Thursday, May 24, 2012: Marek Kopelent’s Night

Opus Osm

Czech composer Marek Kopelent was spotlighted at Prague Spring's recent 'Evening with Marek Kopelent.'

Marek Kopelent’s Night

The musical biography of Czech composer Marek Kopelent, although heart-breaking at times, also has its triumphs. So it was a pleasure to see Mr Kopelent recognized with his own “Evening with Marek Kopelent” concert May 16 as part of the 67th Prague Spring Festival.

Even though, at this evening at St Agnes Convent, the honoree didn’t say a word. He let his music do the talking, music including his Agnus Dei featuring soprano Irena Troupová.

Mr Kopelent was born in Prague in 1932, studied composition at the Academy of Performing Arts (HAMU), and gained considerable fame in the Europe of the 1960s for his unique contemporary music. He was also an important part of the “Prague Group of New Music” bringing together composers, musicologists, and music interpreters.

It must have been an exciting time for new music.

In 1969, though, someone else was getting excited about the music: the government authorities. Mr Kopelent accepted a year’s internship in West Berlin, and upon his return to Prague, found his music banned by the Czechoslovak government. The ban lasted 20 years.

In the meantime Mr Kopelent took a job as a piano accompanist for children’s dance schools. He continued composing, but his works were performed only abroad. Only now is Mr Kopelent hearing some of them for the first time.

Opus Osm

Soprano Irena Troupová

Soprano Irena Troupová studied singing and musicology, specializing in Baroque music. But after the Velvet Revolution she moved – and stayed – in Berlin for the next 16 years, performing all over Europe. When she returned to Prague in 2007 “I got in touch with several Czech composers and found I like the special challenge of contemporary music,” she tells Opus Osm. “I sang some songs by Petr Eben, even with him personally at the piano,” and has performed several concerts featuring Mr Kopelent’s works.

So what does his music mean to her?

“It’s hard to say,” she confesses. “Simply, I feel addressed by Mr Kopelent’s music … . I had already noticed it when I performed his singspiel, Musica, the story about a poor artist who doesn’t submit to the establishment for money.” She also “got in touch with” some of his instrumental pieces. “I feel a kind of message in all of them,” she says.

About the Agnus Dei, she says, “The text plays the key role – the interconnection of the Latin Catholic liturgical text with Martin Luther’s ‘storming’ – his very strong admonitions and denunciations,” she explains. “It’s very impressive for me.”

Yet, the soloist and teacher at Brno’s Janáček Academy and at Masaryk University cautions, for a singer, “It is certainly very difficult. Some intervals are hard to learn and to sing precisely; the rhythm is extremely varied. But it’s not without its purpose. You can find your way in it, even though when I practice it I sometimes get frustrated!”

But there’s a great satisfaction for both the singer and the audience in comprehending “the spirit” of the text.

Simply, “You have to be open to the particular contrasting emotion of each unit,” she says. “You have to express fear, hope, anger, prophetic pathos, and even childish simplicity.” — oo

– Mary Matz, with staff assistance

Photo Credits: Prague Spring Music Festival 2012 website

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