The Year of Bohuslav Martinů in New Yorku - Opening

13 Jan 2021 31 Jan 2021 The event takes place online

This year Czech Center New York will bring you programming dedicated to the composer Bohuslav Martinů. We are opening the year with expert commentary from Michael Beckerman as well as contemporary recordings of Martinů's works from prominent Czech opera singer Kristýna Kůstková and talented American pianist Isabel Keleti. In the coming months, we will bring you masterclasses, concerts, online exhibitions and more thanks to our collaboration with Czech and American artists and collaborators. This project is a part of Czech Center New York's four-year cycle inspired by The National Museum Prague's project dedicated to famous Czech composers Janáček, Martinů, Smetana, and Dvořák.

Aleš Březina, leading Czech expert on the life and work of Bohuslav Martinů has this to say about the great composer's importance today:

"Martinů is an essential composer because he has a lot to offer not only to connoisseurs, but also for less experienced audience and really anyone who likes classical music of previous centuries. His music reflects many influences including early polyphony of Notre Dame, Italian renaissance madrigal, German and Italian baroque, Viennese classicism, New Objectivity, neoclassicism, jazz of the 1920s, Stravinsky's Russian period, and sound experiments of post-war music. He combined all of this and more into fiercely original musical language that is unmistakably recognizable after just a few bars. His music is understandable and beautiful–he even wrote down in his notebook that "After all, music has to be beautiful, otherwise it's not worth the effort."

The first recording of our Year of Bohuslav Martinů is from the Concert Against Totalitarianism, which took place in November 2020 in Prague.

Songs on two pages, seven songs an Moravian folk poetry were composed by Bohuslav Martinů in 1944 while he was exiled in New York and are based on the Moravian songs collection of František Sušil.

The songs are preformed by Kristýna Kůstková, an excellent soprano and a student at HAMU as well as Mannes School of Music in New York and Martin Kasík, a leading Czech pianist and a professor at HAMU.

Concert Against Totalitarianism is an annual event held in the Martinů Hall at the Liechtenstein Palace of HAMU, The Academy of Performing Arts in Prague’s Music and Dance School. It commemorates the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and International Students’ Day, which started after the tragic events of November 17, 1939. The concert offers a unique opportunity for students and their professors as well as alumni to perform together and it features works by composers affected by totalitarianism or even directly persecuted. 

Michael Beckerman is the Carroll And Milton Petrie Professor of music at NYU and a leading American expert on legendary Czech composers. Here he speaks about what Martinů brings to contemporary American listeners:

Another musical treasure is Dumka No. 3 and The Fifth Day of the Fifth Moon performed by Isabel Keleti, a young and talented pianist originally from Kansas.

Isabel Keleti, who is an alum of Mannes School of Music in New Yorku where Bohuslav Martinů used to teach, plays his pieces Puppets a Julietta:

Martinů lived abroad for most of his life

Bohuslav Martinů has left behind a vast musical legacy.

His works include over 400 compositions, from shorter pieces to six symphonies, several operas and ballets. Over his lifetime, Martinů absorbed several artistic styles including impressionism and neoclassicism, he was inspired by rannaissance and baroque music jazz and ultimately fiercely independent in his style. 

Like many others, he has achieved greater acclaim abroad than at home during his lifetime.

Read more in this article by Radio Prague International.

On-line exhibit Famous Czech Composers is available to the National Museum Prague website here.
The National Museum Prague has also prepared a publication as a part o their Famous Czech Composers project – see more info here.
Partners of the event

Information summary

  • Event title: The Year of Bohuslav Martinů in New Yorku - Opening
  • Date: 13 Jan 2021 31 Jan 2021
  • Address: The event takes place online
  • Organizer: Czech Center New York, DAHA, Bohuslav Martinu Institute, New York University, Curtis Institute of Music, Mannes School of Music

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