In 1950, the Czech Nonet was administered by the Ministry of Information, on a trial basis. After that the abolishment of a communal form of clustering (The Abolishment of Communal Form of Clustering Law from 19 January 1951) and the decision of the Ministry of Education and Education of the Public, the Czech Nonet was formally attached to The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra as its chamber ensemble. At the same time, the Nonet was given their own rehearsal hall, the lounge in Rudolfinum. A new door was open for the Czech Nonet. During the following years, some other personnel changes came. Josef Simandl, Rudolf Lojda, Oldrich Uher, Václav Zilka, Jaroslav Rezác, Václav Vodicka and Arnost Charvát were among the newcomers.
The following period may be characterized as a time without fear for the Nonet’s own existence. The Nonet gave many concerts abroad. In 1954 they visited Moscow, St. Petersburg, Minsk, Kiev, Vienna, Graz and Linz. In 1955 and 1956 they mostly performed at home. In 1957 they visited many Italian cities and towns, Poland, Germany, and the Salzburg and Budapest festivals. And they did not forget about the more rural Czech towns where they performed the Václav Dobiás Nonet ’On My Home Country’.
It is also very interesting to note that in 1957 the Czech Nonet undertook an extended tour of South Africa. Rudolf Lojda who took part in this tour wrote:
’The South African concert life, most of all the music, hardly existed before WWII. The European and world artists had left this country completely out. After the war, thanks to the fast and everyday connection with Europe and most of all thanks to some music enthusiasts and excellent organizers, the South African concert life was greatly developed.
A few societies handle the chamber concert organization. Musica viva is the most important one. We were honored to be their guests. This organization has got several hundreds of members who can hear a number of outstanding artists per year, all for a rather low subscription of a few sterling.
The opening concert of our tour took place in the large Johannesburg City Hall on 4 June. The hall was of poor acoustics and not a very pleasant one, taking 1800 people. On program there was the Beethoven Septet, the Children’s Suite by J Jaroch and the J Novák Baletti á 9 came after the interval. The full hall as well as the critique of all Johannesburg magazines on the following day accepted the very first concert very warmly. And it was the same at the following two concerts in Johannesburg, on 6 and 22 June. This time in a university hall (for about 1200 people) of good acoustics and a pleasant atmosphere. At the first concert of these two, we played the Beethoven Piano Quintet with the South African pianist A Hallis, the Nonet Fairy Tales by Karel Srom and the Czech Nonet foundation work – the Spohr Nonet. Among the encores, there was the world-premiere of the Bohuslav Martinu Polka, transposed –with the author’s agreement – from a piano original by Jan Novák. At the final Johannesburg concert, there was the Mozart Divertimento with a Johannesburg Radio Orchestra violinist playing the second violin, the Prokofiev Quintet, the Isa Krejcí Divertimento and the Dvorák Serenade. All such composed programs turned out to be absolutely correct and provided a full scale performance of the Czech reproductive art, as well as presenting the contemporary Czech compositions in the correct proportions.
However, the Czech Nonet’s most important part of everyday work during the first three weeks was the one in the Johannesburg Radio. We recorded most compositions of our present repertoire. The vast majority was by the contemporary Czech authors. In the radio, we played in programmes of three types: most of all at the public concerts in the radio studio, in the presence of the audience invited by the radio corporation (about 150), mostly broadcast live or straight after the concert, then recording on the cassettes, and finally recording the permanent recordings for the South African Radio which may be broadcast more times. At the public concert we presented the Palester, Kalabis and Dobiás ’On My Home Country’ Nonets on 7 June, the Vranicky Oboe Quintet, the Srom Fairy Tales and the Hába Nonet No.3 on 15 June; the Mozart Divertimento, the F Skvor Nonet, the Isa Krejcí Divertimento and the Egon Kornauth Nonet. On the cassettes for one broadcasting there were: Myslivecek, Beethoven, Spohr, Smetana, Zich, Rídky, Srom, Novák, Jaroch, Hurník, Flosman, Berkovec. And the Prokofiev Quintet, the Smetana Czech Dances, the nonets by Hába, Novák, Rídky and the Children’s Suite by J Jaroch were to stay in the South African Radio for good. The radio work was extremely difficult – not only for the enormous extent of the composers presented (26 authors), which is unusual for chamber ensembles, but even for orchestral tours. This meant a new programme every day, necessarily having been prepared when still at home. The work was even more difficult since the recording time allowance was rather limited, given by local habits. For example, to record a difficult radio programme – Spohr, Jaroch, Zich, Flosman, where at home we have a four-hour recording session for each one, we had about 3 hours altogether. On the other hand, we have to point out the great understanding of both the technicians and the director which crossed the frontiers of official work and became a very friendly mutual cooperation. We were taken by the high technical quality of our recordings. Despite the great exertion, two facts speak out for the musical standard of the recordings. Most of all, just after the first recordings as well as at the end of the tour a recording company wanted to buy some radio recordings directly in order to make records. And the second one. Mr Gideon Fagan, the South African Radio Music Broadcasting Director, said on the eve of our farewell the Czech Nonet recordings were the best recordings the South African Radio owned. Putting into consideration how well-known artists and ensembles travel to South Africa after WWII and record for their Radio too, this was a very precious approval.
