Magazine article Czech Music

2014: Year of Czech Music-Creativity and Co-Operation

Magazine article Czech Music

2014: Year of Czech Music-Creativity and Co-Operation

Article excerpt

Within another Year of Czech Music, we will again focus on the anniversaries of a number of Czech composers, musicians and ensembles, both in the Czech Republic and abroad. The patrons of the project, are the world-renowned mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena and her husband Sir Simon Rattle, chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker. What will the Year of Czech Music be like? What should its outcome be? What can we expect over the next 12 months?

The Year of Czech Music concept has a long tradition in the Czech lands, dating right back to the magnificent festivities marking a Bedrich Smetana anniversary in 1924. Under the auspices of Leos Janacek, Brno too held events reflecting contemporary music. The year 1954 included commemoration of the anniversary of Antonin Dvorak's death (1904). The 1974 edition was a typical product of the "Normalisation" cultural policy in the wake of the Warsaw Pact invasion in 1968, promoting traditional Czech music and boosting its export, yet as regards contemporary music only offering space to members of the official composers unions. The 1984 project further continued in this direction. Amid the dynamic post-revolution political situation, in 1994 there was no endeavour on the part of the government to provide incentives and co-ordinate the transforming institutions; what's more, there was an evident distancing from any previous practice, albeit rooted in an older era and the general cultural custom of the European region. The centenary of Antonin Dvorak's death, on 1 May 2004, the very day of the Czech Republic's accession to the EU, and the 50th anniversary of Leos Janacek's death served as an impulse for revival of the "Year". Spontaneous preparations for the celebrations of anniversaries, of these two composers in particular, were accompanied by the "Czech Music 2004 -An Integral Part of European Culture" programme as a tool of state financial support and promotion, as well as an instrument of motivation for implementing projects and reflecting on Czech musical culture as such.

This year's vision is based on approximately 90 momentous anniversaries of composers, performers and organisations, this time not only those relating to classical music but also folk, jazz and alternative, encompassing professionals and non-professionals alike. Its purpose is to reflect and support the natural synergies of the Czech Republic's musical culture, as well as robustly promoting Czech music abroad, leaning on the names that are a reputable Czech cultural "trademark".

In addition to Dvorak and Smetana, we are celebrating an anniversary of Leos Janacek (b. 1854), who alongside Dvorak is the most popular composer abroad. Furthermore, we will recall the late-Romantic and Art Nouveau inspired work of Josef Suk (b. 1874), Antonin Dvorak's son-in-law and a member of the celebrated Czech Quartet, whose symphonic Arad (1906) and orchestral Raduzand Mahulena (1898) are sought-after works worldwide, primarily owing to the conductor Libor Pesek and his younger colleague Jakub Hrusa, who will present Asrael on 15 April 2014 in London together with Antonin Dvorak's celebrated Cello Concerto in B minor within a remarkable Czech music cycle he has organised in tandem with the Philharmonia Orchestra.


Another artist whose anniversary we will be celebrating in 2014 is the Baroque master Jan Dismas Zelenka, whose works are mainly championed by the brilliant ensemble Collegium 1704, who on 31 July are scheduled to perform his Lamentationes Jeremiae Prophetae at the international music festival in Cesky Krumlov. (Supraphon is preparing a recording of the composition.) Programmes made up entirely of Zelenka works will be presented on 8 April in the Czech capital by the Prague Symphony Orchestra and on 3 May in Munich by the Chor des Bayrischen Rundfunk.

Significant anniversaries relate not only to composers but performing artists too, including those of the Czech soprano Tereza Stolzova (b. …

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