Doc. Jan Grossmann

How was this year’s Forfest, an international festival of contemporary music and arts with spiritual orientation in Kroměříž? What was different from last years? What was its direction in the history and now?

It is quite difficult to write about a festival, which is quality, but does not seem to develop. We cannot talk about stagnation, because it means start of a downgrade. In my opinion, we can talk about stopping its development, about conservation of values, clinging on the same people, interpreters, and ideas, which proved good.

Because I blame the organizers for they stopped improving the quality of the festival, in the same breath I must say it was a quality festival with many top events. Does it look like a contradiction? However, it is not, last years were admirable for excellent level of the majority of concerts, for interesting various (but not always pronounced) dramaturgy, for real dishes from many authors from all the continents. It is thanks to that Mr. and Mrs. Vaculovič know many artists from almost whole the world.

What were the pillars of the festival?

First of all
Author concerts, which proved good already in last years
Recitals of concert artists and ensembles, the quality was again very good, but mostly dramaturgical
Recitals of concert artists and ensembles, their quality was again very high
Mix programs, which were interesting for its diversity, but mostly not for unequal dramaturgy
And finally, performances, which are very modish in Euro-American area, but the majority of them did not have understandable sense and logic and looked almost dirtily.
Between the pillars of the festival belonged also three-day biennial colloquium. The topic was „Spiritual Streams in Contemporary Arts“, it is such a wide topic, that almost everybody could participate on it.

This year author presentations were added. Titles often collide with the titles of author concerts (even the organizers had problems with that sometimes), but it was not and should not) be the same. Author concerts were live productions, while author presentations were rather afternoon or evening gathering, listening to interesting records of compositions not played in the concerts. There were not so many people; I think it can be an interesting part of festival in next years.

On that occasion, I recommend the organizers to devolve the preparation and leading author presentations to several musicologists, publicists and other specialists, who are also experienced speakers.

I was thinking about this idea again when I visited „Prostorový koncert pro děti“ last day of festival, lastly it became an educational concert. Thanks to an attractive and competent speech of Mrs. Vaculovičová and properly selected compositions from the 20th century, perfect interpretation and comments of the interprets the audience did not want neither the moderator or leavers of Conservatory of Evangelic Academy go home for a long time.

I would give the same recommendation for preparation and moderating colloquiums. For example, the quality of this year’s colloquium moderated by Swiss Andreas Kröper, born in Germany and speaking fluent Czech, was really high.

Which events held my interest the most?

For example some of the author concerts:
Sevenfold “Missa – electro-acoustic mass” by Rudolf Růžička, which was made in “The Experiment Studio of Slovak Radio” in Bratislava and in “Audiostudio of Czech Radio” in Prague. The original music inset by parts from significant religious works from many eras sounds politely, still it is ravishing. It is supposed both for concerts and for mass.
The first real peak of the festival was an author concert by an untimely death Canadian composer of Czech origin Andrew Yin Svoboda and Czech legendary composer Alois Piňos. It sounded like from one author. I was thinking about the reason. Material and its prehension? Definitely not. Creative poetics? No. It had to be caused (except of similar atmosphere) by similar spiritual and emotional anchor of compositions. Therefore, the dramaturgy of concerts was famous. Both compositions by Piňos were a strong experience; quinary silently contemplative and also passionate “Invocation”, very interesting timbre “Thanks for every day”. An amazing experience was listening to Svoboda’s monodrama “Martin Středa” (his own libretto). A topic about political prisoners in pits in Jáchymov in notorious 1950´ is still actual. Philosophical and spiritual context gave the drama a mystic sense.

From author presentations:
Primarily, night presentations of selection of „Preludes and fugues“ for piano by Vladimír Bokes. Almost instructively clear music, plastically modeled and colored, with a sophisticated development in choral parts evokes a question, why only a selection? And a sigh – a pity that the present author did not bring any CDs with a possibility to buy
Reputedly a very interesting profile of Romanian composer living in Germany Violeta Dinescu as well as other free events I could not visit because of urgent labor service.
A projection by Lidia Zielinska from Polish Poznan after two years allowed the audience to learn something new from her work. She presents her works in Poland and abroad, teaches composition and is a lector on composer courses around the Europe. She belongs to reputable authors of „text-sound-composition“, electro-acoustic, multimedia creation and musicologists – she attends to musical ecology and relations between composition and sounds of environment;
In the case of an event of Mr. and Mrs. Vaculovič in a garden studio, I was sorry that only invited guests could listen to such interesting compositions. „Grail“, a composition by American composer Theodor Wiprud composed as a reflexion of a picture with the same name by Václav Vaculovič. Also „Seven Last Words“ for solo piano by American composer Petr Knell reflecting pictures by Rolf.
An author presentation from the last but one day was almost a mix type, „Dva kusy pro klarinet a violoncello“ by Ilja Zeljenka based on the principle of college, 3rd sentence from „Trio pro housle a violoncello“ by Sofia Gubajdulina and „Concerto grosso No. 1“ from baroque season of Alfred Šnittke.

