Thurs, Feb 17, 2011: Livingroom Musicians
It’s often pointed out that people in the Czech Republic generally have a special love and special talent for music. Is this just a stereotype? or is there some truth to it? And if so, what’s the secret?
You can find a hint at the answer by looking at the Herold Club (Heroldův Klub) for chamber music.
The Club’s sort-of logo is this illustration of musicians playing — with a classic living room lamp squarely among their instruments. “According to the old tradition, we try to overcome the gap between amateurs and professionals,” explains Svatopluk Krupička, a leader of the club and very kind, gentle retired chemist and amateur violinist.
He tells Opus Osm that the club basically appeals to three types of members: those who don’t play at all, those who prefer to play with others but only at home, and those who perform in concert. The concert performers may be amateurs or professionally-trained musicians who may or may not also have day jobs.
“Therefore, in our concerts you will meet both types of players, and often in active cooperation,” Mr Krupička says. “This helps us keep a proper level and attractiveness of the concerts and also gives an opportunity to those who had abandoned their professional careers and changed to some kind of regular jobs.”
The concerts are open to the public; remaining performances are scheduled for Feb 25, March 25, April 29, and May 27.
Herold Club membership is open to anyone who likes chamber music. The Club sponsors about seven concerts per year, maintains a relatively large archive of sheet music, and mainly encourages members to get together in local living rooms to play just for the joy of it. All for the hefty annual dues of 100 Czech crowns (roughly $5.50 or 4 euros) a year.
“As a Club we don’t have any rooms, so our friends have to play or prepare their performances at home or somewhere else,” explains Mr Krupička.
The tone for the Herold Club was set back in the late 1930s. It was founded in 1938 by amateurs, as well as professors or lecturers from the then-new Technical University, and quickly attracted family members and friends. It was named for Jiří Herold, a famous violinist with the well-known Czech Quartet (which also included Josef Suk). Mr Krupička describes Herold as “a well-appreciated man and artist, an intellectual with a broad spectrum of interests, kind and noble-minded.”
By the time the Club was actually organized, though, both Herold and Suk had died. But the remaining members of the Quartet — violinist Karel Hoffman and cellist Ladislav Zelenka — sat right down in those living rooms and played with the amateur members of the new club, thus continuing its kind and noble-minded intentions. The tradition lives on thanks to the dedication of its current members.
Perhaps that’s as much a basic part of Czech music as its technical virtuosity.oo
Photo Credits: Illustration: Heroldův Klub