PhDr. Elena Letňanová /SK/ - art historian, pianist, musicologist, STU Bratislava

International Music Festival - XXVI.FORFEST CZECH REPUBLIC 2015

PhDr. Elena Letňanová /SK/ - art historian, pianist, musicologist, STU Bratislava

The article for Czech leading music magazine OPUS MUSICUM 4/2015




One of the important events of this year's Festival FORFEST CZECH REPUBLIC - The International Festival of Contemporary Art With the Spiritual Orientation - was awarded by the prestigious prize of the Czech Music Council and entered into a wider European project EFFE (Europe For Festivals, Festivals For Europe). The award was given at the press conference on June 23rd at the City Hall in Kroměříž by PhDr. Lenka Dohnalova and PhDr. Jaromír Javůrek, the President of the Czech Music Council.


The Festival FORFEST 2015 was held in the spectacular space of the Archbishop's Chateau again as in the previous years. And continued with the idea of musical experimentation in a pleasant atmosphere of the gardens which were designed by Italian architect Giovanni Pietro Tencalla. Since 1998 the gardens were proposed for the list of UNESCO Heritage.


Festival activities have been in the centre of the public interest in the world already for more than a quarter of century. In this season 2015, the leading Czech institutions, artistic associations, and guests from ten European and overseas countries participated, among them Germany, Austria, Poland, Italy, San Marino, Ireland, Hungary, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, and USA. The program of the XXVI. Festival Edition presented in a representative selection 34 events, including 14 concerts with 18 premieres (7 Czech and 11 world premieres). Furthermore, an international conference, entitled "Spiritual Currents in the Contemporary Art 2015", were held this year, with other events like 5 audition concerts with significant Works by R. Berger, J. Hanuš, Robert Hejnar, Arvo Pärt, A. Piňos, further two exhibitions by the Irish painter Tommy Barr and the author of music and fine visual objects by Márton Barabbas from Hungary. Except for this also two visual and additive performance projects by Kotvan-Letňanová, and Vít Zouhar). The weekly composition courses for young composers with an international participation of lecturers and students were also held.


The festival had a long prelude in the form of several events. It was a renewed premiere of Painted Songs by Jan Hanuš, the composer, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth. The purpose was to remind his Works of the prominent Czech composer dedicated to children. Pupils of the Music School from the city of Kojetín were singing.


An additive concert dedicated to the to anniversary of the most significant Slovak composer, Roman Berger, brought an introduction of an electro-acoustic expressive composition Transgressus, and equally amazing Epitaph for Copernicus. Transgressus was also transmitted live, by the Czech Radio and continued by a subsequent discussion about the 25 year lasting history of the Festival FORFEST. Among the invited members of the discussion were: Czech composer Jan Vrkoč, Slovak pianist Elena Letňanová, and Zdenka and Václav Vaculovič, and the music editor in the Czech Radio, Mr. Jan Hlaváč. The discussion was focused on the issues of musical life in a European context and in Czech domestic environment.


The following day, the festival continued with two concerts - an audition event of an extensive Berlin Mass by Arvo Pärt, and very well prepared Italian Ensembles from Bologna. They introduced several Czech and world premieres. A unique assembly of outstanding cellists caught our interest in the Czech premiere of „AH“by Massimiliano Messieri. It was a trio with an interactive electronic system, reflecting pleasant southern temperament. We liked also to listen a grateful composition by Lawrence Casserley Sette Pagine to L'Enigma del Bianco.


