'Piano Concert at Freedom House Cherished as Indelible Experience'

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), April 24, 2000 | Go to article overview

'Piano Concert at Freedom House Cherished as Indelible Experience'


For Hana Dvorakova, wife of Czech Charge d'Affaires Milan Hupcej and a concert pianist, her most important performance in Korea was a recital in Panmunjom.

``It was a very unique experience with North Korean soldiers marching only a few meters from the piano,'' she recollected of the April 1999 event at Freedom House.

It was the first concert held at the inter-Korean border area since the two Koreas reached the Armistice Agreement in 1953.

Holding a concert at the very place where the two separated countries face each other meant a step toward reunification, and adding to the significance was that Dvorakova hails from one of the four nations of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission appointed by China and North Korea. The NNSC is a multinational body set up to supervise the two Koreas' conformity to the Armistice Agreement.

Six years ago, she moved with her husband to Asia and lived for a short while in North Korea and China before coming to Seoul.

``My husband's fluency in Korean helped us to very quickly make new friends in this country and to realize how much Koreans love classical music. So I started performing again, playing mostly the music written by my country's foremost composers - Smetana, Dvorak, Martinu and especially Leos Janacek - one of the most original composers of the 20th century whose music I adore,'' she says.

Dvorak and Smetana found inspiration in Czech folk songs and dances, Janacek invented his own musical language from dialects spoken in the Moravian region where she was born.

``For people raised faraway from Europe, it is not easy to find the differences between Brahms, Cajkovsky and Dvorak or Chopin and Smetana. Many young Korean musicians are very gifted and hardworking and I enjoy helping them get closer to understanding the music written by Czech composers. For instance, polka, which is originally Czech is erroneously known in Korea,'' she added.

Her music complements very well her husband's work and she feels happy contributing to the promotion of her country's culture.

At her residence behind the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon, she offers her guests Czech music before serving native dishes. She has played at many other occasions, ranging from the Czech national day celebration, opening a new university concert hall to charity fund raising events and concerts for students of Czech languages at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies where there are now 160 students.

She has also performed with many Korean musicians - string quartets, violinists, pianists and orchestras.

Among them was pianist Park Chi-hye, wife of ex-vice minister of foreign affairs and international trade Lee Ki-ju, who passed away last week.

``I cannot believe her death. We gave the Korean premiere of ``Bohemian Forest,'' Dvorak's piano cycle for four hands. She was outstanding not only as a pianist but also as the wife of a diplomat,'' Dvorakova commented in tribute to the late Korean pianist.

Mrs. Dvorakova hopes the cultural diversity of her country can become better appreciated in Korea.

``I was 20 when moving to Prague so I can still share the excitement visitors feel about the city. Prague is not only a textbook of architectural styles from the 11th century but also many periods of history, it has truly been a gate through which a stream of European cultural influences has flown into central and eastern Europe and vice versa. It is an island of multicultural and multilingual characteristics with strong Czech, German and Jewish elements. The overall atmosphere inspired many artists such as the great poet Jaroslav Seifert, the Nobel literature laureate in 1984, and Franz Kafka who lived there and wrote in German.''

The Moravian-born woman also recommends that Koreans travel outside the capital. ``Most of my Korean friends have been to the Czech Republic but they visited only Prague. …

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