From severe and too civilized Johannesburg we flew to the beautiful Capetown. On the following day, there was a concert in a famous nearby African university town of Stellenbosch, a public concert in Cape Town followed and the last concert of the tour took place in Port Elisabeth.
All Czech Nonet concerts were very successful. One could quote the hillarious critiques from the newspapers of all towns visited, and in both official languages, English and Africaans. But it happens some artists pick the positive critiques only and are silent about the negative ones, for the favour of their popularity. Although this cannot be the case, let us see to the fact that both the tour principal organizer of Musica Viva and his deputies and the local organizers expressed their wishes spontaneously, even in a form of a concrete proposal, that the Czech Nonet could come back to tour in South Africa within the time limit of two or three years. This is the most precious approval of Czech art, both performing and composing. Furthermore, it was reached after successful tours of our leading chamber ensembles. And being won by an ensemble of an unusual composition, rather unknown to the audience, with a repertoire focusing on contemporary Czech music.
Should we see the list of compositions and the percentage of Czech contemporary composers, performed in South Africa by the Czech Nonet, we can easily say no other chamber ensemble had successfully performed so much contemporary Czech music abroad at once. The warm atmosphere at the concerts as well as the very positive critiques were gratifying. For a performing artist it is always an unusual experience when the audience gets the musical joke of a contemporary composition at once and shows it on the spot and loudly, as in the case of the Sorm Fairy Tales, the Isa Krejcí Divertimento or the Jaroch Children’s Suite. Or if a critic, both verbally and in a newspaper article asks for an encore of a movement from a contemporary work at a following concert (from the Jan Novák Nonet in Cape Town). The warm acceptance of the work by Dobiás, Hába, Folprecht, Rídky etc. by the audience, by critics as well as the organizers, was gratifying as well. It was clear the healthy realistic Czech contemporary music was clear even to a distant South African listener, even though they had acquired it in the concert of the Czech Nonet to such extent for the first time.’
The late 1950’s were also a time of other extensive touring. Following are newspaper article excerpts illustrating the Czech Nonet’s tours of the period.
Czech Nonet turns Moscow on
Moscow: On Wednesday the Czech Nonet gave their only Moscow concert. In front of the discriminating audience, the leading musicologists, critics and executive artists present, they performed the Prokofiev Quintet in G minor, the Bohuslav Martinu Nonet and the Beethoven Sextet in E flat major. The audience accepted the performance with a great enthusiasm. Our artists took four encores – one of the Smetana Czech Dances, the Jiri Jaroch ’Tag Game’ and the Jan N Vitásek Menuet. By the Moscow concert the Czech Nonet wound up their succesful USSR tour. They gave two concerts in Leningrad and other ones in Kiev, Mukatchevo and Uzhghorod. (Lidová demokracie, Prague, 24 December 1959)
Salzburg (sm) – In Austrian Salzburg, there is one of the greatest festivals taking place at present. From Czechoslovakia, the Czech Nonet took part. The first concert was awaited with a great interest and expectations as there was a Bohuslav Martinu world premiere composition on, dedicated to the ensemble by the composer himself. The concert was broadcast by 17 radio stations and the Austrian press approved the ensemble greatly as well. (Siena, Bratislava, 14 August 1959)
Czech Nonet to Poland
The Czechoslovakian Nonet, a chamber ensemble of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra went on a tour to Poland. They are going to perform a world premiere of the ’Dance Preludes’ by Wilold Lutoslawski, a Polish composer. (Nova Slobodan, Estrada, 29 October 1959)
After the Lodz and Lublin concerts
The Czech Nonet gave a concert in the Czechoslovakian Culture Centre in Warsaw yesterday. The compositions by Josef Bohuslav Foerster, Alois Hába, Antonín Vranicky, Bohuslav Martinu and Bedrich Smetana were greatly accepted by the audience. The Witold Lutoslawski composition premiered in Poland by the Czech Nonet was taken especially well. (Vecerník, Bratislava, 3 November 1959)
Czech Nonet celebrates
Last week the Czech Nonet returned from their very successful tour to Hungary and after many concerts at home they are going on tours to Poland and the USSR. In February, they are going to play in West Germany and the Netherlands, in April to Greece, Bulgaria and Romania so that they are finishing this season in South and North Americas and in the next season they are following the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra to Australia and New Zealand. In summer1961, they are playing again in South Africa, where they left the best impressions two years ago. We have been informed about this by the first violinist Emil Leichner, who together with the viola player Vilém Kostecka was at the cradle of this world-unique chamber ensemble 35 years ago. At their jubilee concert on 15 October in Rudolphinum, the Czech Nonet is going to commemorate its rich and famous history which has mostly been a devoted service to contemporary music. On the program, there is the Spohr Nonet on the centenary anniversary of the composer’s demise, the Foerster Nonet (on the centenary anniversary of the author’s birth as well as the very first work dedicated to the Czech Nonet) and the last piece of the nearly 150 compositions written for this chamber ensemble and at the same time the last work by Bohuslav Martinu, his Nonet form this year, having been performed before Prague just in Salzburg and Budapest.(ol) (Svobodné slovo, Praha, 14 October 1959)