"Music-visual performance of Dr. Elena Letňanová and architect Peter Kotvan / Bratislava / had a captivating atmosphere not only due to the romantic evening in the Assembly Hall of Kroměříž Castle, but thanks to the charm of the main protagonist also, who transformed the original compositions into the color images. First, she played the composition (Bach, Chopin, Liszt, Grossmann, Graham, Bartók), then she played that composition again on the paper with colored fingers. The colors were selected by the architect and the pianist and corresponded with the style and period of the given composition and so they have not led to any rigid „art of chance". A series of paintings originated straight before the eyes of the audience and possessed a desirable expressiveness and were inventive in of colored nuances. An intuitive feeling of the form in the contemporary art has been currently a dominant element in the multilateral postmodern multicultural situation ". (Excerpt from the criticism by V. Vaculovič)


The opening organ concert of Karel Martínek in St. Wenceslas Cathedral in Olomouc brought a realization of a four movemental work by Frantisek Emmert „Song of Solomon“ (Jana Krajčovičová - soprano, Bara Kozáková - violin, viola). By this event the Festival FORFEST paid a tribute to the recently deceased author, who has been one of the most important Czech symphony authors of the post-war period (he wrote 26 symphonies!).

In the organ recital of Karel Martínek, he was stunning and radical in the dynamic organization of piece VOLUMINA, written by the classic of the 20th Century music- György Ligeti. The soloist used up almost all sound potential of the organ. A virtuoso work, Toccata, by Miloš Sokol followed. We have aesthetically experienced almost the mystical soprano colored harmonies of Frenchman Jehan Alain – in his Le Jardin suspendu (SUSPENDED Gardens) and ALSO some Messiaen-like atmosphere, composed still before the musical language of Messiaen, which was based on modes. Also, the work of Petr Eben Choral Fantasy of St. Wenceslas was presented, with a demanding pedal technique. Valuable final improvisations of Karel Martinek, with the six-tone theme of FORFEST, brought a rare contribution to this outstanding concert.


This year, an ensemble Brass Sextet of Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic Orchestra, was established. A such cast is really rare at the festivals / the following players were: Vít Otáhal - trumpet, Macek Zdenek - trumpet, Daniel Mlčák - horn, Jakub Zívalík - trombone, Vít Pospíšil - trombone, Miloslav Žváček - tuba /. The ensemble played the premiere program; it was the author’s concert of Aleš Pavlorek. The level of the instrumentalists can be compared with the best ensembles of this type. „Hukvaldské echo“for the brass sextet was full of fervor expression and atmosphere of Janáček´s Hukvaldy with a masterful understanding. The highlight of the concert was compositionally interesting premiere „Alea iacta est“. The whole evening was conducted by Aleš Pavlorek.

The violin recital of Marie-Petříková Gajdošová was an important deed: she presented six complete violin sonatas by Jiří Matys. This cycle of demanding compositions, which differ by wealth of motivic and rhythmic feeling, requires high concentration. The soloist performed with an incredible ease, confidence and persuasion, and with precise intonation and phrasing.


An experimental project of the couple Sarah and Ivo Medek was held in the late hours due to light effects which complemented an atmosphere of this attractive evening. Young and purely poetic Sarah Medek started her recital with the premiere of her own composition entitled „For Piano“. The inventive sound composition "Inside I", in which the both artists created sonoristic and mystical structures, transformed with vocal sounds, used the front of the keyboard and the rear strings part of the piano. The highlight of this evening was a 24-minute "neo-romantic" typical American piano music „De Profundis“ by Frederic Rzewski with theatrical elements, singing of words and the screening of American texts on a giant screen (for voice, video-art, and piano). „De Profundis“is a composition full of pain, meditation, and philosophical reflection about an existence of an imprisoned soul.


Cello recital of an outstanding German soloist, Friedrich Gauwerky, with the revealing title "Der Glaube - The Belief", was one of the highlights of the festival. The program was really well thought through- started with a Bach´s Suite For Cello Solo No. 1, in G major, continued by John Cage, the best composition of the evening - György Kurtág "Az Hit" (I Believe), Karlheinz Stockhausen pieces from "Amour" in the transcription by Gauwerky. The recital ended with an important work of English composer Peter Sculthorpe „Requiem „from 1979. It was a beautiful composition with a soulful conclusion and mature interpretive mastery of the soloist, and made a dignitary point behind the recital of a distinguished guest.


