Meet Mr Teml

Composer Jiří Teml congratulates organist Irena Chřibková immediately after the world premiere of his organ concerto.

He started out as an economist, then became a radio music producer; but this FOK composer-in-residence has found his own unique musical voice.

“My musical career has not always been easy and straight-forward,” admits Jiří Teml, writing in the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) program book. “On the contrary, it has followed a rather unusual path.”

Trained and working in the field of economics, he began taking private music theory and composition lessons stretching over 10 years. Like many successful composers, his “real” career didn’t begin until he was in his 40s, working as a music producer at Plzeň Radio.

His first critical success had come just a few years earlier, in 1972: his Fantasia Appassionata for Organ earned third prize at the Prague Spring Festival. Today his compositions for orchestra, chamber ensembles, vocal and choral groups, individual instruments, and even two children’s operas fill his long list of accomplishments.

Jiří Teml

The Job of Composer-in-Residence
Following the FOK’s December world premiere of his Concerto for Organ and Orchestra No 3, Te Deum Laudamus, we asked Mr Teml a few questions about his work. First of all, we wondered what his duties are as the Prague Symphony Orchestra’s composer-in-residence.

“In contrast to the common practice where the composer offers his work for a music institution to perform, (former) FOK director Ilja Šmid offered me the chance to perform some of my compositions in the 2012-13 season,” he tells Opus Osm. “Due to the fact that the FOK reconstructed the ‘royal instrument,’ the organ, I accepted the offer to write an organ concerto.” In the program notes he explains that the organ has been a part of his life for a long time, “from working as a performer in churches in the West Bohemia region, to composing extensively” specifically for it.

Try Before You Buy: The Municipal Library has several of Mr Teml’s CDs, two dozen music scores, and a biography (in Czech) about the composer. Check the Central (Mariánské Náměstí) and Bohnice branches.

He tells Opus Osm, “I love working with color groups and the individual instrumental colors of the organ. This is undoubtedly related to my continuing interest in the visual arts.” But he cautions, “Although the organ is usually found mainly in spaces such as cathedrals, this concerto is not designed solely as a way to show off the instrument.” He chose it and the solemn Gregorian chant Te Deum Laudamus, in addition to other reasons, as “another symbol of victory over the bad and negative phenomena of contemporary life.”

A Color-filled Conversation in Music

You can listen to a short excerpt from Mr Teml’s Concerto for Organ and Orchestra No 3 by clicking here.

The resulting piece presents a gift of glorious sound, from the “buzzing bees” of the strings to the towering majesty of the organ.The first part of this single-movement concerto forms a dialogue, “a conversation between a solo instrument and the orchestra,” the composer tells us. “The second part works just with the most color options of the orchestra. The tremolo and solo strings evoke the necessary tension for this somewhat mysterious part.

“With this and the other more impressionist colors and effects, and the percussion and organ, I try to interpret an atmosphere of the uplifting spiritual values which are increasingly disappearing in the middle of our hectic life.”

Guest conductor Alessandro Crudele leads the FOK in Mr Teml's world premiere.

The third and final section continues, like a mirror, to reflect the chaotic pace of our times and other negative tendencies, he explains, and it “culminates in intensive sound, the full text of the hymn Te Deum Laudamus emerging from it like hope.”

And what can we look forward to next from Mr Teml? “At present, there is minimal demand for new classical music,” he says. “However, I still have more to do.”

As part of his residency, he has also written a “tiny piece” with a folk flavor, Rondo for Bagpipes. “And now,” he adds, “I’m preparing a larger stage work inspired by the work of Franz Kafka.”

Proving that still, Mr Teml’s musical path is rich and textured, but anything but straight-forward. — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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