Magazine article Czech Music

The Prayers and Czardas Of: Agnes Kutas

Magazine article Czech Music

The Prayers and Czardas Of: Agnes Kutas

Article excerpt

The end of 1st year turned the spotlight on three Czech women singers (Or more precisely three women singers living in Czechia"), who seek and find inspiration in folk musik. Iva Bittova out-shone the acclaimed Netherlands blazers ensemble, and as they tried to get a grasp of her musik and Janacek's she gave them a lesson in spontenaity. At the request of the Partnership Foundation, Zuzana Lapcikova recorded an album about trees, Strom zivota [The Tree of Life]--and managed to breathe life into it with a highly individual folk mythology based on humility and a sense of deep connection with nature.

But these are two very well-known and even quite famous names, of course, and what is interesting Is that a new face is appearing beside theirs. It belongs to a woman who has already been living here for twenty years, but has not yet attracted so much attention. As her Internet page puts it, her music is "free of ingrating looks and fluttering eyelashes and seasoned with hot Hungarian paprika ... Her pieces are quite prayers, but sleeping in those prayers is a fiery czards, which when it wakes devours everything in reach ..."

Late Developer

On a first meeting with the Hungarian from Brevnov Agnes Kutas, you may well be inclined to compare her with Iva Bittova. It's a comparison to which she is used. "It's very natural--I'm a woman, I sing and I accompany myself on the violin," she says. Both of them also have the blood of more passionate and fiery nations running in their veins. On the other hand, Agnes Kutas goes on to stress that "I love Iva Bittova, but I don't think that she's directly influenced me."

In her music she derives free inspiration from Hungarian folk music. Sometimes she simply sings in traditional style, or sometimes she simply uses a text to which she composes her own melody. At other times she borrows a particular motif, but then builds her own composition on it with her violin or viola, or even uses the text of one folk song with the melody from a completely different piece. For Agnes Kutas folk music is a building malerial, which she uses with complete freedom. Interestingly, however, she came to music quite late.

Agnes Kutas decided to come to Prague when she was twenty one. Before that she had studied applied graphic art in Budapest, but it had failed to engage her. She turned to the idea of studying puppet theatre, but since there were no courses on the subject available in the Hungarian capital, she applied to the Prague department of stage design.

Not surprisingly then, her first musical performance was associated with the theatre. Live music was needed for a production of Gogol and Agnes let slip that she played the violin. Later she joined the Tuju theatre company, established by the stage designer Tomas Zizka, whom she later married. For their production of Kleopatra they created a whole music ensemble and Agnes wanted to add singing to playing. "When I asked in the group if they knew anyone who would teach me, they recommended Jana Lewitova."

She started to take lessons with Lewitova, and at the end of each lesson she was always supposed to have worked up some thing to sing, "1 was getting bored always singing the same songs, and so I started to look for others." Gradually she built up a repertoire by arranging folksongs and adding her own.

Her relationship with Jana Lewitova ceased to be just one of student and teacher, and the two musicians began to perform together. The results are recorded on the album Hale dite, for which Agnes also designed the jacket, but recently there have been very few joint concerts. …

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