Color experiments with the sound of an electro-acoustic music, called acousmatic as well as, were the main accent of a concert with a creative duo of Michal Rataj and Ivan Bores (guitar), under the title „Sounds in the Veil of Silence“. Their concerts have an increasing tendency. Consistently quadraphonic arrangement of sound and tonal masses that exhausted the entire dynamic range, were reasonably played out in a somewhat treacherous acoustics of the largest Rococo hall in the Czech Republic.

One of successful concerts was the performance of the Ensemble Camerata POLYZOIDES from Vienna / Demetrius Polyzoides - violin, viola, Elisabeth Polyzoides-Baich - violin, Michael Polyzoides - cello, Janna Polyzoides - piano / .The Greek-Russian-Tatar-Czech program introduced e.g. work of Czech composer living in the USA, Karel Husa - Sonatina For Biolin and Piano and 5 Impromptus by Miloslav Ištvan for piano solo (which are still today excellent pieces), performed with exceptional understanding. Duo Polyzoides played for the first time in the Czech Republic a dodecaphonic composition with a loose and extended tonality "Duo for Violin and Viola" by the Greek author Nikos Skalkottas, the student of A.Schöenberg. The concert ended with the works of Erwin Schulhof for violin and cello, full of sudden mood brakes.

Ladislav Doležal within his piano recital introduced the premiere of Piano Sonata No. 5 by Pavel Novák-ZEMEK, composed on a fragment from Mozart. A paradigmatic and reliable performance was a challenge to play from a triple stave, playing with one hand - the left one. Bass position with the pedal a bit lost in this challenging structure with the leaps into extreme positions. The soloist played the whole concert without sheet music /! /, including the works of Vítězslava Kaprálová at the occasion of the 100th anniversary of her birth, an early group of "Five Piano Pieces" with Romantic-impressionistic harmony, and American Lowe Libermann´s introductory "Gargoyles" op. 29, as the Czech premiere. The recital continued with the world premiere of the Czech flutist Lenka Kozderková entitled „Larus“/ in translation: Sea Gull /. It took nearly an hour of electro-acoustic composition full of nostalgic shades and quality play of this outstanding flutist.


Vít Zouhar, already renowned protagonist of the Czech musical minimalism, surprised again with a new type of creation. His multimedia project called "The Garden“ was made for the Rotunda of Flower Gardens. He captivated the cultivated listeners with musical therapeutic effects. Some listeners could lie on several sofa bags, and might be fully devoted to sounds of the nature, birds singing, staged in an electronic palette into the space of three points, i.e. the mixing counters, controlled by the author's team of members / Gabriela Coufalová - thrush, woodpecker, hornet, rain, creek, frog, Aeolian Harp, lap top, Jaromír Synek - woodpecker, creek, frog, leaves, Vít Zouhar - nightingale, cock, hornet , gutters, rain, Aeolian harp, etc. / Throughout the whole long composition one can not deny his wit, imagination, and leading the listeners back to nature and its natural rhythms / idea of J.J. Rousseau /. The author raises the question of the subtle boundaries of music, where the music ends and where begins / as once said J.Cage /. And an ambivalence similarities between artificially generated composition and a real natural sound. This is again a surprising connotation with the Baroque tradition which Zouhar raised and brought out in his operas and other compositions.


Piano dual recital of a Czech pianist Jan Stojánek and Slovak Dušan Šujan offered relatively rare opportunity for a comparison of two different approaches - lyrical „Bagatelles“ by Valentin Silvestrov, performed by Stojánek versus a sovereign passionate and demanding play of Šujan in Moyzes´ Sonata from 1944, with an extensive fugue and selection from the poetic Preludes "12 + 1" by Slovak author Peter 'van Grob' Martinček, where was important dynamics and quality of each tone and bass figures. We heard also the premiere of „Four Impressions“by Peter Machajdík in a mature and soulful performance of Dušan Šujan.


