C dur pro violoncello a orchestr
- Souborný hudební katalog
- Odchod Františka Škroupa ze Stavovského divadla
- Dopisy Bedřicha Smetany Františku Ulmovi
- Josef Ferdinand Norbert Seger
- Otakar Ostrčil. Šef opery a místoředitel Národního divadla ve světle dokumentů
- Nad operou "Švanda dudák" Jaromíra Weinbergera
- Dramatické dílo Leoše Janáčka na scénách opery Národního divadla v Praze
- Historické aspekty námětu Beethovenovy opery "Fidelio"
- Sociální podmínky umělecké tvorby Karla Ditterse z Dittersdorfu
- Karl Ditters z Dittersdorfu. Šest symfonií podle námětu "Proměn" Publia Ovidia Nasona
Tomáš Kühn (ed.): Písňová tvorba českých a světových autorů. Aktuální problemy tvorby, interpretace a recepce. Sborník z mezinárodní konference v Plzni 4. a 5. 10. 2000 / The Song Writings of Czech and World Composers. Contemporary Problems of Composition, Performance Practice, and Reception, Plzeň, Katedra hudební kultury Zapadočeské univerzity, October 2000 (contains papers on R. Schumann, J. B. Foerster, V. Novák, P. Eben, Z. Lukáš, K. Pexidr a.o.; in Czech, with short English summaries)
Pavel Jirák - Rudolf Schebesta (ed.): Jihlava 14. 10. 2000. Mezinárodní muzikologická konference k 140. výročí narození Gustava Mahlera [sborník přednášek] / The International Musicological Conference of the 140th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Mahler [Symposium of lectures], Jihlava, Muzeum Vysočiny, 2000
B. Stockigt: Jan Dismas Zelenka (1679-1745). A Bohemian Musician at the
Court of Dresden, Oxford University Press, November 2000.
For more information, see < http://www.music.unimelb.edu.au/about/stockigt.html >
Opus musicum 32, No. 6, December 2000: Papers by Milan Pospíšil, Eva Paulová, and Jana Vojtěšková presented to the musicological symposium "The Criticism towards Antonin Dvořák and its Motives" (Prague, Sept 2000) - and many other interesting articles and news (in Czech)
James Clements (ed.), Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber: Missa Christi resurgentis, 'Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era' 107 (AR-Editions: Madison, WI, 2000). ISBN 0-89579-473-X. ISSN 0484-0828.-from the CSMS discussion list
SU 3011-2 231
One CD 75:09, recorded 2000
Petr Eben Songs
Pečková, Ivan Kusnjer
Petr Eben, piano; Jan Peruška, viola
This is a truly outstanding disc of songs by one of the leading Czech composers at the turn of the new millenium, Petr Eben (b. 1929). Five song cycles covering the years 1951-1963 are sung with beauty, attention to detail--both music and words--and complete commitment, by the great artists Dagmar Pečková and Ivan Kusnjer. Petr Eben himself is the collaborative pianist for four of the cycles. He plays with absolute command of his own works, a beautiful variety of colors, and an obvious love and understanding of the voice. The remaining performer is the exemplary violist Jan Peruška, in the Písně nelaskavé with Pečková. A better performance of these songs cannot be imagined--the intensity, depth of expression, dark colors, and absolutely perfect ensemble of this duo bring to life an unusual work exploring the turmoil and pain in troubled relationships.
The Písně nelaskavé are framed by earlier, more accessible works, mostly celebrating love. One can easily trace Eben's style from his most popular songs Šestero písní milostných of 1951, which still retain their freshness; through the even more passionate Písně nejtajnější of 1952; the clever folksong arrangements Písně z Těšínska of 1952; the beautifully-set German songs Sechs Lieder nach Gedichten von Rainer Maria Rilke of 1961; to the jarring intensity of the Písně nelaskavé of 1963. The musical style is Eben's throughout, but each cycle has a "voice" of its own. Texts range from medieval sources, to Czech translations of Persian mystics, Rilke, Silesian folk texts, and even Eben's own words.
An outstanding disc, it is a climax to the earlier Signum recordings of Eben's songs. We can only hope it will be followed with another CD of Eben's remaining five cycles and various other songs that extend to at least 1981, and we can be sure that many of Eben's songs will more frequently join the body of international art song recital programs.
-submitted by Timothy Cheek
If you have comments or suggestions, contact Brian Locke at firstname.lastname@example.org
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