Metamorphoses: Czech Smetana!

In the Year of Czech Music, our festival is very happy to join in the congratulations on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bedřich Smetana. As the theme Metamorphoses: Czech Smetana! suggests, listeners will not only enjoy the original versions of the compositions of the founder of Czech music and his contemporaries, but they will also learn about the contemporary practice of arranging compositions for larger ensemble into chamber form, from solo piano to small ensemble. Most classical music lovers of the time got to know the compositions in such arrangements intimately from their home music-making. All kinds of selections, arrangements and potpourri played a vital role in the dissemination of this repertoire and helped also to expand people’s knowledge of it in the era before the invention of reproduced music.


The significant jubilee of Bedřich Smetana literally invites a critical examination of his legacy for Czech and European music of the 19th century. We also want to look at how closely related the Czechness of Smetana’s musical expression is to his familiarity with the most modern currents of European music of his time. Exclamation Czech Smetana! expresses the intention to critically examine the extent of the conscious search for Czech musical expression that was Smetana’s explicit artistic goal. How significantly he succeeded in this endeavour is evidenced, among other things, by the fact that Bohuslav Martinů, who was born just a few decades later, could set French and English librettos to music without his music ceasing to sound Czech. And the following generation did not even need to proclaim the provenance of their music, because thanks to Smetana’s founding work and the compositions of his most important followers Dvořák, Janáček, Suk, Martinů and others, this was no longer necessary.


An interesting perspective of the music of Czech composers from the “outside” will be provided by the festival’s artist in residence, who this year is the internationally respected Finnish composer, pianist, and conductor Olli Mustonen. He will perform in three concerts featuring the music of Martinů, Smetana and Dvořák, and three of his own compositions will be performed at the festival. The opening concert at the Kyjov Community Centre will even feature the world premiere of his flute concerto Sadunkertoja:  “Sadunkertoja is a Finnish teller of stories with a mysterious, almost mythical atmosphere. He is close to a sorcerer or a snake charmer. He is someone who starts telling a story in such a powerful and hypnotic way that the listener is transported to another world – and that is the role of the flute in my new concert. There are also elements close to the great Czech composers (Smetana, Dvořák, Martinů and Janáček) who were also so strongly inspired by the world of fairy tales and their country’s fascinating folk culture,” says Mustonen, who will open the festival together with the PKF – Prague Philharmonia Orchestra and Danish flautist Janne Thomsen.


The festival will feature the complete chamber works of Bedřich Smetana, including a representative selection from the composer’s extensive piano legacy, interpreted by top Czech performers (Jan Bartoš, Ivo Kahánek, Martin Kasík, Lukáš Klánský, Miroslav Sekera, Matouš Zukal and the piano duo Igor Ardašev – Renata Lichnovská). A selection of Smetana’s early works will be performed in a joint concert by three leading young pianists Klára Gibišová, Nora Lubbadová and Alexandr Klement. There is also a number of very attractive concerts by great solo instrumentalists (Josef Špaček, Jan Mráček, Petr Nouzovský, Anna Paulová, etc.), the Eben Trio, the Pavel Haas Quartet, the Zemlinsky, Bennewitz and Suk Quartets, the Kalabis Quintet for winds, and in addition to the mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená, lovers of operatic voices will be delighted to hear also Simona Šaturová and Jan Martiník. The eagerly awaited concerts of Iva Bittová and the Jedlinský – Fischer Duo, the dynamic Epoque Quartet and evenings with the ČaroTaJ group will be a crossover into other musical genres. Distinctive accordionist Aliaksandr Yasinski will perform a programme of his own music.  Exclusively for the festival, a top piano trio consisting of members of the Haas Quartet and pianist Boris Giltburg will perform major works of Czech literature for this arrangement.


A special feature of its 29th year and another festival metamorphosis will be a trio of leading Czech conductors as instrumentalists: Tomáš Netopil as violinist, Jiří Rožeň as pianist and Petr Popelka as double bassist.


Aleš Březina, dramaturge