A Little Tuesday Night Music

Opus Osm

The Stamic Quartet performed at the 591st Tuesday meeting of the Czech Artists' Association (Umělecká Beseda) Tues, May 21.

It has been 150 years since the foremost Czech artists, musicians, and scientists started the Czech Artists’ Association, whose primary purpose was to elevate and promote Czech arts within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Mozart would be proud.

The Association (Umělecká Beseda) continues today, and in honor of this Tuesday get-together tradition, this year the Prague Spring festival programmed two evenings of contemporary Czech music. Concerts at St. Agnes Convent Tues, May 21 and 28, showcased the works of modern Czech composers as well as the talents of young performers.

The first concert featured the well-known Stamic Quartet and the Prague Wind Quartet; the second was presented by Ars Cameralis, the Prague quartet which focuses on both Early and very contemporary music.

The first evening opened in the modernist fashion with the world premiere of Lukáš Hurník’s Rearrangement for Violin and Piano with Jakub Fišer on the violin and Daniel Wiesner on the piano. As the composer explained in the program brochure, he wanted to demonstrate what happens to the basic tune when it is interrupted by a twelve-tone theme.

Ars Cameralis performed at the following, 592nd meeting, May 28.

The other compositions echoed modernist, less melodic patterns, such as Jaroslav Rybář’s piano piece Four Fantasies after Klee, performed by Jan Dušek, on the creative art process of Paul Klee.

The Czech composer Ivana Loudová stirred the audience with Planet of Birds II, an interesting fusion of violin and a recorded electronic track. First the violin played against an electronic hum, which later transformed into the chime of gongs, bells, and whistles while the violin stopped. Then the sounds became pure bird chirping. Truly, the sound of the planet of birds.

All the composers attended the concert with the exception of Klement Slavický (1910-1999), a very important persona on the Czech classical scene. A talented artist, and composition student of Josef Suk, he resented the Communist authorities and had to face denial and isolation. The evening presented first his String Quartet No 2 by the Stamic Quartet, and later the talented Barbora Krištofová Sejáková captivated the audience with the delivery of Slavický’s Etudes and Essays for Piano.

Barbora Kristofova Sejakova

Barbora Krištofová Sejáková

This work consists of seven movements, and Klement Slavický was able to show the whole spectrum of the piano sound, alternating between dynamic etudes and meditative, fantastic essays.

Opus Osum asked Barbora Krištofová Sejáková what her impressions of the evening were. “Performing at the Prague Spring festival is one of the highest achievements for every musician,” she says. “But I can recollect only small details, like the evening sky above the convent, the song of the blackbird in the garden, and most of all the joy and gratification of the people in the concert hall.”

Gratification that included three ovations for the pianist from the people in the concert hall. — oo

– Zuzana Sklenková

Photo Credits: Top and Bottom: Prague Spring website; Center: Miroslav Setnička

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