From recitals of soloists and ensembles, owing to an interpretative mastery and forcibility, I would choose:
Violoncello solo recital by Jiří Bárta, his conception of „Blues song“ by Mark Kopelent, „Dvě nokturna“ by Petr Pokorný and really brilliant „Suita pro sólové violoncello“ by Peter Graham;
an organ solo recital performed by Jaroslav Tůma and mainly „Affresco sinfonico“, Op. 22 by Viktor Kalabis, with a strong expression, interesting accord work , multi-layers and imaginatively structured colored and dynamic factor. Rather classicist “Two Choral Preludes” by a composer and organist Bedřich Janáček
a violoncello recital by Jan Řezníček, piano accompaniment Eduard Spáčil. I cannot forget his very insistent, colored, microintervalistic music „Cadenza senza“ by Siegfried Steinkogler, which was composed specially for the Forfest festival and it was the world premiere. Brno composer Evžen Zámečník was introduced by a classicist sonata for solo violin „Ortel samoty“ devoted to Petr Bezruč and its interpret J. Řezníček.

Recitals by a young Polish violinist Anna Zielinska, a renowned interpret of avant-garde compositions for solo instruments, in combination with a second instrument, with tape or EA sounds, and a soprano singer with a perfect voice Kristýna Valoušková, which was already in last years of Forfest. Unfortunately, I could not visit these events because of my labor service.

A recital by a young Slovak cimbalom player of a Magyar origin and living in Germany Enikö Ginzeryové impressed the audience by fantastic possibilities and effects of this originally folk instrument. Also impressions by György Kurtágo were quite interesting, but I was more impressed by three perfect timbre compositions: “Santur – schnelle zupfe” by Hans Joachim Hespos, they were the best compositions of the evening. It was full of

To write responsibly about a recital performed by Martin Opršál and Martin Kleibl, percussionists from Brno would mean to write a whole article. Especially compositions by Jannis Xenakis – “Rebonds”, part b and Jacob Druckman “Reflections on the Nature of Water". Also some others were delicate, e.g. „Vůz sena“ by Zemek, „ … vanutí…“ by Emmert, „To the Earth“ by Frederic Rzewsky or „Percussionismus“ by Kateřina Růžičková. And, of course, „Capriccio for vibraphone, marimba and a percussions“ by Miloslav Ištvan. Many articles were written about Martin Opršál and his master hood. I am not sure if somebody has mentioned Martin Kleibl studying at JAMU. He showed his great talent, adulthood and extraordinary technical level.

The last concert I would like to accentuate for the quality of performing artists, program and dramaturgy is the concert of Chamber orchestra Berg with perfect soloists-violoncellists Jakub Tylman and Jan Szakál, accordionist Milan Osadský and experienced conductor Peter Vrábel. It was a dignified end of the festival. Both „Nocturno“ – a piece by Ivana Loudová and „Homage a concerto grosso“ had written by a young author Robert Hejnar or „Last Seven Words of Jesus on the Cross“ by Sofia Gubajdulina. It was a symbolical defile of the best pieces Forfest is able to offer.

I mentioned the end of the festival, I will return to the beginning and the opening concert. The soloist was a Dutch pianist of Israel origin, a unique artist and although he looks only shortly middle aged, he is already world famous – Yoram Ish-Hurwitz. Zdenka Vaculovičová noticed that this year they plan to confront contemporary spiritual works with chosen spiritual works from the history. The first confrontation was in the Evening of Sonatas (Joseph Haydn „Sonata in G major“ for violin and piano, Jiří Matys „Sonata No. 6“for solo violin, Robert Schumann „Sonata“, Op. 105 for violin and piano. I was (and still am) embarrassed: What did the organizers plan to achieve by this program? Compared to this, inviting Yorama Ish-Hurwitz was an excellent dramaturgical enterprise. He offered e.g. „Premiere Année - Suisse“ and „Deuxieme Année - Italie“ from not often performed but grandiose opus by Franz Liszt „Years of Pilgrimage“ („Années de Pelerinage“). He played brilliantly without a tawdry pomposity, with perfect work with details and understanding of human, philosophical and spiritual message of a ripe Artist. To etch in, in 2001 the artist recorded „Années de Pelerinage“ for Turtle Records and in 2003 it was released as world-unique album.

I think only such confrontations with exceptional spiritual treasures, especially works unjustly forgotten like in the case of „Années de Pelerinage“, can give Forfest remarkable renown and exceptionality.

How will the Forfest festival engage us in the next years? Will it manage to hit new and untutored roads?

(And will the sponsors and institutions provide sufficient financial resources?)

Doc. Jan Grossmann
composer / Ostrava University, CZ /

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