The Czech Nonet stayed under the umbrella of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra until the end of 1989. From 1 January 1990 until 30 June 1994, it came under the state agency of ARDO. Together with the Czech Nonet, its whole archive, originally stored with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, belonged to ARDO. In July 1994, the Ministry of Culture stopped subsidizing the ARDO Agency, which led to the end of this agency and the Czech Nonet was, again as in the beginning, a freelance ensemble.
That was followed by numerous moves of the ensemble headquarters which resulted in losing most of the archive. We cannot even find the contracts of the former members or even concert programs, just some informational materials from the most recent years. (However, the music archive is complete and in 1997 it was organized and formally cataloged.) We currently follow leads to supposed repositories of parts of the archive, sometimes with success, sometimes without.
The 1990’s was another unstable period for the Czech Nonet. Looking at the socio-economic situation in the field of music in the Czech Republic or just the living conditions (arranging the rehearsal room, etc.), one cannot be surprised there was a certain parallel with the early 1930’s. Unfortunately, the level of activity in the areas of local concerts and tours declined.
Though we can view some of the 1990’s as years of crisis due to changing personnel or small numbers of concerts, we must remember that it was at this time the Czech Nonet started to organize its own concert series. And, in 1995, the Association of Friends of the Czech Nonet was founded as the main promoter and organizer of the subscription concerts.
In the 1995-6 season the first subscription series called ’Music and Paintings’ took place. The rudiments of the cycle are entwining music and fine art. They have been connected from time immemorial. Cave paintings, various sculptures expressing the musicians or paintings on all kinds of vessels show the state of music. And a concert in a gallery is a connecting part between these close kinds of art. More than once we witnessed the ’opening’ of the paintings while listening to the corresponding music, or while going through a deep emotional relationship between them. We may get the feeling we can ’understand’ them even better than if one would explain them in educated words. A theorist often rather takes us out of the picture whereas music or poetry bring about ’understanding’ as if in the purest state. The question why this happens and why a person under such circumstances is open to a much deeper experience is the psychology of perception, synestezy. It is a merging of numerous sensual perceptions at the same time, having a deeper effect than a simple sum of single perceptions. We can say it is a special way of interpretation of one piece of art by another. Music broadens the perception of a fine art piece, a poem or a drama. As well as making music among the paintings may enlarge the number of associations, or otherwise, it can determine them. It is very fruitful in such concerts, people from various artistic professions can meet, share their opinions and find out the similar and different artistic problems a conductor, a musician, a painter or a poet can have.
The Czech Nonet has been organizing the chamber music cycle Music and Paintings every year since 1995. The concerts take place in the Lichtenstein Palace Gallery in Lesser Town, Prague. The ensemble invites some other chamber ensembles, such as the Prague Wind Quintet, the Guarneri Trio Prague, the Prague Piano Duo, the Époque Quartet, etc., to participate. Young musicians – brilliant students or Academy of Music and Performing Arts graduates – get the opportunity to play with the renowned chamber ensembles. Helena and Jaroslav Horáleks, Michal Matzenauer, Valentin Popov, Rudolf Riedlbauch, Petr Smaha, Kamila Zenatá, Romana Králová, Vojtech Adamec, Ivan Tausinger, Jaroslav Alt, Ivan Viták and Jirí Mika, Miroslav and Zdenka Marschals, Eva Mansfeldová, Alena Petrícková, Pavel Kryml, Jan Tichy, Karel Prásek, Arnost Chabera, Jitka Hilská, Alexandr Hejl, Katerina Opltová, Anna Vancátová and many other painters have or are going to present their work at the concerts.
Every year’s repertoire is decided with the intention to bring the opportunity of comparison of the older compositions with the new ones, not infrequently the compositions are premiered at these concerts. One cannot speak about dozens of compositions per year, but the interest of composers in the Czech Nonet is still remarkable. Our intention in this repertoire seems to be successful as the concerts have already been nearly or completely sold out for some years. The first three years and the seventh were carried out with the help of grants from the Ministry of Culture, the Capital City of Prague Council and music foundations, the fourth to sixth years were supported by a general sponsor.
In order to illustrate the importance and its coverage we are publishing a critique from ’The Hudební Rozhledy’ here:
MUSIC AND PAINTINGS
On 21 December 1999, in the time before Christmas, one of the Music and Paintings cycle concerts was opened with a new piece by Lukás Matousek – ’Viderunt omnes fines millenii’, together with a Romana Krátká vernissage. The new composition had been bespoken by the Czech Radio in the European Radio Union who at the occasion of the magic date of 1 January 2000 made a program of short – in our case c. six-minute – compositions by member-state authors whose mutual source of inspiration was the Perotin Christmas gradual of ’Viderunt omnes fines terrae’ (All frontiers have seen praise the Lord). Lukás Matousek stated for The Hudební Rozhledy: ’I enjoy searching the connections between the historic and contemporary music both as a composer and as an interpreter, and I find the early music a rich source for my compositions. That is why the historical mirror here is in the contemporary conception.’
Viderunt omnes fines millenii (All have seen the end of millennium) is a paraphrase of the Perotin organum mentioned above and whose choral theme, together with the oldest Czech sacred chant heritage, the ’Hospodine, pomiluj ny’ (Lord, hear us) is worked upon by a mixed technique in a free Neo-Gothic style. The nonet is divided into two instrumental groups: the strings supported by the French horn, quoting some parts from the choral in rhythmically more stable time lengths, against the woodwinds playing shorter and rhythmically more movable motives. Apart from Perotinus’s contrapuntal work in his own hocquet technique, the work with the dissonance, typical for the Middle Ages, is elaborated here as well. Although the compositional principles drawing from the early authors are by no means unusual in contemporary music, the way Lukás Matousek managed to create a rapid and attractive composition in a limited space is praiseworthy. Performed by the Czech Nonet, the first performance sounded convincing and happy.
Nonetto favoloso (Bayard, the Brave Prince) by Václav Trojan, despite the author’s typical melodic fantasy and instrumental colorfulness carried signs of its original purpose, the soundtrack for Trnka’s well-known film of the same name. Unfortunately, the composer has not given a firmer formal structure – the current composition seems like a program sketch which needs a visual final touch. One of the great problems for the instrument families originating in the 20th century is the absence of any classic repertoire, unfortunately sought most of all by today’s audience. Solving the difficult problem of transcriptions, the Czech Nonet used serenades which can bear such an intervention. Unfortunately, the Ingman transcription of the Dvorák E major Serenade, Op.22 is due to the extreme, nearly soloist load for the winds not a great one. A successful, well- attended evening was ended with Christmas carols in Thuri’s arrangement for a wind quintet. (Michal Matzner, Hudební rozhledy, year 53, No.2, published in 2000)