From Prague Trio Eufonico / in arrangement: Kateřina Chudobová - flute, Růžena Sršňová - violin, Simona Kalendová - piano / each of the soloists showed their technical and interpretative qualities. The beginning of Variations For Flute and Piano by Otmar Macha sounded mysteriously. Trio for flute, violin and piano “From the Life of Honeybees” by Czech composer Jan Vrkoč was as lively, vibrant, and engaging. The author gave almost a philosophical subtext to the life of honeybees. The Czech composer, celebrating this year his jubilee of 80s, Jiří Teml, wrote a composition for this ensemble "Trio Eufonico" with a strong internal tension, the piece was made up from just three-tone motif. The both authors were personally present and welcomed by numerous audiences.


The Brno children's choir Cantilena with a choirmaster Jakub Klecker and Michal Jančík performed compositions by Benjamin Britten - Missa brevis in D, Robert Hejnar - Ave Maria, Arvo Pärt - Peace Upon You, Jerusalem. There is no doubt about quality of these authors. Britten's short and harmonically simple Missa brevis remained in memories of young girls, as well as AVE MARIA by young and excellent emerging composer Robert Hejnar. The main focus of the evening was Te Deum of František Emmert with soloists: Hana Škarková - soprano Lucie Hilscherová - alto, Jakub Janšta - organ.


The exhibition of the Hungarian renowned author Márton Barabbas / the participant of the 26th Biennale in Venice / in Library of Kroměříž, brought his mini-retrospective of book objects, which were often inspired by music. He uses its own font and tactile experience. His work is closely connected with music of Beethoven and Bartok, as well as with the fragrance and contents of the books. There are only fragile, almost imperceptible borders between these worlds. The author's interference of these two positions creates a visual metaphor of a deeper sense of what is the art object and sculpture. During the opening ceremony of the exhibition, Zdenka Vaculovičová presented the Czech premiere of "Four songs" for solo violin by German composer Widmar Hader, who was also present.


Opening of the exhibition of Irish artist Tommy Barr in the Gallery of Arthur had the name “The Eternal Circle”. This exhibition was specially created for the festival and corresponded with the tradition of the Czech symbolism. The square format of abstract paintings brought some connotations of Irish history with the history of Czech lands.


Listener's events in the Garden studio had been having a longstanding tradition and brought many of discovery probes into a little-known work of renowned authors - especially from Czech and Slovakia. This year's program focused on the compositions of jubilee composers Alois Piňos (his team composition from the 60s of the 20th Century), Jan Hanuš (Sinfonia Concertante), author from Bratislava-Roman Berger and eminently spiritual composer Robert Hejnar (Concerto Grosso, Piano Concerto, Stabat Mater) and Arvo Pärt (Berlin Mass).


FORFEST belongs to the oldest cultural events in newly restored democracy of the Czech Republic. The festival presented a dozens of exhibitions, hundreds of concerts, hundreds of recording hours for Czech Radio and Czech Television, hundreds of premiered compositions (in average 20 to 30 premieres each year). And festival directors Zdenka and Václav Vaculovič´s cooperated throughout its duration of 26 years with dozens of main institutions in home and abroad.


Concerts and exhibitions were held this year in four cities - Kroměříž, Olomouc, Brno and Bratislava, using mainly representative spaces of the Archbishop's Chateau and Gardens in Kroměříž - especially the beautiful and unique environments of newly reconstructed Flower Garden and the Cathedral of St. Wenceslas in Olomouc connected with the deep Czech history of Václav II. During the days June 23-25, 2015, was held also an International Biennale of a three-day musical and visual Colloquium on "Spiritual Currents in Contemporary Arts", with a brief subtitle "Future Vision". The conference participants reflected the causes, reasons of the current state of art, a routing of current developments and expectations of today's man, regarding the art. The Festival colloquium welcomed a number of Czech and foreign experts (see the conference schedule).


Doc. PhDr. Elena Letňanová, STU Bratislava

Mudroňova 95

811 04 Bratislava, Slovak Republic


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