PRESS RELEASE 7 September 2021
The Divine Rascal. A man who needed to live as free as a spring bird, flying freely and creating freely even if it meant becoming a lonely and migratory bird. An individual of elegance and noble character. This is how people remember Jan Novák, a composer linked to Brno who was born a hundred years ago this year. Much of the 51st annual Moravian Autumn International Music Festival, which begins on 1 October, is dedicated to his work. The festival will showcase orchestral and chamber concerts, theatrical performances, recitals, projections and a kid’s programme over seventeen days.
It is a piece by Novák that will open the festival. The opening concert will begin with his Philharmonic Dances, which he composed in 1956 for the then newly established Filharmonie Brno. “He was expressing his gratitude for the favour and courage which the orchestra and its first Chief Conductor, Břetislav Bakala, had shown to him when they named him as a representative of new Czech creators at the Warsaw Autumn 1956 festival, even though Novák had made his critical stance towards communism abundantly clear,” says Marie Kučerová, Managing Director of Filharmonie Brno, who are hosting the festival. The opening concert will also feature the Czech premiere of Nachtmusiken by contemporary Austrian composer Kurt Schwertsik, who filled this five-movement composition commissioned by the BBC with nostalgia and melancholy, and the musical depiction of night-time delusions. The second half of the evening is taken up with Philip Glass’s latest symphony, which had its Czech premiere when it was performed by Filharmonie Brno at this year’s Prague Spring, if without an audience in the hall. In his Symphony no. 12 “Lodger”, Glass puts David Bowie’s lyrics in his album of the same name to music. He wrote the solo singing part for Angélique Kidjo, the “Queen of African music” and triple Grammy award-winner, and she will be there for the Brno performance. All this under the baton of Chief Conductor Dennis Russell Davies, Glass’s close friend and collaborator.
Novák’s work is also showcased in an evening featuring his chamber compositions, a recital by promising Brno pianist Jakub Sládek, and in the weekend marathon, Joannis Novak 100. Friday 8 October to Sunday 10 October will see the world premiere of pieces on Novák’s Latin poetry, a projection of a film containing Novák’s music and a recital by his daughter Dora Nováková – Wilmington and his cousin, opera singer Richard Novák amongst others. The climax of the Novák programme is the world premiere of the theatrical performance incorporating a live orchestra, Coach to Vienna, which came about in collaboration with Brno National Theatre. It is based on Kachyňa’s cult film, for which Novák composed the music. “It is an exciting project for me, and I had to write my own script, which is an adaptation of Procházka’s story of the film and Novák’s music, coming together to produce a unique staged version. The performance will show evident inspiration from the film, but I got most inspiration from Novák’s music, which is mostly in the background in the film version. In the staged form of Coach to Vienna, it will play the main role. And that’s one reason why we put the Ensemble Opera Diversa orchestra itself onto the stage, where it becomes a part of the set,” explains author of the stage adaptation, Štěpán Pácl.
Besides Novák, the festival is also focusing on two other dramaturgy focal points: minimalism, and Armenia. “If Neoclassicism was one of the main movements in the first of the 20th century, which lingered on in subsequent decades in the work of Jan Novák, amongst others, then minimalism can be said to be the movement which took over the initiative in the second half of that century. The festival provides the opportunity to compare current trends in American, Russian and Czech minimalism,” explains programme director Vítězslav Mikeš. American minimalism is represented in the work of Philip Glass, and not just at the opening concert, but also in Cello Octet Amsterdam coming together with pianist Maki Namekawa. Glass’s music for the films The Hours and Dracula will feature in their Czech premiere, while the world premiere of Vit Zouhar’s Zvlněná hladina (Wavy Surface) will feature as an example of Czech minimalism. The audience will get to know Russian minimalism through Vladimir Martynov’s oratorio, Children of the Otter. This will be performed by Tuvan group Huun-Huur-Tu alongside Martynov and under the artistic direction of legendary violinist Tatiana Gridenko.
Through its invitation to folk group The Naghash Ensemble, the festival is expressing its support for war-torn Armenia, while also joining in the celebrations of thirty years since its independence. “The Naghash Ensemble is performing its Songs of Exile, in which it puts to music the sacred texts of mediaeval Armenian mystic poet and priest, Mkrtich Naghas, performing a profound meditation on man’s relationship to God from the perspective of a monk forced to live many years in exile,” says Mikeš. Germany’s most prominent classical music radio station, BR Klassik, described Naghash Ensemble concerts as “a very moving combination of Armenian folk and spiritual music and contemporary classical music,” while The Rolling Stone magazine termed them “a moment of grace and meditation”.
The festival concludes with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Eduard Topchjan. The evening programme offers not just a representative cross-section of 20th century Armenian orchestral music, but also three completely contrasting compositional approaches to Armenian traditions: Tigran Mansurian focuses on spiritual inwardness, Avet Terterian has created his own orchestral world of sound based on studying traditional music, and finally Aram Khachaturian has managed to make special use of Armenian melodic lines in his symphonies, subject to the “diktat” of the Soviet aesthetics of his time..
Neither does the seventeen-day festival neglect so-called early music, and audience members can look forward to Antonín Rejcha’s L’Art de Varier performed by Serbian-American pianist and mathematician Ivan Ilić, Renaissance polychoral vespers performed by a number of cutting edge ensembles, and French group Le Poeme Harmonique, amongst others. Taking part in the organisation of this year’s programme as well as National Theatre Brno were Masaryk University and the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts.
Tickets are available from Filharmonie Brno advance sales, or on the website filharmonie-brno.cz. You can also set up your own so-called “Create the Festival” in which you can purchase tickets for a number of concerts and enjoy a discount such that the greater the number of concert tickets you purchase, the greater the discount you receive.
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