Magazine article Czech Music

Ebony Band around Prague 1922-1937

Magazine article Czech Music

Ebony Band around Prague 1922-1937

Article excerpt

Text: Eng., Ger., Fr. Recorded: 2012, 2013 Musiekgebouw aan't IL, Amsterdam, 2000 Muziekcentrum Vredenburg, Utrecht (live). Released: 2013. Tr: 78:26. DDD.

CD Channel Classics CCS 34813.

Following the concert given by the Netherlands's Ebony Band at the 2004 Prague Spring festival, I wrote: The Ebony Band set out on an adventurous journey of seeking out and bringing back to life a forgotten repertoire. The prospecting zeal of Werner Herbers, the ensemble's artistic director, is contagious and the results are convincing indeed. The seeking in libraries, archives, private collections and personal effects has brought unique discoveries. The favourites of the Ebony Band's repertoire include Czech interwar music, which Herbers refers to as a 'bottomless treasure trove'." Ten years on, all this still holds true: admiration for the music of interwar Czechoslovakia continues to drive the Amsterdam-based artists forward. Their latest disc features compositions by Miroslav Ponc, Hans Aldo Schimmerling, Emil Frantieek Burian, Alois Raba and Viktor Ullmann, the representatives of the Czech- and German-speaking avant-garde in Czechoslovakia at the time. Their music reveals an enchantment with jazz, Dada, Expressionism, and is imbued with unsentimental lyricism and the urgency of those who wanted to be heard, mocking conventions, fidgeting with tones and, veiled in irony, raising serious questions. The CD's centrepiece is the 1926 incidental music by Miroslav Ponc (1902-1976) to Jean Cocteau's Les manes de la tour Eiffel, from which the conductor Stepan Koniaek put together a suite in 1981. Ponc, a pupil of Alois Halm, employed the quarter-tone piano and harmonium in the suite, whose sections serve as a sort of guide through the walk "around Prague" between 1922 and 1937.

Ponc's The Wedding Party on the Eiffel Tower is the album's oldest recording, made in 2000, while the other compositions were directly recorded for the CD. The Six Miniatures for Chamber Orchestra by the Brno native Hans Aldo Schimmerling (1900-1967), one of the many artists driven out of Europe by the Nazis and finding refuge in the USA, who, however, did not forget about his homeland. E. F. Burian (1904-1959) is represented on the CD by the Small Overture and the song cycle About Children, to Frantisek Branislav's and Josef Hora's verse. …

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